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iPhone SE specs review – the world's most powerful 4-incher

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iPhone SE specs review – the world's most powerful 4-incher

After seemingly converting to big screen diagonals forever and ever, Apple made a calculated step back in time by introducing a brand new 4-inch iPhone. Technically, the smartphone is 90% identical to the iPhone 5s in terms of design, but the things that make it tick have been reimagined from the inside-out. While its size brings it closer to two to three years ago, the hardware inside the recycled bead-blasted aluminum shell screams late 2015. Indeed, the iPhone SE is very much an iPhone 6s on the inside, hence it deserves the prestigious title of the world's most powerful 4-inch smartphone.

Let's dig into the spec sheet of this little monstrosity and see if it can bite with the rest of the big boys!

Design

Apple brings the bead-blasted aluminum back to reimagine the iPhone 5 era.

If you loved the iPhone 5s when it was in its prime, you're going to love the new iPhone SE. If you didn't, well, there are plenty of options out there! Anyway, the 4-incher has the same design from the iPhone 5 era, crafted from bead-blasted aluminum for a satin-like finish, with matte-chamfered edges, and an updated color-matched stainless steel inset Apple logo . It even has the exact same dimensions – 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches (123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm) – which means your existing case(s) will fit perfectly. There’s still that premium feel to the miniature, boxy-looking device, and in a bit of breaking news, the color options see the addition of Rose Gold to the safe and familiar Gold, Silver, and Gray finishes.
iPhone SE specs review – the world's most powerful 4-incher

Display

4-inches of Retina love.

The iPhone SE has a 4-inch iPS LCD display with a 640 x 1136 resolution and a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. This is good enough to make the screen appear reasonably sharp at the typical distance one keeps between their smartphone and retinas. The screen has a 800:1 contrast ratio, 500 cd/m2 maximum brightness, and conforms to the full sRGB color calibration standard. It also has oleophobic coating to resist fingerprints. All in all, this a great display to use both in intense and subdued ambient lighting. And knowing Apple, the panel is going to be quite well calibrated in terms of color reproduction.

Additionally, we believe Apple hasn't deviated from using two old and proven display tricks of its – dual domain pixels to prevent color shifts caused by changing viewing angles, and photo-alignment in the liquid crystal layer to force the LCDs into the right shape. We have no reason to doubt that the iPhone SE's display will be of worse quality than the one on the iPhone 6s, although the omission of 3D Touch technology means it is certainly not as future-proof. And even if Apple decided to simply stick the iPhone 5s' display untouched into the iPhone SE, we'd have no complaints, for it's aged quite fine.
iPhone SE specs review – the world's most powerful 4-incher

Processor and Memory

The iPhone SE is a little monstrosity powered by the A9 chipset.

Don't let its adorably miniature size deceive you, for the iPhone SE is just as powerful as Apple's state-of-the-art iPhone 6s! That's because both are powered by the same set of internals, that is the A9 64-bit chipset with 2GB of LPDDR4 RAM memory. Upgraders from the iPhone 5s or an older smartphone are in for a fantastic treat, for the iPhone SE's processor is up to two times as powerful, while the graphics unit comes close to being three times faster. With this kind of power on tap, the munchkin can playback and record 4K -resolution video at 30FPS, pull off 720p 240FPS slo-mo, and play the latest and most demanding 3D mobile games. Moreover, the A9 SoC goes shoulder-to-shoulder with the M9 motion co-processor, which takes care of the step-counting, elevation measuring, and listens for the “Hey, Siri” command as the A9 does the heavy-lifting.

However, the base model iPhone SE only has 16GB of storage, which is a paltry amount to have in 2016. It's also eMMC memory, while the Android competition has transitioned to faster UFS storage with tremendous results. Regardless, the iPhone SE is beautifully spec'd out for essentially being an entry-level Apple smartphone.
iPhone SE specs review – the world's most powerful 4-incher

Camera

The 12MP iSight camera is among the best around.

