Apple iPhone 5se rumor review: everything we know about the brave little 4-incher

The rumored 4-inch iPhone 5se is something of an enigma. It's the iPhone that should not be. A tiny David in a world increasingly full of over-sized Goliaths. Word is, Apple had already developed the iPhone SE into a production-ready state by summer 2015, before postponing it for next year. Could it become the brave little iPhone that could, succeeding where its predecessor, the "unapologetically plastic" iPhone 5c, failed?

We are still months away from learning the truth, but we aren't spending our precious time in idle waiting! The rumor mill is working days, nights, and weekends to come up with those hype-raising, surprise-destroying leaks, hearsay, analyst predictions, "Mr. Blurrycam" photos, and concept renders.

How can we possibly miss out on the "impending iPhone launch" media cavalcade, especially when it's so soon after the one surrounding the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus ended? Not on our watch! Here's everything we know, or we think we know about the iPhone SE so far!

TL;DR

We know that here's plenty of information to digest below! You might be on the run right now, or just interested in the gist of it, so we've summed up the most relevant rumors about the iPhone SE here to assist you.

  • Design: Instead of a plastic shell, the iPhone 5se will feature an aluminium body, styled after the current iPhones and sold in multiple colors.
  • Hardware: Sources claim the iPhone 5se will feature the powerful A9 chipset and M9 co-processor found on the Apple iPhone 6s. While some prototypes of the device are powered by the A8 and M8 chips, Apple does not want the phone to fall two generations behind under the hood. That would happen once the Apple iPhone 7 is launched with the A10 and M10 processors on board.
  • Display: Apple will probably opt for a 4-inch, 640 x 1136 resolution IPS LCD display, supplied by LG and Japan Display Inc. It is highly unlikely that Apple will bring its "3D Touch" pressure-sensitive tech, a highlight of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, to the budget-conscious iPhone SE.
  • Camera: The iPhone 5se is said to feature a 12MP shooter with a Dual-LED flash on the back, and a 1.3MP FaceTime cam with f/2.2 aperture on the front. 4K video playback / recording and 'Live Photos' will probably happen.
  • Release date and pricing: The announcement and release are most likely to go through in late March 2016. The price will be set around $500 for the base model.

Contents:


Design

Plastic gets shown the door, colorful aluminium steps in.

Widely known as the iPhone 5se (and before that, '6c',) the new 4-inch iPhone may be simply called the "iPhone SE." This will mark the first iPhone upgrade without a number in its name, and would logically remove it from a yearly update cycle.

Based on Apple reinvigorating the 4-inch iPhone screen size at a time where the market is mostly moving toward larger smartphone screens, it would make sense for Apple to position this device as simply the "SE." Dropping the 5 simplifies things, as bringing back an iPhone 5 variant amid the iPhone 6 life cycle could potentially confuse customers. Still, the iPhone SE will replace the existing iPhone 5s at the same price point.

Some say the visual style of the iPhone SE will resemble that of the iPhone 5 family, others suggest it will look more like the current iPhone 6 and 6s, but whatever it ends up looking, chances are that these concept images below, made by designer Martin Hajek solely based on the rumors, are the best mockups that you will see until Apple unveils the official thing.


Previously, a leaked photograph compared the upcoming handset with the original iPhone 5. Some of the changes visible with the naked eye are the oblong volume buttons in place of the circular ones, and the fingerprint-reading Home button.


We also got a round of leaked pictures of the new iPhone's alleged front panel. If legit, they would confirm the screen size and that the device has no 3D Touch layer.


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Hardware

The iPhone 6s' Apple A9 SoC is supposed to be on the case.

We just recently heard that the device will be have the current Apple A9 chipset and M9 motion co-processor, paired with 16GB and 64GB of memory. Also, the iPhone 5se is expected to carry a 12MP rear snapper and an unknown front-facing one, along with Apple Pay support (courtesy of an NFC chip), Bluetooth 4.2, VoLTE, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The device will also be able to display Live Photos, but not record them.

Furthermore, we can safely assume that the smartphone will have all the hardware and software necessary to pair with the Apple Watch. And in this line of "near-constant connectivity and data processing tasks that suck power" thought, the iPhone 5se is said to feature a 1715mAh capacity battery, just slightly less than the iPhone 6's 1810mAh unit, and same as that of the iPhone 6s. Sounds good to us!

Display

The 4-inch screen is back in town, but 3D Touch said "sorry, won't make it."

Not pulling any surprise punches, Apple will probably opt for a 4-inch, 640 x 1136 resolution IPS LCD display, supplied by LG and Japan Display Inc. This adds up to a pixel density of 326 ppi, which is enough to make individual pixels indistinguishable from a normal viewing distance.

It is highly unlikely that Apple will bring its "3D Touch" pressure-sensitive layer to the budget-conscious iPhone 5se. According to an executive directly involved with selling the component, it will take two to three years before the technology has matured and cheapened enough to walk the path of the fingerprint scanner and make for a viable addition to mid and entry-level handsets, be it from Apple or competing smartphone makers. Besides, 3D Touch lends a layer of exclusivity to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, which Apple isn't keen on losing so fast.


Camera

The 12MP rear cam is back in town, so 4K and Live Photos aren't out of the question.

Connected Apple analyst Ming Chi-Kuo said the iPhone 5se will have a 12MP camera with a Dual-LED flash on the back, and a FaceTime camera with f/2.2 aperture on the front.

A report from May 2015 claims that imaging sensors for the iPhone SE5se will be sourced from Sony, as usual. Apparently, the company struggled to meet demand from Chinese clients (such as Huawei and ZTE) this summer, because it was so busy fulfilling Apple orders for iPhone 5se cam sensors. What can we say — small phone, big deal!

Comparatively, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have 12MP rear cameras with 4K video recording and 5MP selfie cams, while the upcoming iPhone 7 and 7 Plus might feature dual camera setups. One of the cameras will likely be used for depth perception or wider imaging, whereas the other will act as a regular one, so the resulting photos will have adjustable focus and possibly other cool depth tricks.

Release date and pricing

March release, around $500 for a base model. Any takers?

According to sources for 9to5Mac, Apple has set the announcement for Tuesday, March 21st. At that event, it is expected that Apple will be announcing the iPhone 5se, the iPad Air 3, and new Apple Watch bands.

Reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo from KGI Securities has another saying on the matter. He believes the handset could be announced in late February and released in early March. Of course, there are also claims about a traditional September reveal, which will see Apple pull off its first smartphone hat-trick, announcing the iPhone 5se together with the big guys — the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

With the scent of uncertainty lingering in the air, we'll have to hail the rumored Q1 2016 February / March announcement as the one to look forward to. It's the one that's popped up the most on our radar, and the highly knowledgeable Ming-Chi Kuo has voiced its support for it, so chances are that early 2016 it is!

And now, how about the price? A report from Chinese website TechWeb cites "Foxconn insiders" and various sources claiming that the base model iPhone SE (with 16GB of storage) will be priced between $400 to $500 in the United States. Meanwhile, the iPhone 5s' price will be dropped in half.

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