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Apple iPhone SE Review

Apple iPhone SE

Posted: , posted by Ray S.


Apple iPhone SE Review


Apple iPhone SE Review
Apple iPhone SE Review
Apple iPhone SE Review
Apple iPhone SE Review
Apple iPhone SE Review
Apple iPhone SE Review
Apple iPhone SE Review
Apple iPhone SE Review
Next to the iPhone 6s (right) - Apple iPhone SE Review

Next to the iPhone 6s (right)

This has to be one of the more peculiar reviews I've ever been tasked with. A past iPhone 5 and 5s user, I have long forgotten what it is to hold and work with a smartphone of such caliber. Since those two, whom Apple's new iPhone SE resembles thoroughly, I've only had the pleasure (and sometimes – displeasure) of using much bigger devices; like the iPhone 6, for example, or the One M9, or the Galaxy S6... and you know what? I think I got perfectly used to the big screen format. Most devices above 5 inches do feel rather clunky to me, but if we draw the line at around 5", I think most handsets in the category come off as relatively easy to handle.

So does the world still need a phone with a 4" screen, be it with the latest top-of-the-line tech? Have our hands permanently adjusted to working with big handsets? Does the extra portability of the iPhone SE make a meaningful difference for the 2016 consumer? And, perhaps more importantly, is the 4" form-factor still adequate enough to get the job done well enough in this day and age, for productivity, gaming, general usage, and more? Do browsing the web, or checking a Facebook feed, or typing out a message feel constrained on this seemingly old-age 4" screen? These are all hard questions the iPhone SE will have to answer if we're to believe in its adequacy. Let's see what it has to say!

The package contains:

  • Apple iPhone SE
  • Wall charger
  • Lightning cable
  • EarPods earphones
  • SIM ejector
  • Quick start guide
  • Apple decals


Blast from the past: the iPhone SE resurrects a design many thought superior to iPhone 6, but is it really so?

You can imagine the tension in the air that was accommodated by the moment when I first took the iPhone SE out of its box and carefully enveloped its seemingly delicate body with my fingers. My first thought was: wow, this is a nice phone! A looker! My second thought was: oh boy, that sharp edge is cutting right into my fingers.

The Apple iPhone SE may be very compact and all, but its boxy shape with sharp edges sure isn't very ergonomic. It looks good, but doesn't feel good, which is equally important. Using a case is a way to work around this problem, but it isn't quite the ideal solution. I think if Apple had actually used a scaled-down version of the iPhone 6 design, it would have made for a much more comfortable handset, not to mention – much fresher.

Aside from that, the iPhone SE is very well built – the metal body, ornamented by the contrasting glass pieces on the back, is a sight to behold, while the buttons for volume and home, as well as the mute switch, all click nicely and reassuringly.

When it comes to the dimensions themselves: yes, the SE is extremely compact and light by today's standards. It's very refreshing to once again use such a small device – a considerably more effortless experience compared to the 'full-size' slates of today. It's also not tiny to the point of looking weird or inadequate in the hands. However, the SE definitely isn't looking to balance body size and screen diagonal – the significant bezels around the screen, and especially the final look when you put a case on, do make the iPhone SE appear somewhat old-school. It would have been a nice gesture from Apple if it had taken the time to renew the design of the munchkin to make it look more modern.

Apple iPhone SE Review

Apple iPhone SE
4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches
123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm
3.99 oz (113 g)

Apple iPhone SE

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
5 x 2.56 x 0.35 inches
127 x 65 x 8.9 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s

Apple iPhone 6s Plus
6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
6.77 oz (192 g)

Apple iPhone 6s Plus

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.


A very high-quality display, the 4” panel of the iPhone SE is a great treat for LCD lovers.

Apple iPhone SE Review
The 4” IPS LCD screen of the iPhone SE is terrific. Its resolution comes in at 640 x 1136 pixels, which delivers a pleasing pixel density of 326 ppi. Reading text and discerning fine details on the screen doesn't make you squint or focus more than usual, because iOS scales correctly to display items with adequate size. As a matter of fact, most elements of the user interface have the same dimensions as on the iPhone 6's 4.7” screen. Of course, this means you'll be seeing less content on the SE, but it's a fair trade-off.

Brightness with the iPhone SE can be cranked up all the way to 600 nits, which is a superb output, allowing the screen to be used with relative comfort even when it's sunny. Minimum brightness sits at 6 nits, which translates to decent viewing comfort in the dark, but it could have been better.