Apple graced the iPhone SE with the same 12 MP iSight rear camera found on the iPhone 6s. This is still one of the best cameras on a smartphone, with five-element lens, hybrid IR filter, backside-illuminated sensor, 1.22 micron-sized pixels and F/2.2 aperture size. It's accompanied by a True Tone flash and relies on software-based image stabilisation. The cam supports Live Photos (photos that move as you touch them on the display), panoramic shots of up to 63MP in size, and boasts improved local tone mapping and noise reduction algorithms. It has 3x digital zoom for bringing elements from the scene closer. In terms of video recording, the camera takes videos in up to 4K resolution at 30 FPS, 1080p at up to 60 FPS, and also does slow-motion capture at 120 FPS for 1080p and 240 FPS for 720p clips.

For one reason or another, Apple kept the front-facing FaceTime camera at just 1.2 MP, which is still fine for video calls and Instagramming the usual subjects like faces, pets, and meals, but hardly great for anything else. Group shots will be a challenge, and you won't behold much fine detail. At least the Retina Flash feature, which momentarily makes the display three times brighter with True Tone® lighting technology to illuminate your face in low light has made it through.
iPhone SE specs review – the world's most powerful 4-incher

Connectivity

Improved Wi-Fi and NFC for mobile payments.

Connectivity on the iPhone SE is definitely up to speed, for the smartphone offers Wi-Fi 802.11ac support (433Mbps download speeds over Wi-Fi), along with Cat 4 LTE, which is good for downstream speeds of up to 150Mbps. Although this isn't on par with the faster Cat 6 LTE in the iPhone 6s, it does make for a significant improvement over the iPhone 5s. There's also Bluetooth 4.2 support, and in addition to that, the smartphone has an integrated NFC chip that ensures support for mobile payments via Apple Pay.

Expectations


Given the fair $499 price for the unlocked entry-level model and the various wallet-friendly carrier offers, the iPhone SE is bound to sell well for what it is – a niche smartphone for a crowd that doesn't share the majority of users' love for large displays. Additionally, we can see the munchkin inspiring a new wave of no-compromise small smartphones, a front which has been held solely by Sony's Xperia Z Compact handsets.

Reportedly, Samsung already plans to take on the iPhone SE with its Galaxy S7 mini, whose display could stand at a considerably larger 4.6-inches, and the platform of choice to power it will be Qualcomm's premium-tier Snapdragon 820 chipset, or Samsung's own Exynos 8890 chipset – the same hardware found in the flagship Galaxy S7 and S7 edge devices. This would be a precedent for mini variants of Android flagships, for they usually made do with lower tier innards to cut costs.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 mini is also rumored to feature 3GB of RAM and a 12MP flush mounted rear cam with 3X optical zoom (call that one a wild rumor). Although we can't predict how the market is going to develop from now on, we're happy to say that with the iPhone SE, small-screen compact handsets have a feature once again.

76 Comments
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posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:13 2

1. GreenMan (Posts: 1236; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)


Still can't hold a candle against my Lumia 430...!!! Yeah, you heard me...

BTW, I wish there was a thumbs down option here in P.A... Sometimes, I hunt for lots and LOTS of thumbs down on Yahoo Answers! Alas, they're absent here...

I like being a jerk sometimes...!

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:16 5

3. Wiencon (Posts: 1879; Member since: 06 Aug 2014)


Well, people still can think of you as a jerk without giving you thumbs down

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:17 5

4. GreenMan (Posts: 1236; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)


Anyhow, lets come back to senses...

This phone, in all honesty, is beyond my wildest of expectation...

I was expecting an older A8 SoC and 1 Gigs of RAM for around $400...

And yet it has A9 SoC, 12MP Shooter and almost all the bells and whistles of the latest 6S Series...

I'm one step closer to being an iSheep! (Baaaaa.....)

Bravo Apple!

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:25 3

8. zeeBomb (Posts: 2097; Member since: 14 Aug 2014)


So it does have 2GB of RAM... A phone that is only 4 inches. Nothing comes close...the only android phone that enters its vicinity would be the Z3/Z5 Compact. This iPhone SE will create a FRENZY in stores and fly off the shelves!

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:54 3

27. Acdc1a (Posts: 229; Member since: 21 Jan 2016)


I highly doubt that...unless there are still 4 and 4s users that haven't upgraded. Very few use a 5"+ phone and want to go back to 4.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:08

35. S-R-K (banned) (Posts: 304; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


I will be definitely buying it.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 16:28 2

66. cheetah2k (Posts: 1577; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)


man you been isheeped.... Remember to bring your charger with you, it'll only last half a day..

