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2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum

Linksys VELOP Whole Home Mesh Network

Fitbit Alta HR

2016 Range Rover

2016 Ford Flex Limited

Timex IQ+ Move fitness tracking watch

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature

2016 Mazda MX-5

Sennheiser PXC-550 Bluetooth headphones

2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4MATIC Sedan

Sudio Regent Bluetooth headphones

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VisionTek SoundTube PRO Bluetooth speaker

Fitbit Charge 2

2017 GMC Acadia Denali

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808

Game of Thrones Season Six Blu-Ray

Michelin Premier all-season tires

Tom Tom Spark 3 Cardio +

Google Daydream View VR headset

ASUS ZenBook 3

Jaybird X3

JBL SoundBoost Speaker Moto Mod

Moto Insta-Share Projector for Moto Z

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iOS 10

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Tablo by Nuvyyo

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Epson SureColor P600 Wide Format inkjet printer

HBO's Vinyl Season 1

Apple MacBook (2016)

Papago! GoSafe 268 mirror mounted dash-cam

Piper all-in-one security

JayBird Freedom headphones

SF MoMA app

Fitbit Blaze fitness tracker

UA HealthBox

Dyson Pure Cool Link

Lola by Blue

HTC 10

Apple iPhone SE

Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

Dell XPS 12 with 4K Ultra HD display

RHA S500i Noise Isolation headphones for iOS

Samsung Galaxy S7

2015 Mazda CX-9

Moto 360 (2015)

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear headphones for Android

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Tuesday
Apr122016

Review: Apple iPhone SE


By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Fans of smaller smartphones and refugees from the iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and 5S models who could never consider a larger phone, now have somewhere to land with the iPhone SE. This smaller iPhone has the same power, performance and camera capabilities as the larger iPhone 6 based devices that have ruled the market these past two years. 

It is easy to have mixed feelings about the iPhone SE. On one hand, it brings back a popular and known size and form factor and imbues it with the latest processing power, camera technology and software enjoyed by the larger flagship iPhones; yet it doesn’t look new or as innovative as some of the devices that have recently come to market. 

The iPhone SE (which apparently stands for Special Edition), is a great way to repackage some of Apple’s latest tech and features (including Apple Pay, iOS 9.3, 12-megapixel camera, 4K video recording) into a known and accepted 4-inch design with the aim to expand market share, entice users of older iPhones to upgrade, as well as offer one of the most powerful smartphones in a smaller format. 

One of those Déjà vu things

 

A new 4-inch iPhone makes a lot of sense in various markets. Smaller phones are preferred size in emerging segments like China and India as well as South East Asia. There are also a lot of holdouts who have resisted upgrading to larger iPhones simply because they didn’t like the larger size or the new design that these devices introduced.

There’s also a large market for enterprise users and BYOD folk who don’t want to spend a fortune on a new work phone, but who also don’t want to buy a model that’s two or three years old (at least not in terms of performance and features). 

Say what you want about the iPhone 5c, it was affordable and did successfully see adoption in enterprise and was made available in time to replace obsolete BlackBerry devices that were standard issue in many offices. The iPhone SE is a proper replacement for this segment of user.

 

In terms of design and build, the iPhone SE is something we’ve all seen before since it is identical in almost every way to the 4-inch iPhone 5 and 5S. The only differences in the look are the addition of new colours as well as the shiny Apple logo on the back plus the iPhone SE badge at the bottom. Oh, the chamfered edge, which used to be shiny (and rather susceptible to chipping in older models) has been sandblasted into a nicely textured matte finish.

Power packed SE

So, what’s it like to have the power and performance of a 6-month old smartphone in the body of a two-year old device. The answer as it turns out is pretty awesome!

With a smaller 4-inch display, a sub HD resolution and fewer pixels to push, the Apple A9 processor simply screams through most processes. Apps launch faster, scrolling up and down is way more fluid and friction free than one would expect. I compared the iPhone SE with my iPhone 5 and could really see a huge difference in speed and performance, the newer phone is easily twice as fast and responsive. The iPhone SE was designed for iOS 9.3 in mind, and has double the RAM (2GB) as well as a vastly more powerful processor and graphics chip than the iPhone 5.