Images, video and other content looks great on the iPhone SE, because color balance is great. Color temperature is a tad cold at 7000 K (slightly dominant blue color), but overall, colors are very accurate and true to life, while the display's gamma is spot on, producing a deep, dynamic look that's also natural. There's just the right amount of contrast and vividness.

Whether or not 4 inches are big enough, or too small, depends on what you're going to be using them for, so it'll be in the next chapters where I'll explore the display's efficiency.

Unfortunately, there's no 3D Touch here, which probably isn't such a big deal at this point. The fact you can reach all corners of the screen with a single thumb easily offsets the loss.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Apple iPhone SE 606
Apple iPhone 5s 587
Apple iPhone 6s 554
Samsung Galaxy S7 484
View all

  • Options

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:07 9

1. jeroome86 (Posts: 2202; Member since: 12 Apr 2012)

Didn't get a 9? Well, should make the Android guys happy. Not iphonearena after all.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:12 22

4. antmiu2 (Posts: 389; Member since: 19 Jun 2011)

well they gave the S7 a 9 so thats why

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:16 4

8. ibend (banned) (Posts: 6747; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)

i6s get 9.3

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 10:27 10

71. Mxyzptlk (unregistered)

I would have given the S7 a lower score.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 16:24 9

150. darkkjedii (Posts: 25633; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

Why though? I played with it (the edge) at Best Buy, and in every way, it was awesome.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 20:04 6

159. NoToFanboys (Posts: 3149; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)

Not surprising, he's known here as a blind Samsung hater right? He's becoming exactly like those he hate (blind Apple haters), just on a different side.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 21:49 2

165. joey_sfb (Posts: 6758; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)

Not just Samsung, every Android, BlackBerry and Windows phone or tablet.

Apple is his whole universe!!!

posted on 08 Apr 2016, 09:39

173. Mxyzptlk (unregistered)

Just seems like a "so what?" release to me. I kind of lost any interest in Samsung after the note 4.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 22:53 4

166. sgodsell (Posts: 5057; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)

Of course you Mxyzptlk you would give the S7 a lower score, because you only own, use and preach Apple.

Also this review is clearly a paid review, especially when the display is the most important feature on any smartphone. I found it actually funny when Ray was mentioning how reading text was fine and you don't have to squint. Oh, but he forgets to mention how users have to do a hell of a lot more scrolling around on that tiny NON HD display. The SE shouldn't even receive a score of 7, especially in this day and age, and at Apples pricing.

posted on 08 Apr 2016, 12:32

174. Mxyzptlk (unregistered)

Waaah Waaah Waaah is the only thing I get from your comment.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:18 20

9. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)

And how does it relate? This phone isn't even close to a 6 month old phone(6S) and you're comparing it to arguably the best phone on the market.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:23 32

19. Creep (Posts: 188; Member since: 05 Apr 2016)


1. Are you stupid as hell or something? This phone can honestly keep up with the best phones are the market. It may not be as feature packed, but when it comes to performance, it easily bests the S7.

2. You are clearly not wise. Change that username. You're nothing but a biased Fandroid.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:30 23

26. AllFanboysMatter (Posts: 185; Member since: 14 Feb 2016)

Ignore tyrionTheWise....he's just another annoying Android Fanboy who comes to talk BS on all Apple articles.

android fanboys are super mad that a 4 inch iPhone LITERALLY BEATS all the best android phones out in terms of performance.

So let them bring up the following
-how the resolution is too low (even though its resolution is perfect given a 4 inch screen)
-how iOS is easy to run compared to Android (dumbest point ever, since iOS should be pentalized for being more efficient)

FAndroids on phonearena are easily some of the dumbest people on the web.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:33 28

29. NoToFanboys (Posts: 3149; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)

All fanboys are equally dumb, if you think only the fandroids are dumb, then you are also dumb.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:42 27

39. AllFanboysMatter (Posts: 185; Member since: 14 Feb 2016)

"All fanboys are equally dumb"

No, and this is an incredibly dumb statement. Some "fanboys" are just huge fans of a particular brand, but don't feel the need to constantly bash other brands.

