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iPhone SE

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: all major carriers and unlocked
Manufacturer: Apple

What's Hot: Still a lovely design, high quality casing, as fast as the iPhone 6s, great camera.

What's Not: Tiny screen by today's standards.


Reviewed April 1, 2016 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

iPhone SE

Apple's made a few stabs at an affordable iPhone, but mostly it's been last year's model sold at modest discount. There was the tepidly received iPhone 5c with its plastic-fantastic casing and lesser specs compared to the then current flagship iPhone 5. It did just OK, but since it wasn't all that much cheaper, it wasn't the wild success some analysts had envisioned to bring the iPhone to institutions, kids and less affluent countries. With the iPhone SE, Apple's produced a familiar and well-liked design at a price that's a considerable savings over the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Better yet, it has the same internals and rear camera as those much more expensive models.

The iPhone SE has the casing and design (exactly!) of the iPhone 5 and 5s--that Leica inspired one with the straight edges and 4" display. That's actually my personal favorite in the iPhone's long history: it was unique, stunning, and the straight sides made it easy to grip. The 4" display isn't my personal favorite feature... I'm a large phone person... but for those who miss Apple's easily held and pocketed smaller models, it could be a godsend. It's easy work for Apple to reuse a design, and that helps keep the cost down. They have jazzed it up with two new colors: gold and rose gold (the iPhone 5 was only available in silver and space gray, which are also available for the SE).

The iPhone SE has Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner built into the home button and it works with Apple Pay. It lacks the iPhone 6s' 3D Touch, where you press and hold your finger on the display to bring up additional applications options (if any are available).

iPhone SE


First Rate Internals

Inside we have the iPhone 6s, and that helps to make the iPhone SE a good deal. No more living with last year's processor and a year or two outdated cameras. The phone runs iOS 9.3 on the same 1.83 GHz dual core Apple A9 CPU as the more expensive models, and it has the same 2 gigs of RAM. It's available with 16 gigs of storage for $399 and with 64 gigs for $499. Given the wealth of apps, games and media available for iPhone, 16 gigs may be tight. We look forward to the day Apple makes 32 gigs the baseline. The iPhone SE benchmarks the same as its more expensive siblings, which is expected since the 6s and 6s Plus use the same CPU, graphics and RAM. That means the iPhone SE is equally capable of playing 3D games well (perhaps even faster since the display resolution is lower). It can do the same iMovie video editing too, though you'll have less screen real estate and resolution to do that editing.


  Geekbench 3 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited
iPhone SE 2562/4435 29,260
iPhone 6s 2533/4406 28,917
iPhone 6 1614/2900 17,190
iPhone 5s 1380/2547 14,966
iPhone 5c 692/1245 3306
iPhone 5 691/1289 N/A


Good Cameras Too

You're getting the same camera and lens as the iPhone 6s, and that's pretty darned good. The 12MP with enlarged pixel sites means better low light photos and video, and the reasonably fast f.2.2 lens lets plenty of light in. The camera can record 4K video at 30 fps, and it can do slow motion video. Auto HDR, and simultaneous photo capture at 8MP while capturing video and panoramas are standard. It's the same camera as the iPhone 6s and the same software and features. Though the Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 edge and the LG G5 edge it out for low light photography, it's still one of the best cameras on the phone market.

iPhone SE

Apple cuts some features for the budget iPhone SE model, so you get the old standby 1.2MP FaceTime front camera rather than the iPhone 6s' 5MP shooter. It's fine but not stellar for FaceTime video chats, and it does better than some higher megapixel Android phones for Skype video chat.


Deals and Shopping:

iPhone SE Video Review


Calling and Data

Unsurprisingly, reception is similar to the iPhone 6s, since it uses that phone's cellular chipset. The antenna design is still iPhone 5, but that's not a problem here. The bottom firing speaker phone is adequate and similar to many phones on the market with a similar speaker arrangement (the rare treat of front firing speakers like HTC's BoomSound speakers will do better). Voice quality in terms of naturalness, fullness and volume was good in our tests.

All major carriers offer the iPhone SE, and Apple will sell a SIM unlocked model. That means you can use most any carrier's nano SIM card with the unlocked iPhone (priced the same as carrier locked versions at $399/$499), except Sprint.

iPhone SE

Battery Life

If there's one complaint iPhone users have, it's battery life. Not that the iPhone 6s has terrible battery life, it's merely average. The bigger iPhone 6s Plus with its bigger battery does better, but the iPhone SE, with its more power-frugal small and lower resolution display does the best of all. It outlasted even the iPhone 6s Plus, which is a hard phone to beat. We had no trouble making it from 8am to 11pm with average use (a few phone calls, streaming a few YouTube videos, taking photos, social networking, email, web and a location lookup in Apple Maps).

iPhone SE

The iPhone SE on top of the iPhone 6s.



The iPhone SE is a hard phone to pin down--it's hugely smaller than anything else currently on the market. Do folks want that? You reading this will vote with your wallets. It's as fast as the much more expensive iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and it has the same great rear camera. That makes it quite a good deal if you want the latest iPhone technology but are priced out of Apple's flagship tier. The iPhone SE is undeniably good looking, iconic and easy to hold and pocket. If I weren't a fan of big screen phones, I'd consider it and save a few hundred dollars.


Price: $399 for 16 gigs, $499 for 64 gigs

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Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge Review

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Display: 4" IPS "Retina" display. Resolution: 1136 x 640, 326 PPI. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor.

Battery: 1715 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 1.83 GHz Apple A9 dual core CPU, 2 gigs RAM. 16 or 64 gigs storage.

Size: 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches. Weight: 3.99 ounces.

Phone: GSM quad band world phone/ CDMA. 3G and 4G LTE.

Camera: 1.2MP front FaceTime camera and rear 12MP iSight camera with enlarged sensor pixels, 4K video recording and f/2.2 lens.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC for Apple Pay.

Software: iOS 9.3 with Apple apps including Safari, Mail, Calendar, Contacts, iLfe and iWork suites downloadable for free.

Expansion: Lightning Port.


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