Advantages of a smaller phone 

A smaller phone has its advantages. I forgot how convenient and easy it felt to be able to access all the corners of my iPhone with one hand. I also appreciated how light the iPhone SE was, and so unobtrusive it is when stored in my jeans pocket or my shirt. The blocky and squarish shape also feels good in the hand and is easier to grip, specially for people with smaller hands.

There are various design elements that I personally prefer on the iPhone SE over the iPhone 6S, like the round volume buttons, the sturdier feel, as well as the fact that it is smooth all around without any unsightly camera bumps or protrusions. I’ve also amassed a lot of great accessory cases for my old iPhone 5/5S, which feels just like trying on that old pair of jeans and finding out it is still a perfect fit.

 

Nostalgia aside, the iPhone SE does pack a lot of power in a tiny package and is comparably cheaper than most iPhones have been in the past and present. There are many people who want an iPhone but might find it too expensive, so they opt for a second hand device, an older iPhone on contract, or move to a more affordable Android device. With the iPhone SE in the market, they no longer have this dilemma since there’s now an even wider price range, no hit on performance or key features, and even a range of sizes.

 

The iPhone SE’s 12-megapixel camera can take amazing photos and stunning 4K video and while you may not enjoy all the detail and colour on the wee 4-inch display, you can be certain that the quality is pixel for pixel as good as what the 4.7-inch iPhone 6S can deliver. iPhone SE’s camera can be quickly deployed in a one handed gesture, simply flip up the camera icon from the lock screen and you can quickly take a snapshot. Not too many phones can do that today.

Users coming from larger devices 

The disadvantages of an iPhone SE for anyone coming from a larger smartphone or phablet are pretty obvious. It has less screen real estate, you lose one row of apps on the home screen, watching videos or reading websites is somewhat constrained due to lack of space, and the 1.2-megapixel front facing FaceTime camera is the same one from two years ago, so nothing to write home about.

iPhone SE uses the same screen and assembly as the iPhone 5S. This means an older Touch ID sensor, no 3D Touch (or peeking and popping) and a display that's not the latest and greatest. Thankfully, these are all features not many people will look for. Not including them seems to be the right compromises to keep the price down.

You would think that the return to a smaller size would mean a return to less than awesome battery life (I got flashbacks of having to rely on a Mophie case for my iPhone 5S to make it through a busy day), but that’s not the case at all. 

The iPhone SE seems to have as good a battery life as the iPhone 6S. I would even say that it is even better, and there are reasons for this.

There are less pixels to push, the A9 processor is clocked at a lower speed and iOS 9.3 is better at managing resources. Through various real-life tests, the iPhone SE lasted over a day and a half before needing to be charged, which is quite remarkable.

Conclusion 


Fans of smaller smartphones and refugees from the iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and 5S models who could never consider a larger phone, now have somewhere to land with the iPhone SE. This smaller iPhone has the same power, performance and camera capabilities as the larger iPhone 6 based devices that have ruled the market these past two years. 

With the iPhone continuing to be the most profitable product for Apple, it makes smart sense to diversify the line without cannibalizing the high-end of the market.

While rehashing an old design may seem like Apple phoned this one in, making use of a familiar and mature design makes a lot of sense. Offering a radically redesigned 4-inch phone or a smaller iPhone 6S would have led to confusion. Bringing back what was already an excellent device and making some of the key features even better satisfies the need for users of older devices to move forward and upgrade.

I just wish Apple considered adding a 32GB variant, since this would have made the iPhone SE even more competitive against a host of mid-range Android devices.

What was the standard bearer of ‘right-sized’ smartphones two years ago is now, oddly, considered a smaller device. The iPhone SE’s size is actually one of its most endearing qualities and if performance, a top-shelf camera, and the ability to run all the latest apps are all you need, then the iPhone SE can’t be beat specially since it makes all of these features available at a lower price.

Rating: 4 out of 5 

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