Dubai: It’s almost as if, with the launch of the iPhone SE, Apple wants you to forget the last 10 years ever happened.
You remember the last 10 years, when mobile phones went from being, well, just phones, to hand-held personal computers-slash-gaming consoles.
That’s ironic, given that Apple started the trend of touchscreen, app-driven devices with the launch of the original iPhone.
Someone time-travelling from 2006 might be amazed at the SE, but for the rest of us, it’s a small smartphone with the same technology we’ve gotten used to since the launch of the iPhone 6 in 2014.
And frankly, one of the biggest leaps forward with the iPhone 6 WAS the move away from the 4-inch screen, especially for those of us who had been wondering why Apple wasn’t making a phablet (phone + tablet format with a screen usually above 5 inches (12.7cm)) like ... well, just about every other smartphone maker on the planet.
So, just in case I hadn’t yet hammered this home yet, there is nothing new here. As just about every single SE review has said, this is an iPhone 6 in a 5s body. Come on, even Apple is saying it.
I’ll jump ahead a little here and give you the bottom line. That means this is a good phone. It has every feature you would expect from an iPhone, including the A9 processor — which means the SE is much faster than the 5s and almost as fast as the iPhone 6.
It also has Siri, a 12-megapixel camera, 4K video and all the normal bells and whistles that come standard on all of Apple’s other iPhone models.
BUT, and we keep coming back to this, it’s in a form that has slowly been dying for years. The iPhone SE’s 4-inch screen is crisp but unavoidably small.
No, small isn’t and shouldn’t be bad by itself — there are some advantages to a smaller phone — but many of the apps that we use today lose something on a small screen.
Instagram certainly is more entertaining to use with a bigger screen, and apps such as Twitter and Facebook, with their mix of text and photos, certainly suffer from the loss of real estate. To be fair, a number of other apps I use, including WhatsApp and Bloomberg, don’t.
One area I really expected to be an issue a smaller screen size was with games. I didn’t find the smaller screen distracting, although there was a little bit of adjustment.
The same goes for videos, although with a caveat. I found watching videos on the SE just required a small adjustment in how far I held the screen from my face, an adjustment I seemed to make unconsciously.
However, if you’re one of those people who like to prop up their phones next to a computer and play videos while working, it’s not always as easy to make that distance adjustment. At a distance of more than about 15cm, the SE’s screen does seem suddenly small.
But back to games for a second. The SE had no issues running some of the more graphically intensive games that I normally run on my iPhone Plus. One racing game I play taxes even the Plus’ battery and CPU, usually draining the battery an additional 25 per cent in about an hour.
Since the SE shouldn’t need the extra juice to power a larger screen, I was surprised to find the SE’s battery drained just as fast as the iPhone Plus. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since a quick check of the battery specs for the iPhone SE shows that with a smaller body comes a smaller battery.
The SE’s battery is rated at about 1,624 milliamps per hour, while the Plus comes in with a rating of 2,915 MaH.
If there is anywhere that the SE is going to tax some people’s patience, it is the digital keyboard. Given the small screen, I expected some issues typing. I can comfortably wrap my hand around the SE. So, with a thumb that can press all 24 letters simultaneously, typos were imminent. But I was reduced to typing at speeds where a chisel and clay tablet would have been better.
I don’t expect most people to have this same issues, but going back to a 4-inch screen from a 5.5-inch screen is going to kick your Spellchecker into overdrive.
So what advantages does a smaller-screen hold for a buyer? Two come to mind. The first is price. The SE most expensive version of the SE (64GB) tops out at Dh2,049.
The iPhone 6 starts at Dh2,599 for a 16GB device. For the cost conscious, that’s a big step and gets bigger quickly if you want the extra storage. If you want to make the jump from Android, the new lower price might be a little more within reach. Even then, Apple will still remain a premium price.
Second, I’ll admit there is a time when you want a smaller phone. Maybe you’re tired of not having your phablet fit in that tiny slot on the exerciser at the gym. Maybe you’re tired of having to take your phone out of your pocket when you sit down. Maybe you want your phone to JUST be a phone. We understand if you didn’t want the last 10 years to have happened.