How is the iPhone SE better than my trusty iPhone 5s? Here's why you should consider upgrading

Apple has just announced the new iPhone SE and, contrary to what many fake leaks and rumors were pointing towards, the handset's design remains largely unchanged when compared to the last 4-inch iPhone – the iPhone 5s. So, while looking at it, undoubtedly many users will be asking themselves: “Wait... is it worth upgrading to that?”. Well, obviously, this question can't be answered by looks alone, so let's take a deeper look.

Design, display... all the same?

Yes, if you take the iPhone SE out of your pocket, nobody would be able to tell the difference between it and the older iPhone 5s, unless you get it in Rose Gold that is. But flaunting a new piece of tech aside, some users may just be getting a bit tired of the same-old design. After all, the iPhone 5s was largely an iPhone 5 remake, and that was, in itself, just a stretched iPhone 4 / 4s. So, while Apple was aiming to please users that love their smartphones compact, it seems it made a conscious choice of not giving them a fresh design for the device they hold in their hands on a daily basis.

This could be considered both a negative and a positive here. On the plus side – fans of the iPhone 5 and 5s that have been gathering various accessories for their trusty smartphone over the last two to three years can safely switch to the brand-new SE, without worrying that their cases and lens accessories will suddenly become obsolete. On the negative end of the spectrum, many will yawn at the overly too familiar looks of the handset.

Screen-wise, we are met with the same 640x1136 resolution on a 4-inch LCD display – nothing different here as well. It's also worth noting that there is no 3D Touch on this model, despite the fact that it is launching more than six months after the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. But that's most probably a corner that was cut in order for Cupertino to settle on the iPhone SE's rather lucrative price point (for a brand-new Apple smartphone, that is).

So far, we've got the same looks, the same display, and skimping on a new feature. But let's dive into the good stuff!

Power in a small package

The iPhone SE may look like a device that launched two generations ago, but under the hood – it does not kid around. In fact, the new 4-incher is equipped with Apple's A9 SoC – the very same chip that powers the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. In Apple's words, this makes the SE twice as powerful as the iPhone 5s in the CPU department, and three times faster in graphics processing. The A9 SoC goes hand in hand with the M9 motion co-processor. This little piece of tech takes care of the step-counting, elevation measuring, and waking the phone with a “Hey, Siri” command, freeing the A9 unit to do the heavy-lifting.

Unfortunately, as with any Apple handset announcement, there's very little tech information flaunted at launch. So, we currently do not know how much RAM the compact phone will be equipped with. Considering Apple insisted that the device's performance is on-par with the iPhone 6s, we'd like to believe it has 2 GB of memory, but we will wait for more info to pop up before making a final call on that one.

The new camera

An upgrade that was overdue prior to the iPhone 6s launch was in the camera department. While Apple's older, 8 MP shooter did a fine job most of the time, it was certainly showing a drop in detail and performance when compared to the competition's heavy-hitters. With the 12 MP iSight camera on the iPhone 6s, Apple is back in the game, offering one of the best cameras on a smartphone that is currently available.

Well, the good news is that the iPhone SE gets the same camera. All the shutterbugs, social media addicts, and even those more edgy photographers that like to use an iPhone instead of a conventional camera don't need to switch to a 4.7-inch handset if they don't want to – the very same quality can be found in the iPhone SE's compact package.

This also includes 4K recording at 30 FPS, 1080p at up to 60 FPS, or slow-motion capture at 120 FPS for 1080p and 240 FPS for 720p clips. Unfortunately, and somewhat disappointingly, the front-facing camera is still the old 1.2 MP model. Selfie aficionados will barely notice a difference between the good old iPhone 5s and the new SE.

Apple Pay and battery life

As much as their users may want to get in on Apple's mobile payments service, pre-iPhone 6 models just don't support it for one simple reason – the lack of an NFC chip. The iPhone SE remedies this issue by adding the desired piece of hardware. That, and the fact that it runs Apple's newest operating system — iOS 9.3 — with a hardware powerful enough to promise updates at least for 2 years in the future (possibly more) means that you won't be out of the loop on any of the currently available Apple services in the foreseeable future.

