Apple’s innovation with respect to deviating from the so called “phablets”, featuring freakishly large displays that have been rated a bane more than a boon, is now in markets in the form of a 4-inch iPhone SE which is also being marketed as a more affordable alternative to top-end phones including that of Apple itself.
The Apple iPhone SE got us excited considering the fact that we were already on the lookout for a smartphone, that offers the feeling of a proper phone rather than an entertainment/multimedia device, and also considering the fact that it had been long since we used a smartphone that we could actually have a strong grip on in one hand.
These factors made us actually purchase an Apple iPhone SE, to test out its performance and ease of use. Check out, how Apple’s 4-inch iPhone SE performed, below:
Design and Display as well as overall look and feel
The moment we unwrapped the Apple iPhone SE, our first impression was that the handset resembled the now relatively old iPhone S5 which also has a 4-inch screen.
One prominent aspect that is visible the moment the iPhone SE is taken out from the wraps, is the presence of the power button at the very top which is a welcome change. The volume keys are present on the left, and Apple has restored the circular from factor for these keys. The rear of the iPhone SE is crafted out of Aluminum which gives it a metallic (and glossy) look and feel as well as finish.
The iPhone SE is comparatively light, as it weighs in at 113 grams, and is easily carry-able in pockets as well. The overall outer form factor revoked nostalgia from that of the days where a “small” smartphone was the order of the day and people literally fret at so called (now) phablets that were a bother to carry around in the hand as these did not fit into pockets easily. Grip-wise, we could firmly grip the Apple iPhone SE effortlessly and all five fingers fell perfectly into their places.
As far as its actual display is concerned, Apple’s iPhone SE offers a 4-inch LCD touchscreen with IPS capabilities that is LED-backlit and having resolutions of 640 x 1136 pixels with pixel density of 325 ppi. The tech-specs of the display, here, are almost identical to that of the iPhone S5. Performance-wise, there is extra-ordinary, as the iPhone SE is not a flagship device (not even a high-end one to be more precise). The handset rendered relatively clear images and sharpness was on par with the 325 ppi pixel density.
Nonetheless, when we used the handset outdoors (in bright sunlit conditions), we could read content of websites and text messages without extra effort. The essential colors are all highlighted, even in outdoor conditions, without refraction. At this point in time, it would be unfair to compare the display of the iPhone SE with that of competitors as most of the latter category are high-enders and flagships with tech-specs and performance superior to that of the iPhone SE.
Processor and Memory
Under-the-hood, the Apple iPhone SE incorporates a newer Apple A9 processor that consists of a dual-core CPU clocked at 1.84 GHz. This is the same processor, found within the iPhone 6S. A 2 GB RAM also works in tandem with the A9 processor in the iPhone SE. To our surprise, we found the Apple iPhone SE to be as fast as the iPhone 6S, as we could stream (and even edit) 4K videos within the same time frame as that in iPhone 6S.
Functionality such as Apple Pay, Near Field Communication (NFC) and Touch ID are offered to users, by the iPhone SE. Touch ID worked a tad slow, but comparisons would be unwise at this point in time. Performance of high-end games, such as Dead Trigger 2 and Modern Combat 5: Blackout was decent, but we could encounter multiple lags when there were in-game graphics-laden sequences that involved the maximum use of the RAM and the hexa-core PowerVR GPU.
Nonetheless, multitasking (Without involving intense graphics) seemed a breeze so did on-screen navigation and app switching. Even Apple’s built-in PDA Siri talked to us well and took queries without showing laziness. As far as memory is concerned, buyers get to choose between two iPhone SE variants based on internal storage. These are the 16 and 64 GB internal storage variants. These are fixed and there is no provision for an external SD card.
Apple has seemingly done a good job by incorporating a 12MP rear camera that offers dual LED-Flash and with lens measuring 29mm with f/2.2 aperture. The camera lets users capture 2160p videos at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps and 1080p at 60fps. The 12MP rear camera, within the iPhone SE did a commendable job, during our testing, while we captured images in outdoor conditions with lighting not being a hindrance.
We also tested out the Live Photos aspect, which adds live animations to captured pictures in a bid to make these lively, and the overall product turned out to be impressive. 4K video recording is also offered by the iPhone SE, and the recorded clips played well and we were impressed by it. Other loaded 4K videos also played relatively well without lags, but this again depends completely on how the footages were filmed/recorded.
Low-light photography was almost equivalent to that of the iPhone 6S, and the captured images did not reveal much details with respect to saturation and white balance, and pixellation in these images could are also avoided but appear based on the prevailing low-light condition/effect. Apart from the 12 MP camera, there is also a secondary 1.2 MP (not 12 MP) snapper that is best used for video calling rather than for capturing selfies.
Software and battery
The iPhone SE runs the latest version of Apple’s iOS 9 operating platform which syncs well with the A9 processor underneath. During our usage, we could not find widgets to launch the browser homepage. The overall user interface (UI) is pretty straight-forward and clutter-free. We could not notice major UI lags.
Like in the iPhone 6S, Apple has incorporated the “Night Shift”. Night Shift Mode uses the iPhone SE’s device’s clock and geolocation to determine sunset and thereby adjusts colors. The next morning, these settings are undone and factory settings are restored automatically. A notable aspect within the iPhone SE is the Apple Pay that comes built-in and lets users make payments electronically via the NFC functionality. As already known, the Apple iTunes is self-contained when it comes to newer apps.
During our testing, by restricting the phone usage to calls (both audio and video) and minimal internet browsing, the iPhone SE’s fixed 1,624 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery lasted for a whole day exactly.
When there was video streaming to be done, from popular websites, the backup time reduced to 12 hours (half-day is still decent). There is also the battery saver mode that comes into play, by shutting down background apps/processes/tasks that are not required at a particular period of time, when the battery level is below the 20% mark.
The Apple iPhone is a decent smartphone; it does not disappoint. However, those obsessed with using big-screen flagships/phablets could take time to adjust to this “smaller” phone. The iPhone SE is not a repackaged iPhone 5S, as it beats the latter by miles when it comes to performance.