It's great having fanboys that provide balanced opinions.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 10:04 5

52. NoToFanboys (Posts: 3149; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)

Depends on what you mean by the word fanboy. Those people you described, I just simply call them fans. By fanboys I mean diehard fans that bash the competition or the fans of the competition

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 11:32 2

93. MSi_GS70 (unregistered)

@All fanboy
You are such icrap iphoneboy .. go and shag that iphone ..same edition :D

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:46 4

41. marorun (Posts: 5029; Member since: 30 Mar 2015)

Well the design suck ( others handset got hit hard in the score thanks to this ) should been same design as the iphone 6/6S but smaller.

A tad bigger screen 4.3 with 720p would been welcome.

Mad thats a limited phone with limited features and outdated design is faster? Faster at what?

end result is all high end phone open apps as fast ( maybe a nano second faster for some lol )

No game or app on ios or android market can even use my old Z1 full power.

So yeah you should look at yourself when you say ppl are dumb i gave pretty good reason here and nothing empty minded like you said.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 09:58 11

51. LebronJamesFanboy (Posts: 660; Member since: 23 Mar 2013)

Marorun, the design does not suck. While I'm not a huge Apple fan, it was one of their best designs.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 12:22

111. marorun (Posts: 5029; Member since: 30 Mar 2015)

well most iphone user thats dont take it say its because of the design so for me its suck but you have right to have different taste.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 11:34 1

95. MSi_GS70 (unregistered)

exactly why didn't make iphone 6 design for se ?

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 16:02 2

148. Feanor (Posts: 859; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)

Seriously? And how do you explain that my Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is the most bug-free phone I ever used, whereas my iOS 9.3 running iPhone 5c is the most bug-infested phone I ever used?
Bugs on my 5c since I got it; terrible battery drain with iOS 7, hung up button not working with iOS 8 and 9.3, call forwarding not working with iOS 9.2. Plus the most terrible, blue border discoloration around the screen.
Bugs on my Xperia? Just a bug by full expanding notifications from the notification bar, which was fixed now with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Now, I haven't bumped onto any bugs at all. I also never had any of the bugs mentioned on a previous Phonearena article about how buggy the Z5 is, and also I don't have any problems with Google Play as reported by others. Never ever again an iPhone.

posted on 09 Apr 2016, 15:40

176. GreenZone (Posts: 146; Member since: 04 Mar 2014)

Z5? Buggy? No! It's a trash, sucks from A to Z. A f*ck up phone, sold it already and move on

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 11:06 4

82. maherk (Posts: 4996; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)

It's kinda fishy how your furious and childish comments gets upvoted almost immediately, and by a dozen.
What's more fishy, is that I ve seen the exact same comments on this thread, by you, and other accounts that are only few days old.
I am pretty sure the majority of us knows by now who you are, Mr. Phanboy.

On another note, the SE costs $400 only in the US, here in Lebanon it starts for $500 for the 16GB variant, which is only less than $50 for the iPhone 6, $20 than the Note 5, and more byb $40 than the Z5.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 11:35 4

98. MSi_GS70 (unregistered)

he has 20 accounts :)

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 20:00 3

158. Ordinary (Posts: 2453; Member since: 23 Apr 2015)

SamsungPhanboy got banned and now he is going full retard with his other accounts, lmao.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 11:30 3

91. MSi_GS70 (unregistered)

@ Creep
You giving me creep change that sht nick ..
Btw when it comes to POINTLESS and USELESS performance .. Yet NOBODY's gonna use ''THAT'' performance on such little crappy screen... You keep performance in Laptops not in smartphones..
Smartphones stopping slowly with stupidly increasing performance,where battery is crushing more and more..
The decent performance is enough ..

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 12:24

112. marorun (Posts: 5029; Member since: 30 Mar 2015)

Low end android with much lower speed hardware are still butter smooth and can run any app whitout lag.. so overkill performance is not needed anymore.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 21:32

164. Diezparda (Posts: 902; Member since: 23 Oct 2013)

I'm agree with this not a haters to iPhone, but i'll go with iPhone 6 instead this tiny phone. Performance wise i think 6 is fast enough and it's compact for most people. With larger 4.6" you can enjoy your multimedia content & browsing is clearly more enjoyable.

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 11:56 2

105. westicktogether (Posts: 39; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)

ROFLMAO!!!!!!!! You just owned all these stupid android fans

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

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PhoneArena rating:
Display4.0 inches, 640 x 1136 pixels (326 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera12 megapixels
Apple A9 APL0898, Dual-core, 1840 MHz, Twister processor
Size4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches
(123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm)
3.99 oz  (113 g)

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