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:54 1

47. Nutcase4u2 (Posts: 7; Member since: 15 Oct 2015)


I'm pretty sure I have the worlds most powerful 4 incher. At least that's what my wife tells me.

I also have a pretty decent phone.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 23:18

78. ibend (Posts: 4602; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)


wait.. so your wife say that you have the worlds most powerful 4 incher?
thats actually a bad news :-/

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:15 14

2. Wiencon (Posts: 1879; Member since: 06 Aug 2014)


Okay PA it's enough, we know this is iPhone but really no one needs these articles

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:33 7

18. another1 (Posts: 157; Member since: 25 Dec 2015)


Aw were you forced to click on this article?

Already have 2 comments and counting. Seems to me that you don't mind the article.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:19 1

61. S-R-K (banned) (Posts: 304; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


No he wasn't, but he has every right to make his opinion and thoughts.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:17 13

5. submar (Posts: 462; Member since: 19 Sep 2014)


4-incher with dimensions which can fit a 4.5 inch screen.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:24 7

7. nctx77 (Posts: 1966; Member since: 03 Sep 2013)


At that small size and price tag, no one cares about that.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:06 2

32. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


Yeah, 550$+ is a real small price tag. Please note that price of 399$ in US is exclusive of the sales tax which is charged at the time of purchase.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:31

63. Crispin_Gatieza (Posts: 1646; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)


Online sales carry no tax unless the supplier is in your state. If I'm not mistaken, Alaska has no sales tax on a statewide level.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:19 4

6. natypes (Posts: 1093; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


So does 4k video look any different on that screen at that resolution?

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:25 3

10. GreenMan (Posts: 1236; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)


@natypes

So, are you actually criticizing the fact that it can capture videos upto 4K Resolution and not capped or limited to 1080p?

WOW.........

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:30

11. natypes (Posts: 1093; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


I'm just asking a question. This phone is irrelevant to me I don't care what it can or cannot do.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:33 15

15. another1 (Posts: 157; Member since: 25 Dec 2015)


Way to contradict your original statement.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:53 3

25. natypes (Posts: 1093; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


No, son, I didn't contradict anything. You have a very limited understand of anything more than a simple statement, you've proven that over and over.

I asked about a screen of that RESOLUTION not the iPhone 5s part 2. I was just curious if there was any difference.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:06 1

31. miket1737 (Posts: 2544; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)


Yeah there would be a difference and the video would be sharper in 4k then say viewing a 1080p or 720p video on the phone. Same way how you run youtube videos at higher resolution then your computer monitor goes up to and the videos are sharper at higher resolutions even though your monitor is lower resolution then the video itself

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:07 9

33. another1 (Posts: 157; Member since: 25 Dec 2015)


You specifically said "at THAT resolution"....640x1136 is basically exclusively used by the iPhone.

Then, you stated "This phone is irrelevant to me I don't care what it can or cannot do" when you specifically implied you were talking about the iPhone.

Moron, that's a contradiction.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:14 1

38. natypes (Posts: 1093; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


Why are you so worried about me criticizing an Apple product? That's not even what I was doing you fuking fgt. I was asking a question about resolutions adn 4k video.

Are you close to Memphis, TN? We can fix this little issue you have with me really quick.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:32 7

40. another1 (Posts: 157; Member since: 25 Dec 2015)


Are you threatening me just because I made you look like a complete idiot?

Real classy. But no, I'm actually in Chicago. Feel free to visit me anytime.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:41 2

42. natypes (Posts: 1093; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


Once again I'll try to explain to you. I don't know what screens have odd resolutions like that. I asked a legitimate question. I'm not a video expert and was just wondering if there was a difference. You didn't make anyone look like an idiot but yourself.

You need to learn some respect one way or another. I'll see you this summer.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:44 2

44. another1 (Posts: 157; Member since: 25 Dec 2015)


I live right in West Loop. Why wait till summer?

