Apple’s iPhone SE announced: it’s a 6S inside of a 5

Apple hasn’t paid much attention to the smaller phone sizes of late, forcing iPhone owners to move to a bigger 4.7 or 5.5 inch device, but the older 4 inch iPhone has now been made new again.

If you weren’t sure if the larger iPhone styles of the past two years were for you and have been holding out for Apple to make something with all the high-end stuff in a smaller device, good news because it is finally coming.

After pages of rumours have pushed their way through the web, Apple has officially confirmed that the iPhone 5S now has a replacement, updated well and truly with the guts of an iPhone 6S plonked inside a slightly updated body of an iPhone 5S.

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An iPhone like this can’t just be called the iPhone 5 nor can it be called an iPhone 6 — there have already been instances of each of those — so this amalgamation of Apple designs is coming together in the iPhone SE, a special edition, so to speak, that delivers the 4 inch size many have liked but with the updated tech found in the iPhone 6S launched near the end of last year.

“iPhone SE is an exciting new idea,” said Philip Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, adding that “we started with a beloved, iconic design and reinvented it from the inside out.”

“The result is the most beautiful and powerful phone with a 4-inch display in the world,” he said.

So what is inside “the most beautiful and powerful phone with a 4-inch display in the world”? Glad you asked.

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For this new generation of iPhone, we weren’t kidding when we said this was basically an iPhone 6S inside of an iPhone 5S body, because that’s what you’re looking at, with Apple’s 64-bit A9 processor, the M9 motion co-processor, and a choice of either 16GB or 64GB storage.

Over on the camera side of things, even iPhone 6 owners get a reason to be jealous, because there’s the 12 megapixel rear camera with 4K video capture support, something only 6S owners received. Meanwhile, the front-facing FaceTime camera stays on par with the iPhone 6, providing the same 1.2 megapixel selfie camera iPhone owners have seen for yonks.

Connections are pretty standard for any Apple phone, with 802.11ac WiFi (backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.2, 4G LTE, and a bit of NFC likely there for ApplePay since Apple devices don’t tend to support standard NFC on devices.

About the only thing missing from the 6S is that 3D Touch / Force Touch display, and that’s no huge loss.

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The screen is the same old screen iPhone 5S owners have had for ages, with a 4 inch display capable of showing 1136×640 which in turn displays Apple’s “Retina” pixel count of 326ppi, and even Apple’s fingerprint ID system is here under the button also known as “Touch ID”.

And while that design looks familiar, it’s not exactly the same.

Rather than make the 4 inch iPhone SE into a sort of hybrid between the iPhone 6S and the iPod Touch, Apple has largely kept things on the 5-style the same, complete with an edge you can grip, though now the bits that used to be glossy and shiny are more matt, with the aluminium casing looking a little more subdued.

More colours will also be provided, with white variants appearing in silver, gold, and rose gold, while the original black iPhone style appears in space grey only.

“Everyone who wants a smaller phone is going to love iPhone SE,” said Schiller.

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On the one hand, the iPhone SE is great news for people keen for a smaller iPhone who didn’t want to make that jump for something bigger, but we have our doubts about the battery life.

We’re not expecting a massive battery in this device and Apple’s iPhone 6S already struggles to last a day, giving us reason to be concerned. With an identical set of specs under a smaller screen and paired with a bigger battery, Apple is going to have to work some pretty impressive code magic to make the SE last a full day.

But if it can, it may well have a winner, and this may be a result that works well for current 6 and 6S owners, because if the company can pull an ace out of its sleeve with more optimised iOS code, it could well improve the life of Apple’s other phones, too.

We’ll have to see, as there is a new iOS version on the way, too.

The iPhone SE fits at the end there, smaller than the iPhone 6S in the middle and the iPhone 6S Plus on the very left.

The iPhone SE fits at the end there, smaller than the iPhone 6S in the middle and the iPhone 6S Plus on the very left.

For now, if you’re keen for the net generation of the smaller iPhone, you’ll find it in the iPhone SE, which will rock up for $679 for the 16GB model and $829 for the 64GB model.

Pre-orders start March 24 with availability shortly after, and while those prices are outright, you can probably expect the telcos to chime in any time now for respective pricing.