The promised battery life of the new mini iPhone could also turn into a selling point. According to the official info provided, the little munchkin is capable of holding two to three hours longer when playing video or browsing the Web, compared to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 5s.

Conclusion and final verdict

So, to sum it all up, the iPhone SE is an iPhone 5s on the outside, but (mostly) an iPhone 6s on the inside. If you choose to upgrade from the old 4-incher, you will get a more powerful CPU, a more powerful GPU, a noticeably better iSight camera (but not selfie camera), access to Apple Pay, and the choice to go Rose Gold.

But also keep this in mind – if you choose to go for an iPhone SE instead of the iPhone 6s, you will lose out on 3D Touch, a much better front-facing camera, and the newer, oval-angle design language, and, obviously, a larger 4.7-inch display.

So, should you upgrade from an iPhone 5s? Mostly, we think the SE will be more exciting for users that are still on iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c units, as the 5s still has enough juice in it to stay relevant for non-demanding folk. However, if you consider yourself at least a moderate smartphone enthusiast, then know that the iPhone SE has what it takes to warrant an upgrade from the iPhone 5s.

Related phones

iPhone SE
  • Display 4.0" 640 x 1136 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A9 APL0898, Dual-core, 1840 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 1624 mAh(14h 3G talk time)
iPhone 5s
  • Display 4.0" 640 x 1136 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A7, Dual-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 1570 mAh(10h 3G talk time)



1. artificialintelligence

Posts: 166; Member since: Dec 05, 2015

Apple finally makes an affordable iphone but decides to make it 4" once you go 5" or 5.5 " you can't go back this should be interesting can't wait to see sales numbers

3. AlikMalix unregistered

Yeah my wife got the 6s with me when it was time to upgrade - she really hates to go higher and I at the time preferred 4" too since u run my business out of my truck - it's good to have easy handling. But she said she's used to the 4.7" and doesn't care to go back.

5. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

BUT Does it have 2GB RAM?

14. Subie

Posts: 2397; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

If it's using A9 Soc's allready in stock then wouldn't it come with 2GB. Wouldn't that be easier then having a different Soc put together?

21. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

not necessary, RAM is outside SoC, they can combine A9 with whatever RAM they want

10. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

All iPhone sales are reported as a single sales number, so you won't even know how many of this model sold. Apple thinks that many people who still have small iPhone didnt upgrade because they didnt want a bigger phone. I think more people have the smaller phones because after the big ones came out, the smaller ones were more affordable. Some people just want an iPhone they can afford, they will get a bigger one when the bigger one is simply affordable. Not sure if those people will upgrade even now. I don't think a 5S with ^S internals is all that good of a deal per se. Especially since it doesn't even have any of the features the 6S has. Not that the gimmicky force touch is even worth the time or effort to implement in its present implementation. But even now, when I hold my iPhone 4, its just feels so toyish, which was the same thing I complained about with the 5/5S and Samsung's own Galaxy Alpha. Once you go big, little just isnt an option. But I'm just not sure that its a good enough upgrade to move from the 5S. But if you have a 4 or 4S, then most certainly. But I'm not givng up my iPhone 4. I need iPod Out as I prefer it for my car audio because, all my songs on the device show up on my screen so I never have to touch the phone. A pure benefit I get with no other phone.

11. Mxyzptlk unregistered

You're so unbelievably transparent.

12. Ahovking

Posts: 711; Member since: Feb 03, 2015

If you go to Macworld or 9to5 there is a lot of iPhone 4s-5s users prizing saying that they will upgrade now.. It was a shock to see the amount of people coming out of the wood works who's problem isn't price but size.

