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!


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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)



1. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 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...!

3. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

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

4. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 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!

8. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 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!

27. Acdc1a

Posts: 473; Member since: Jan 21, 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.

35. S-R-K

Posts: 304; Member since: Mar 15, 2016

I will be definitely buying it.

66. cheetah2k

Posts: 2237; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

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

47. Nutcase4u2

Posts: 44; Member since: Oct 15, 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.

78. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

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

2. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

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

18. another1

Posts: 157; Member since: Dec 25, 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.

61. S-R-K

Posts: 304; Member since: Mar 15, 2016

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

5. submar

Posts: 713; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

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

7. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

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

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.

63. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3134; Member since: Jan 23, 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.

6. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

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

10. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 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.........

11. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

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

15. another1

Posts: 157; Member since: Dec 25, 2015

Way to contradict your original statement.

25. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 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.

33. another1

Posts: 157; Member since: Dec 25, 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.

38. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 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.

40. another1

Posts: 157; Member since: Dec 25, 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.

42. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 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.

44. another1

Posts: 157; Member since: Dec 25, 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.

45. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

See ya soon.

46. another1

Posts: 157; Member since: Dec 25, 2015

Sounds good. Hit me up if you need me to pay for your ticket. Just hurry the eff up.

60. S-R-K

Posts: 304; Member since: Mar 15, 2016

From his point of view you are classed as one.

59. S-R-K

Posts: 304; Member since: Mar 15, 2016

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

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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