Compact and powerful: Putting iPhone SE to the test

 10 Apr 2016 - 17:50

Compact and powerful: Putting iPhone SE to the test
The new iPhone SE (right) looks very similar to the old 5s (left). (file photo / Andrea Warnecke / dpa)


Berlin: For two years now, Apple has been offering a bigger screen with the iPhone. Yet many customers decided against a model with a 4.7 or 5.5-inch display and have chosen smaller devices instead.

Nearly one in six iPhone buyers last year were happy with the compact but outdated iPhone 5s. With the new iPhone SE, Apple aims to reach out to those who want a compact 4-inch smartphone with the latest technology onboard.

One has to look closely at an iPhone SE to spot the differences to the 5s. They are only cosmetic. Inside though, it's a different phone. Apple has opted for the A9-SoC (System-on-Chip) found in the 6s and 6s Plus.

Compared to the 5s, the A9 gives the SE a significant performance boost.

In our test, the SE proved to be three times as fast as its predecessor. In certain benchmark tests it was actually five times faster. Apple has also been generous in terms of memory, allowing 2 gigabytes of RAM as in the case of the 6s.

This means that more apps can run in the background or more tabs can be open when surfing, without a noticeable loss of speed.

Despite the superior performance, the battery life has not decreased. The phone played HD video for more than 12 hours, lasting around 30 minutes longer than the 5s. The SE also beat the 5s for web browsing, with the battery lasting over an hour longer.

In comparing the displays, the difference is hardly noticeable. At 1136 x 640 pixels, the SE is on a par with the 5s.

In contrast to the larger top models, the 6s and the 6s Plus, the SE lacks the 3D Touch function to bring up a context menu by pressing harder on an app symbol.

The iPhone SE (left) is markedly smaller with a 4-inch screen than the iPhone 6 (right) with its 4.7-inch display. (file photo / Andrea Warnecke / dpa)


That can be useful, for example for taking a selfie quickly by pressing the camera icon.

The main camera is state of the art and takes 12-megapixel images. Panoramic pictures can be up to 63 megapixels. However, when it comes to the front camera, there’s no upgrade on the 1.2-megapixel version used in the 5s.

As in the case of the 6s and 6s Plus, the SE supports the wireless standard 802.11ac which means twice the surfing speed of the 5s. Also, the LTE standard of the SE with up to 150 Mbit/s is twice as fast as its predecessor. But the larger iPhone models are at the same time twice as fast as the SE.

Inevitably, price will play a big role for people considering buying this new iPhone.

While some scoffers have described the abbreviation SE as meaning “still expensive,” the reality is that there never has been a new iPhone before now costing under 500 euros (570 dollars).

The SE with 16 gigabytes costs 489 euros while the model with 64 GB costs 589 euros. There isn’t a 128-GB version - and as with all other iPhones, no option to expand the memory with an SD card.

In conclusion, anyone who wants a smaller iPhone no longer has to settle for older technology. The SE is a powerful smartphone that can compete with the best Android competitors. The new iPhone is compact, fast, has a very good camera and supports most current wireless standards.

In addition, the accessories for the 5s can still be used with it.