Big at heart: Apple’s iPhone SE reviewed


Finally, there’s the battery life, and that’s one area where iPhone 6S owners get the right to feel a little jealous.

You see this little sibling — the baby of the bunch — gets better battery life than the flagship 4.7 inch iPhone 6S, achieving a full day of life without needing to reach for the Lightning recharge cable.


That’s a day tested with taking photos, making phone calls, texting, checking and responding to emails, doing the social network schtick, listening to music, and surfing the web, with this result on with Bluetooth connected to at least one fitness wearable and a pair of wireless headphones.

Given the 1642mAh battery inside, we’re a little surprised, particularly because it means Apple has not only finessed the balance between the hardware and software, but also made good use of the screen.

Yes, that screen actually attributes to the surprisingly impressive battery life of the iPhone SE, delivering more life because there are less pixels to power and switch on, which the 6S only gets an extra 70-odd mAh of power to deal with.

So that’s good news there.



The bad news is over on the value side, but only if you just recently bought an iPhone 5S or felt like you were being forced into a new screen size with the 6, 6S, or the bigger 6 Plus and 6S Plus.

Mostly it’s hard to fault the pricing of the iPhone SE because of what you get: technically you’re getting an iPhone 6S without a few of the unnecessary features (better front-facing camera, faster 4G modem, Force Touch display) in a smaller body with the choice of either 16 or 64GB.

Pricing between the two is set to either $679 for the 16GB or $829 for the 64GB option, and out of these, we’d say the 64GB is the one to look at if you’re considering going this way.

It’s not that 16GB isn’t enou— ok, it’s completely this: 16GB on a fixed amount of storage (which is the way Apple does things) is a disastrous amount of storage to need to have for the next however long you have an iPhone for. It’s only a good amount if you never plan on taking photos or videos or installing apps or listening to music.

Essentially, if you’re going to buy an iPhone because you don’t actually want a smartphone or a media player, the 16GB model makes perfect sense.

But since the majority of people would probably plan to use a touchscreen phone with a great camera for a lot of activities, that 64GB is the one to choose.


What needs work

The interesting part about the iPhone SE is working out what needs work, and this mostly stems from what Apple has intentionally left out and what has intentionally been left the same.

Intentionally not part of the package is a better front-facing camera which we don’t think will matter to most iPhone SE customers, much the same with no Force Touch screen. In fact, in the time since we’ve reviewed the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus where Force Touch was introduced, we’ve felt the technology was mostly there to let your one hand make use of the larger screen, implementing extra touchscreen presses through heavier pushes.

On a smaller screen, however, Force Touch isn’t needed for this one-handed device as it’s already a one-handed device.

The fingerprint sensor is a first-generation sensor so isn't as fast as the 6S, but that's very minor.
The fingerprint sensor is a first-generation sensor so isn’t as fast as the 6S, but that’s very minor.

There’s also no Category 6 modem here, sticking with Category 4 in general, which won’t make a difference to most customers.

In regards to what has intentionally been left the same, that’s pretty much everything anyone liked about the old iPhone 5S, which has been needing an update desperately.

The design is the same, the screen is the same, the button placement is the same, and generally the size and weight are spot on the same.

If you exclude the insides, the iPhone SE is the same iPhone 5 or 5S customers have had for yonks, and that is totally fine. Some people like the design and like the style, and like the idea of recycling their old accessories, because that will work on this phone.

Would it be nice to see a new design more in line with what the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus have? Sure, but there’s nothing wrong here, outside of maybe needing a new screen.

We’d take a slight improvement to the screen, but mostly it’s still a winner.



I was dreading doing this review. It’s not something I like to admit, but sometimes, there are gadgets that occasionally bring a small amount of discomfort.

It’s like knowing you’re going to have to do something not overly comfortable, like visiting a dentist and dreading the possibility of words like “we need to replace something” even though it’s probably going to be all right.

For the past few years, I’ve liked larger phones. I’ve moved on from the 4 inch form-factor, and about the only time I’ve gone back has been for the bigger 4.5 inch Sony “compact” phones, which were still bigger than Apple’s iPhone 3 through 5 series that were launched in Australia.

Even Apple has moved on, no longer seeing the 4 inch rectangular form-factor as the magic golden design that would fit everyone’s hands.

So I was dreading this review because it meant going back to something smaller, and smaller than I’d normally like. It’s a size that doesn’t illicit bad memories in the slightest, but I just knew there’d be a bit of a learning curve, as my thumbs and fingers struggled to find their groove in a smaller screen.

But that’s not what happened.


Instead of a possibly nasty visit to a dental office, it was like a chat with an old friend: you know them, you remember everything about them, but it’s not exactly the same person you recall and so there are new things to learn.

Apple’s iPhone SE is kind of like that, delivering the phone many of us know — indeed, the phone many of us were introduced to the touchscreen phone with — but with an inside that makes it updated for today.

Why didn’t Apple do this sooner? It’s amazing how long it has taken for Apple to see that its iPhone 5S needed this update, and it’s a brilliant one all the same.

While I might have dreaded a return to the smaller form-factor, it’s one that grows on you very quickly.


You remember what it’s like to have a phone that fits in your pocket without fear that it might snap when you flex your leg or tear your jean pockets asunder, and you’re able to dig out all of those accessories you thought had died but miraculously hadn’t. You haven’t thrown out your Snoopy or Lego or Star Wars cases that they never made for the bigger phones, so you can use them.

Apple’s smaller edition of the iPhone might not have every bell and whistle out there in the world, but it doesn’t need it, and it has enough.

In fact, it has so much that it might just get people back to the convenience of a small phone, because if you’re one of those people who held off and almost switched to Android or Windows because it felt like Apple was forgoing that size made for your hands that you’ve come to know and love, the update is here, and it is a total surprise, with a big at heart iPhone made for those of us who adore the smaller size.

Is it a total brand new direction for Apple iPhone owners? Nope, but it also doesn’t need to be. It’s the new iPhone for people who don’t want to go big, and that’s totally fine.

Surprisingly recommended.


Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Apple’s original winning size returns to centre stage; Great spec upgrade, making the iPhone SE faster than the still available iPhone 6; All-day battery life; Great camera; Includes a fingerprint reader; Supports the same accessories as the iPhone 5 and 5S… because it’s the same phone chassis-wise as the iPhone 5 and 5S;
Small screen (in comparison to what else is out there today); Front-facing camera is old and low resolution (again, in comparison to what else is out there today); No force-touch/3D touch screen;