You need to learn sooner not to threaten people you don't know on the internet simply because you can't be man enough to admit when you are wrong.

I am free to meet you any day over the next month. I'd be happy to teach you some respect.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:46 1

45. natypes (Posts: 1093; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


See ya soon.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:50 3

46. another1 (Posts: 157; Member since: 25 Dec 2015)


Sounds good. Hit me up if you need me to pay for your ticket.

Just hurry the eff up.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:15

60. S-R-K (banned) (Posts: 304; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


From his point of view you are classed as one.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:44 1

64. miket1737 (Posts: 2544; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)


LMAO your not hard bro please stop it, you would get put into your place easily, stop it with your Napoleon complex coming out on Phonearena

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:05

59. S-R-K (banned) (Posts: 304; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


The idiot dumbass is you . He is not brainwashed nor owns Apple products.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 15:45

65. miket1737 (Posts: 2544; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)


the idiot dumbass is you, who won't give up making brand new PA accounts every single week just to troll on a website on your free time instead of being outdoors, spending time with loved ones, doing things instead of trolling on a phone website

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 16:55

68. another1 (Posts: 157; Member since: 25 Dec 2015)


Haha thanks for having my back. I'm pretty sure natypes and SRK are the same person.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 17:29

72. S-R-K (banned) (Posts: 304; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


I've got no big issue with iphones. I will be getting one.
My dislike is with Apple.

I'm not saying that, but from natypes point of view he surely is.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:39 1

22. promise7 (Posts: 877; Member since: 03 Jul 2013)


Who watches 4K video on any phone even a 5" phone. You record it, upload it, and watch it on your TV, PC so you can enjoy it fully instead of a tiny smartphone of any size.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:56

28. natypes (Posts: 1093; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


I watch it on my phone. I don't shoot anything important enough to justify all of that work. I don't care enough.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:05 2

30. miket1737 (Posts: 2544; Member since: 17 Mar 2013)


It sure absolutely would look different and sharper and better. Just like how you can run 4K videos on your computer monitor that is most likely not 4K and 4K videos look sharper and clearer then any other resolution you play on your computer.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:42

43. natypes (Posts: 1093; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


Thank you for the answer I was looking for. Was it really taxing on your brain? Didn't think so. People would rather me smart asses and use the anonymity of the internet to protect them than answer a simple question.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 16:29

67. cheetah2k (Posts: 1577; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)


You can probably record, but not play in 4K on that resolution, in any case 16gb on board (which is probably more like 2gb after syncing your music and pics) won't go far. That's about 5min 4k recording BWAHAHAHA

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:25 2

9. jeevanand88 (unregistered)


for last few weeks the PA homepage is flooded with iphone SE articles and guess, i just quit seeing this page for weeks!! it doesnt worth for its price range and even for this PAs hypes!! u can read if there is new technologies introduced in it but its just a swapping of components between 6s and 5... Pls stop giving articles about this!! we know wats in it!! u heard us!! pls!!

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:31 4

13. aegislash (Posts: 370; Member since: 27 Jan 2015)


I don't understand why people just...don't click/read the article if it doesn't interest you. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to read all of the iPhone SE articles.

Simply scroll until you find something that pertains to your own personal interest. Simple solution.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:33 3

16. jeevanand88 (unregistered)


Oh..haahh!! Smartguy in the world told me a great solution!! Thank you!!

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:34 3

19. aegislash (Posts: 370; Member since: 27 Jan 2015)


You're very welcome! Have a nice day and try not to complain too much.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:32 3

14. GreenMan (Posts: 1236; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)


@jeevanand88 Ah, yes... You're probably right...

Some people were also annoyed by the PA's Coverage of Samsung S7 and S7 Edge...

Remember?

Or are you too 'thick' to remember it, my liege?

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:38

21. jeevanand88 (unregistered)


Atleast S7 has a nice camera and new technology with their dueal pixels whcih is obviously promising.. Nothiing wrong to be excited for the samples!! but iPhone SE?! is it having anything which we never know.. we know every parts and how it performs... and the design we have been seeing it since 2013. wat excites us!? Its indeed a fastest 4incher,no regrets!! but the hype is so much when theres a lesser expectation!!

