If I had to sum up the iPhone SE in one sentence it would be this: This is an iPhone 6S in the body of an iPhone 5S.
That’s nice for people who like the metal body and size of the 5S. There probably won’t be a lot of people who switch to the SE from a 6S or 6S Plus, though, unless they really miss the smaller screen size. In fact, it’s sort of shocking how small the phone feels in hand — even though it hasn’t been that long since this was the standard size for the iPhone.
If you haven’t upgraded to the newest iPhones, for whatever reason, this phone will offer you some significant performance improvements.
It is, admittedly, hard to get a good handle on performance in a brief hands-on session. But everything felt very zippy, even features such as Live Photos or video playback, which is unusual on a phone of that size in today’s market. Apart from a few features such as 3D Touch, the iPhone SE felt pretty much like its larger and more expensive counterparts.
So from an engineering standpoint, this feels like an accomplishment. Being able to pack most of the performance of the latest iPhones into that smaller case is no mean feat. To consumers, however, it may not seem so revolutionary.
Still, it’s a nice option to have — a compact phone that feels powerful rather than sluggish, and another option to consider for people who really like having a smaller phone.
Is it a niche market? Yes. Is it a pretty big niche? Well, Apple said on stage that it has sold 300 million 4-inch iPhones in 2015, using it as justification for going back to the 4-inch screen. (Keep in mind the last 4-inch iPhone was launched in 2013.)
Mostly, I’d say this phone will appeal to people who want a good smartphone that works well, but don’t need to always be at the cutting edge of technology. Big screens are good for being able to test out all the new things. A smaller screen somehow feels like a phone that goes about its business more quietly.
And it is true that the 4-inch screen is somewhat, well, comforting. With large phones I often feel like I’m about to drop them, or they’ll slip out of my hands because they’re so slender. While I don’t know that I would personally go back to a smaller phone, I did have a nostalgic moment for the stockier iPhone, even if it didn’t exactly bowl me over.
It’s clear that Apple isn’t going after the wow factor with the iPhone SE. What the company does appear to be going after is consumer demand, both for a smaller iPhone and a slightly cheaper one. And it comes in the full slate of iPhone colours — grey, white, gold and rose gold — so small-phone fans will have a range of colour options.
The new iPhone SE starts at $399 (Dh1,466), far cheaper than the base 6S ($650) or 6S Plus ($750).