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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.

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