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:57 1

29. Acdc1a (Posts: 229; Member since: 21 Jan 2016)


I think Apple estimates there is still a market for a 4" phone...I don't think they were trying to set the world on fire here. As far as $400 pricing goes, it's cheap for an iPhone but not compared to comparable Android and Windows devices.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:36 7

20. wando77 (Posts: 839; Member since: 23 Aug 2012)


I was wondering how phonearena was gonna spin this to me it sound like an amazing phone. 'The world most powerful 4" phone' ....... how about the world's LARGEST 4" phone?..... or the world's most overpriced 4" phone?

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:54

26. Awaragardiyan (Posts: 134; Member since: 17 May 2012)


how about - "the world's most useless 4 incher" ?

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:10 1

36. Jimrod (Posts: 1373; Member since: 22 Sep 2014)


Nah, that belongs to wando77.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:43

24. gaming64 (Posts: 234; Member since: 22 Mar 2016)


I still have my iPhone 5 right here as a daily driver. Upgrading to this is a big NO.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:08

34. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


Wait, it doesn't have WiFi MiMo or cat.6 LTE. Even 2 year old s5 has that

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:12 2

37. Jimrod (Posts: 1373; Member since: 22 Sep 2014)


Wait, 99% of phone buyers could not care less about those things!

Just digging for what it doesn't have? Do you do that about every device and compile a list or just this one?

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:15

39. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


I'm not among 99% buyers. I'm planning a full NAS setup in my home. Not having 2x2 MiMo will slow things down by 2x.

Every flagship that I get interested in, yes. This helps me in remembering which phones not to buy.

So far it consists of s7, G5 mi5 and SE for 2016. Hoping for HTC 10 to not enter the list.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:10 1

48. Jimrod (Posts: 1373; Member since: 22 Sep 2014)


Yeah, I'm interested to see what HTC do with the 10, my contract's up in August and I can continue my trend of iPhone 3G - 4 - 5 - 6... IF the 7 looks like a big step up, but I'm less and less convinced by Jony Ive's ability without Steve Jobs guiding him...

I'm interested in the S7 but my friend's experiences with the S6 Edge hasn't left me with that much confidence in it so the only other potential candidate might be the HTC - if they make a "normal" sized version (not a phablet fan).

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:29

50. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


Ask your friend how is marshmallow on his edge. It solved all the issues on my s6. I'm keeping it for another 1 or 2 years just because the update made it almost like a new phone.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:38 1

51. Jimrod (Posts: 1373; Member since: 22 Sep 2014)


(She) said it improved after she'd done the update and felt nicer to use but wasn't 100% sure it had fixed her terrible battery life, I'm seeing her again tomorrow so I'll find out. She also had a problem with malware on the stock browser (the type that alters your search results and web pages to go to viagra ads instead!) so I'd hope a full firmware update would have solved that too.

It's that kind of thing that puts me off Android, never having had an issue with an iPhone before, I'm sure it's rare.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 13:54

52. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


How can a firmware update solve a malware inside the system. You need to wipe the system clean for that.

The fix to battery life on S6/edge is complex and I won't go into it. But it involves shutting down all the crapware Samsung builds into touchwiz using a special software. Also turning off redundant features helps. iOS is good for normal users as you don't need to do all these tweak to make your phone run properly. But I like doing all this stuff.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:27

55. Jimrod (Posts: 1373; Member since: 22 Sep 2014)


Well I didn't look into it that much because I don't know much about Android - not sure how malware is implemented on it and how involved the firmware updates are.

Another "Fandroid" friend took a look a while back and tried to sort the battery but not sure what he tried. Seems quite the ballache, she gets (or at least got before Marshmallow) about 12hrs max out of it with moderate use, she even turns off WiFi and Bluetooth! Her S4 before didn't have anywhere near the same problem, got worse with age though.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 22:57

77. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


The WiFi doesn't turn off when you turn it off on android. There is an option which is turned on by default in WiFi settings. It keeps scanning for WiFi for google to track your phone.

If you live in US, then the crappy battery life of S6 has no solution. The shannon modem of samsung isn't optimised for US bands. That's why Samsung released SD variant in US this year.

I also had an S4 previously and S6 lasts twice that.

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