The shipment of iPhone SE – the much-discussed new 4” iPhone model from Apple – started last week. Announced on March 21, the handset has received mostly positive reviews from general techies and mobile app developers alike. However, while the phone does pack in a host of powerful features, there are several things about iPhone SE that can leave users slightly disappointed. In today’s discussion, we will take a look at the best and the slightly off-the-mark features of iPhone SE:
- (Good) A9 Processor Chip – Performance speed is definitely one of the high points of the new iPhone model. It has the latest A9 processor chip (which debuted in last year’s iPhone 6S). The 2GB RAM and the cutting-edge dual core processor (1.8 GHz) add to the performance efficiency. In terms of chipset performance, iPhone SE is at par with iPhone 6S – and considering that the latter is the latest flagship Apple phone – this is a big thing.
- (Not-So-Good) Dated design – Yes, the form-factor of the iPhone SE is nice, and it is certainly a new smartphone – but most software and iOS app developers agree that, the look and feel strongly resembles that of iPhone 5. Now, that phone released four years back, and what’s more, it had only a couple of major differences (notably, screen size) from iPhone 4. It’s rather odd to see Apple sticking with an old-looking design, instead of coming up with something that actually ‘feels new’.
- (Good) Excellent iSight camera – Rumors had been rife on various online mobile app development forums that the Cupertino company would compromise on the camera features of iPhone SE, to make it available at a budget price. Thankfully, that has not happened – and the new handset has the same 12 MP rear camera (with aperture f/2.2) as iPhone 6S. From slo-mo videos and Focus Pixel autofocus, to Time Lapse – the camera of iPhone SE has all the high-end capabilities. Suffice to say that the handset will receive a lot of love from those who love to click along with their phones!
- (Not-So-Good) Not as good for the selfie-lovers – If there’s one downside to the iPhone SE camera, it has to be its selfie-capture options. The latest addition to the assembly-line of iPhones has FaceTime camera/front camera of 1.2 MP – a measly figure when you compare it with the 5 MP selfie camera of iPhone 6S. Selfies won’t still be bad per se, but they won’t be extremely high-clarity either. A certain disappointment for selfie-lovers who have already used iPhone 6/6S.
- (Good) Apple Pay support – With iPhone SE having complete Apple Pay integration (through NFC, or near-field communications, technology), iPhone 5S is now the only iPhone to not have this tap-to-pay feature, for which the NFC chip is required. There have been unconfirmed reports about Apple planning to phase out the 5S in the near future – and if that indeed happens – all the other models will have Apple Pay with Touch ID. Those who make iPhone apps also feel that users will find that the sensor of iPhone SE is significantly faster than that of iPhone 5S.
- (Not-so-good) Screen real estate – Oh well, this is not much of a surprise – given that iPhone SE had always been publicized as a new ‘ 4” iPhone ‘. There are, however, certain additional disadvantages that come with the smaller screen size, when compared with the display of iPhone 6S (4.7”) and iPhone 6S Plus (5.5”). For instance, the screen resolutions of both the iPhone 6S (1334×750) and 6S Plus (1920×1080) are way higher than that of iPhone SE (1136×640). The pixel-per-inch (PPI) of the new phone – Retina Display – is also much lower than the PPI of iPhone 6S Plus (326 PPI vs 401 PPI).
- (Good) Fast network connectivity – Although not quite as fast as the iPhone 6S, the iPhone SE more than holds its own when it comes to network performance. With a maximum cellular data speed of 150Mbps (with as many as 19 LTE bands) and 802.11ac wi-fi functionality, the handset comfortably outstrips iPhone 5S. The presence of Bluetooth 4.2 in iPhone SE is yet another welcome addition.
- (Not-so-good) First generation Touch ID – iOS app developers and analysts feel that this can be a bone of concern for people who have already used iPhone 6S. In an understandable bid to cut costs, Apple has gone with the first generation Touch ID feature on iPhone SE, instead of the 2nd gen version – which is considerably faster. The performance of the NFC module, and in turn, Apple Pay, can remain just a tad sub-par because of this factor.
- (Good) Hey Siri – iPhone 5S brought the motion coprocessor (M7) into the iPhone setup for the first time, and all the later models have had it. The latest in this line is iPhone SE, which has the powerful and untethered M9 motion coprocessor (just like iPhone 6S). This ensures ‘always-on Hey Siri’ support. In other words, users do not have to tap on their phone screens to activate and seek help from Siri. Voice commands to the mobile digital assistant – which is already smarter than before, would be enough.
- (Not-so-good) Less storage capacity options – Most experts from the field of mobile software and app development had predicted that the iPhone SE would be made available in 3 different models. They have, however, been proved wrong – with Apple deciding to release 16GB and 64GB variants of the phone. There is no 128 GB version, unlike the iPhone 6S/6S Plus models. For people who store lots of photos and music and other stuff on their devices, this might just prove to be a problem in the long-run.
- (Good) Live Photos and 4K Video Recording – Apple has definitely not held back with the camera capabilities of iPhone SE. We have already talked about the top-notch iSight camera, and the handset also has the new ‘Live Photos‘ feature (for newbies, this feature allows users to make short videos with every photo they take – 1.5 seconds before the actual click and 1.5 seconds after). In addition, 4K video recording is also possible on the new ‘small‘ iPhone. These features contributed quite a bit towards the popularity of iPhone 6S, and they should work in favour of iPhone SE too.
- (Not-so-good) Where is the 3D Touch? – Given how many features iPhone SE shares with iPhone 6S, it would not have been out of place to expect 3D Touch to be present on the former as well. However, Apple has kept this breakthrough feature only on iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. The new handset will not be able to use pressure-sensitivity to detect between different types of taps, and there will be, of course, no ‘peek-and-pop‘ previews.
- (Good) Pricing – The entry level price (16GB model) of iPhone 6S is $649. The 16GB version of iPhone SE, which shares several features with the flagship device, is $399 – a whopping $250 less. Even the 64GB model of iPhone SE is priced at an extremely competitive $499 (off-contract price). Yes, the phone is more expensive than iPhone 5S (the 16GB model is available for $199 on a two-year contract) – but it still offers a lot of bang for the buck.
- (Not-so-good) No wireless charging option – For all their high-end features, battery performance has never been a highlight of iPhones. Initially, general users as well as Apple app developers felt that the lesser space on iPhone SE would compromise battery efficiency further. However, initial tests have proved that the reverse is, in fact true – and the smaller screen size of iPhone SE makes it less power-hungry than the larger iPhone models. Even so, the unavailability of wireless charging option is a drawback. The idea of tagging along the charger is not a pleasant one. This is not a deal-breaker, but Apple has probably missed a trick here.
After iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone SE is only the third Apple phone to be available in the popular rose gold body colour. The RAM of the handset is double of iPhone 5S (2 GB vs 1GB). The FaceTime camera has Retina Flash, and the brighter flash slightly makes up for the overall sub-par selfie-taking option.
Even after the launch of the ‘bigger iPhones‘, Apple managed to sell nearly 31 million 4” handsets in 2015. This clearly shows that there is a market for smaller phones, and as per early predictions, nearly 5 million units of iPhone SE will be sold in this quarter itself. The sales of iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus tapered off remarkably last quarter, and it remains to be seen whether iPhone SE manages to somewhat make up for that.
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