Apple's iPhone SE is new and old coming together: a combination of an iPhone 5s-era exterior with many internals from the current iPhone 6s flagship. Let's see exactly how the features and specs of the two compare.
If you remember the size of the iPhones 5 and 5s (Apple's 2012 and 2013 flagships, respectively), the iPhone SE is the exact same size (and looks almost identical). What's old is new again.
That means the iPhone SE is 10 percent shorter and 12 percent narrower than the 6s. Apple launched this phone to fill a niche for customers who wish phablets never became the norm, longing for the days of easily grippable, pocketable and one-hand-usable smartphones.
If that's you, the SE is almost certainly your best option right now – as you'll struggle to find any Android smartphones in this size range that are this powerful.
The smaller iPhone SE is 22 percent lighter.
The iPhone 5/s design (now resurrected almost identically in the SE) was when Apple ditched the glass or plastic backs from the previous generations and went to the aluminum unibody design that infects nearly all Apple products today, including the 6s.
Apple is offering the same four color options for both phones.
Smartphones have only gotten so (relatively) huge today because you get all this extra screen real estate. The iPhone 6s, which itself is pretty small by today's flagship standards, still has a 38 percent bigger display than the tiny iPhone SE.
Apple hasn't shown much interest in engaging in the pixel density wars that have played a big role on the Android side of the fence during the last four or five years. Both of these iPhones still have the same pixel density as Apple's 2010 flagship.
While we don't see Apple's shortcut-allowing pressure-sensitive display, 3D Touch, as a must-have killer feature, it is one of the iPhone 6s' marquee features that doesn't show up in the SE.
During the last few years, smartphone OEMs decided that only big phones were worthy of cutting-edge processors, so the iPhone SE is a bit of a lone wolf in that respect. With that A9 chip inside, it should be a screamer.
The SE also gets the same 2 GB RAM as its big brother.
Apple has been slow to evolve in this category, asking its entry-tier buyers to make do with a mere 16 GB storage – even as app and photo file sizes have ballooned through the years. Samsung's latest flagships, for example, start with 32 GB internal storage as well as expandable memory, something no iPhone has ever offered.
With an only slightly smaller (lower-capacity) battery and fewer pixels to drive on its display, battery life should be a big advantage for the iPhone SE.
The iPhone SE gets the same great rear camera from the iPhone SE, but its front camera is last-gen.
The iPhone SE has Touch ID, but it's the older (not quite as blazing-fast) version from Apple's pre-2015 iOS devices.
Apple didn't skimp here either, as the iPhone SE has the necessary NFC chip and secure element inside-in to support Apple Pay.
Always-listening voice assistants have been available on Android flagships since mid-2013, but this was a 2015 addition to Apple's iPhone line. The SE supports this hands-free "Hey Siri!" functionality too.
Apple wouldn't dare launch a new iOS device running old software, so the SE ships with iOS 9.
The iPhone SE is up for pre-order now, with a March 31 ship date.
Starting price (full retail)
Remember the iPhone 5c, which was (by Apple's standards) something of a flop? Part of the problem with that phone was that it offered a notable downgrade – in not just specs but also build quality – compared to its sibling flagship, but only cost US$100 cheaper (at the time, that was $549 full retail). Well, perhaps Apple learned something from that miss as it priced its new budget iPhone at a more reasonable $399 full retail.
Stay tuned for more on the iPhone SE. If you need a refresher on the iPhone 6s, you can hit up our full review.
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