Saturday, April 2, 2016

iPhone SE Reviews

John Gruber:

The technical limitation of the SE that makes the most difference for me, personally, is that its largest storage capacity is only 64 GB, instead of 128. My iPhone 6S is using just under 90 GB of storage. I was able to restore my SE review unit from a backup of my personal 6S, but after it finished downloading and restoring everything, there wasn’t any space left at all.


If you’ve already upgraded to an iPhone 6 or 6S and have made peace with the trade-offs of a larger, heavier, less-grippy-because-of-the-round-edges form factor, the appeal is less clear. Me, I talk the talk about preferring the smaller form factor, but ultimately I’m a sucker for top-of-the-line CPU/GPU performance and camera quality. For the next six months or so, the iPhone SE stands on the top tier. After that, it won’t — I think — and it’ll be back to the 4.7-inch display form factor for me. So why bother switching back for just a few months? I keep asking myself.

And then I pick up the iPhone SE, and hold it in my hand.

Jason Snell:

It’s a much more grippable design than the curved-edged iPhone 6S. I’m someone who never used to use cases on my iPhones, but with the iPhone 6 I started using a case—I just wasn’t comfortable with how slippery that phone felt when I held it. As a result, some of its more subtle, beautiful design touches—most notably the curved glass on the edges of the screen—are wasted on me. The iPhone SE design doesn’t feel slippery at all. Sure, you could put a case on it, but in holding the iPhone SE I’m reminded why I never bothered shielding the naked robotic core of my old iPhone 5s.


$399 is the lowest price we’ve ever seen for a brand-new iPhone. This is the pricing tier that used to be $449, but sold as “free with a two-year contract.” The contract subsidies are fading away, and without them as a part of the equation, Apple can make a phone that’s cheaper than “free.”

Kirk McElhearn:

I feel a bit annoyed that I did buy the iPhone 6s, only to sell it six months later, and I wonder if Apple will make a 4″ version of the iPhone 7, which should be out in another six months. It will be interesting to see how well the iPhone SE sells, whether it convinces Apple that they really did make a mistake eliminating this size device. I’m glad it’s back; I feel that these past six months, using a larger phone, were just a hassle, and I welcome a phone that is much less imposing, that fits into my lifestyle much better.

Juli Clover:

Some new iPhone SE owners have run into issues with their devices. There are a few complaints of yellow-tinted screens, and a good number of users have noticed a rattling sound coming from the power button of the device that can impact videos. This is also an issue that some iPhone 5 and 5s models suffered from, but some users aren’t bothered by it.


Benchmarks (sourced from Engadget) comparing the iPhone SE, 6, 6s, and 6s Plus were shared, confirming that the iPhone SE is on par with Apple’s flagship phones when it comes to performance and leading MacRumors readers to share their own performance tests. The iPhone SE performs as well as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, even beating it in some graphics tests due to the lower screen resolution.

Ben Lovejoy:

I’ve said before that – for a company which prides itself on details – Apple seems to have absolutely no idea what color Space Gray is. Every gadget it produces has a completely different shade. But on this occasion I was absolutely delighted to see it, because this version of Space Gray looks … silver!


Speaking of touch, one other difference between the two phones is the lack of 3D Touch support on the smaller model. The feature really impressed me when I first got my 6s, so much so that I even considered it a good enough reason to upgrade from the 6. Yet, as time went by, I found myself using it way less than I’d expected to.


It also just feels more comfortable in the hand. That’s partly size, of course, but – paradoxically – I actually find the straight edges of the SE more comfortable than the rounded ones of the 6/6s. Thickness, by the way, is simply not a factor. In real life, the difference between the two is miniscule.

John Moltz:

This phone feels like coming home again. The iPhone 6 and 6s were both terrific phones, but 4.7-inches was always uncomfortably large for me. I’ve endured all the “Donald Trump hands” jokes since declaring my intention to buy this phone and — guess what, jerkbags — I can reach the upper right app icon now without some software thing that only works half the time and you can’t.


In fact, the only reservation I have about this phone is business-related.

I purchased the 64 GB model (Space Gray) and paid for it outright. Why? Because Apple’s commitment to making this a perpetual product in the lineup is uncertain. I wanted to make sure I could resell it at any time without being tied to a payment plan. The iPhone SE is not available for purchase on Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, which is a tipoff that this phone is not going to get upgraded every March.

Nick Heer:

My wish is that Apple would offer only three phones every year: a four-inch model, a 4.7 inch model, and a 5.5 inch model. I’d like them to have pretty much the same specs, a similar industrial design, and have them all start with at least 32 GB of storage. There’s, like, no way that would happen though, right?

That’s what I’d like, too.

Previously: Apple’s “Loop You In” Event, My iPhone 6s and iOS 9 Experience.

Update (2016-04-03): Mayur Dhaka:

The SE also presents an opportunity for more Android switchers since, at the time of this writing, no Android flagship exists in a 4-inch form factor. The closest is a Sony Xperia Z5 Compact with a 4.6-inch screen and it retails for around $425 in the US. Not only is the SE the best choice for people who like small phones, it’s probably the only feasible choice.

Update (2016-04-04): Joe Rossignol:

While the iPhone SE rivals the iPhone 6s series in performance with the latest internal hardware, a new video reveals that the recently launched 4-inch smartphone is less durable than its larger 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch siblings when bent under pressure, submerged in water, and dropped on its corner.


The results should be largely unsurprising given that the iPhone SE's design is virtually the same as the iPhone 5s, which yielded comparable results under similar tests over two years ago.

Update (2016-04-14): Joe Rossignol:

Over the past two weeks, an increasing number of iPhone SE early adopters have reported audio issues with Bluetooth phone calls when the smartphone is paired with a vehicle or wireless headset. The issue extends to GPS voice navigation for some, but streaming music over Bluetooth appears to be unaffected.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

Good roundup. I like mine, but my first impression was pretty bland:

"I plopped it into my old, beat-up Speck CandyShell Card case and felt like all I got was a new 5S."

I still feel that way. I can tell that Safari on my SE is rendering much more quickly than it has before, and that's neat, but... There's really nothing in the SE beyond Apple Pay that screams practical upgrade from the dated 5S. 3D touch could have been that killer feature that would make it feel like a new phone, or, natch, a bigger screen, but both preclude creating this phone. I'm not getting Gruber's lightsaber feel here, just slightly more of the same (and I did use a 4.7" phone for a while before buying). Which, if we really have hit or passed peak iPhone, might be fine.

I like the nod to Jobs' last phone, and it's a great, if not especially affordable*, entry point into the iOS ecosystem, but it's certainly not exciting.

I'll use it for 2 years or so and enjoy it, but beyond going to 64 from 16 gigs (not an SE specific improvement) and using Apple Pay, it's ultimately more meh than wow. Which is strange, because this is exactly the phone and price I thought I wanted before I bought.

* I'd steer anyone wanting their first iPhone to the used $150 5Ss you can bag on DailySteals and friends right now, I think.

@Ruffin Aside from the speed and Apple Pay, the killer feature compared with the 5s is the camera. Seems like the people who appreciate it more are the ones that have spent a lot of time holding a 6 or 6s.

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