13. Subie

Posts: 2397; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Didn't Tim Cook announce "Over 30 million 4" iPhones sold in 2015" - taken from Victor H live blog earlier. I actually still like the 5s design and followed the blog with interest.

2. AlikMalix unregistered

My 5s runs AfterPulse and RR3 as smooth as my 6s (which are both so much better than the LGG4 and Note 4 when playing RR3, AfterPulse is not available on android). If you haven't seen AfterPulse in person (not blurry videos on YouTube) - you'll see that these old 5s are already extremely capable devices. If I had a 5s - I wouldn't have upgraded to SE for performance - only for camera improvements (they're always welcome) and Apple Pay.

40. EcoCare

Posts: 444; Member since: Jul 30, 2014

A friend of mine still has an iPhone 5. Old, but still silky smooth as hell compared to my Android phone. Damn.

4. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

The resolution is 640 x 1136 pixels not 360 x 1136(4th paragraph from the top).

7. paul.k

Posts: 297; Member since: Jul 17, 2014

Oops. Thanks!

28. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

You're welcome.

6. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

I call this... The iPhone 5S (2016)

8. torr310

Posts: 1680; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Of course the CPU needs to be upgraded on the 5S, otherwise it won't run on the latest iOS as smooth as "Apple".

20. cheetah2k

Posts: 2275; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

It'll run smooth anyway because of the crrrrapple 640p resolution screen lol

9. Kumar123 unregistered

I'm not upgrading. This time I'll go for big iPhone. From iPhone 5s to iPhone 7 plus/(Pro?). I hope the Duo-sensor, Duo-lens combination (optical zoom sounds really nice) rumor is true for iPhone 7 plus. Hopefully no distracting antenna band and pruding camera lens this time around.

15. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

For most people. Coming from a 5s or even a 5 will feel like the same experience. Especially people that are light users. iOS doesn't have much more to offer. Some people might justify paying more I guess. Or might not even know what they're paying for. Just buy a 5s for half of the price.

17. greenelektron

Posts: 537; Member since: Sep 10, 2014

Really? A brand new 5s is 200USD?

29. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

I know some carriers selling for less than $200 actually. Brand new. On prepaid. Ive seen some refurbished on the larger carriers.

18. wando77

Posts: 1168; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Junk.... but will no doubt get 9.3 from phonearena

19. Diezparda

Posts: 941; Member since: Oct 23, 2013

The name was too confusing, It's the same generation with 6S right? Average consumer might think it's minor upgrade over the 5S. Who will instantly notice performance upgrade? you'll need a side by side comparion. Better called it 6S mini...

24. j2001m

Posts: 3061; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

Yes, ther what I will have called it, 6s mini, as like you said, the basic customer will just think it's a 5s and think that what the cool, kids will think it is, they will have been better off using the 6s design and making it a mini, it will have sold big time

31. Diezparda

Posts: 941; Member since: Oct 23, 2013

Personally i like 5S design, it looks more masculine and easier to hold. If by any chance they gonna called it 6S mini then it make sense if they're using 6S design.

32. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

The iPhone looks about as masculine as a tampon.

33. Diezparda

Posts: 941; Member since: Oct 23, 2013

Heh so much hate? okay that's very personal i think... I can simply imagine iP 5S in black (not the space gray color) would look as good as my HTC One M8, with less curve and aluminum back (matte finish) of course it'll looks more masculine like Xperia Z series.

22. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

Updates for two years?. PA you lost it or what... It will get till iOS 12 and 12.1 and 12.2 and 12.3 (at a minimum), hence a minimum of three and half years! This ain't android world PA (no offence).

23. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

the only real reason to upgrade is to make sure it will run smoothly on the next iOS upgrade if it have the same performance with 6S, then they must downclock their CPU and GPU to make it have similar performance with 6S, while make its battery life longer

26. nodes

Posts: 1160; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

they should underclock it. especially the GPU, as it's too powerful, it's an overkill even for 1080p resolution.

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