Apple iPhone SE review - small but powerful

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
359
inc VAT (SIM-free)
Buy it now for 

Well-built and with a top camera and great battery life, the iPhone SE is the small phone to buy

Specifications

Processor: Dual-core 1.8GHz Apple A9, Screen Size: 4in, Screen resolution: 1,136x640, Rear camera: 12 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB/64GB, Wireless data: 4G, Size: 124x59x7.6mm, Weight: 112g, Operating system: iOS 9.3
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There were plenty of Apple customers that missed having a 4in phone when Apple went bigger with the iPhone 6 (and, more recently, iPhone 6S). However, it was also clear that nobody would particularly want a 4in phone if it meant losing out on build quality and power.

Enter the iPhone SE - a smartphone that returns to Apple's tiny 4in form factor while packing in exactly the same amount of processing power as the latest iPhone 6S. It's a compact smartphone without compromise, and, more importantly, it's got a lower price to match its pint-sized proportions.

Available for £359 SIM-free or £439 SIM-free depending on whether you opt for the 16GB or 64GB version of the phone, the iPhone SE is now the cheapest iPhone in the entire range, giving you plenty of power for (comparatively) not quite as much money. Contracts are even better, as you can current buy one for £40 upfront and then £26-per-month thereafter from Carphone Warehouse, and that gets you 2GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. 

It's a much better bet than the iPhone 5C when that first came out, as this so-called cheap option lagged way behind the iPhone 6 (the then flagship of its day). This time, however, Apple has nailed absolutely everything. With the iPhone SE, it's managed to bring together its latest build quality, processing power and camera into one neat and easy package. 

Build quality

As a result, anyone that owned an iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S will immediately feel at home with the iPhone SE, as the two handsets are identical from the outside. With the slick metal body and squared edges, the impressive thing is that the design looks as fresh today as it did when it was first introduced.

Weighing 113g and at 7.6mm thick, the iPhone SE is exactly the same size as the 5S and is compatible with the same range of cases and covers. While this makes the SE the lightest iPhone currently available, it's actually the thickest.

This doesn't particularly matter, as the thickness makes the handset easier to grip, and it means that the camera sits flush with the rear of the case. Besides, it's the overall size of the handset that counts here, and the iPhone SE is comparatively tiny by today's standards, slipping easily into any pocket. There's plenty of colour choice, too, with the SE available in silver, space grey, gold and rose gold cases; there's a bit of something for everyone. 

Display

Moving back to a 4in screen, Apple has continued with the iPhone 5S' resolution: 1,136x640. This is one of the lowest resolution phones available, but it's important to put this into the context of display sharpness. On this display, the pixel density of 326ppi matches that of the iPhone 6S, which has a resolution of 1,334x750. Both phones are definitely sharp enough, and text looks clear and is easy to read.

Image quality isn't quite as good as Apple's more expensive iPhones, though, but it's a close-run thing. In fact, the iPhone SE's screen performs better than stated: Apple claims maximum brightness of 500cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 800:1, but I measured the phone at 577cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 892:1. While this contrast ratio still isn't great, its colour accuracy coverage of 94.6% of the sRGB colour gamut does go some way to make up for it. 

Of course, in order to keep the cost down, the SE doesn't have the fancy 3D Touch features of the iPhone 6S. It's the one feature that I found myself missing, as 3D Touch adds that extra dimension of interaction, and the shortcuts it gives you can make some jobs a lot quicker. That said, the lack of 3D Touch isn't a deal breaker here, and I can still use iOS perfectly well without feeling too hampered. Continues on Page 2

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