It had been a while since rumours of a 4-inch iPhone started circulating. At the launch of the iPhone 6s, many had expected Apple to simultaneously present a smaller, 4-inch iPhone as a less expensive, smaller screen alternative to the iPhone 6 and 6S, and their respective ‘Plus’ variants. Six months after the iPhone 6s, the iPhone SE became official. And a surprisingly large number of people rejoiced, including me.
I have loyally stood by my iPhone 5s, now over two-and-half years old, and it serves me nobly. On an overall, everyday basis, the iPhone 5s is still a fantastic driver. Apps barely lag, I can even afford to keep my push mail notifications to every 15 minutes and not reset network settings, and it still works fine enough. Lags, however, have started showing up. The A7 processor is still reasonably fast, but is just not fast enough. For instance, apps take that split second longer to load, there’s always the one second of blank screen when I switch between different apps, and games reflect this even more.
Unfortunately, even after having used a number of large display devices, I’m only too used to the 4-inch form factor. The iPhone SE, on that note, was all that old iPhone users could have asked for. Powered by the latest generation hardware, the iPhone SE is the iPhone 6s on the inside, with the exact design and footprint of the iPhone 5s. Why would I not love it?
I’m not saying I don’t, but there were too many questions that prevents from calling it instantly recommendable. Here’s why.
The iPhone SE is built on the same chassis as the iPhone 5s was, which according to me was the best iPhone design till date. It is 7.6mm in thickness, and weighs 113 grams. It has a familiar design and is built well enough, but somehow feels slightly less sturdy than the iPhone 5s. The tried-and-tested rectangular design still looks good, and the iPhone SE retains the premium feel usually related to iPhones.
It is here that the iPhone SE does not remain one of the best. In terms of everyday photographs, the iPhone SE is decent, rendering true-to-source colours without any hint of oversaturation or accentuated contrasts. Focussing is fast, and shutter response is smooth. Unfortunately, while the photographs are not disappointing, the iPhone SE does not seem to be in the same league as flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, or even the iPhone 6s Plus. It reportedly uses the same image sensor as the iPhone 6s, although it misses out optical image stabilisation.
The iPhone SE may be the perfect upgrade for users of the iPhone 4s, and for ones who really do not want a larger smartphone. It may also be the last flagship-class smartphone with a display as small as 4 inches. If you qualify under any of the two criteria above, the iPhone SE is your best bet. For everyone else, the iPhone 6s is the smartphone to own. Like all iPhones, the iPhone SE is great, but it's about time Apple recognised its competition.