Apple is back with another iPhone; in fact, the cheapest iPhone in a long time. The question is if this is genuinely new? The simple answer is no.
In the current situation, people are more budget-conscious than ever, yet still want “nice things”. Price probably is the real appeal behind an iPhone that starts at $399 in 2020.
But, paying $399 is not the end of the story, and there are more costs and value in that package.
What’s in the box
Before getting into what the iPhone SE is about, let’s take a look at the device itself.
The iPhone SE looks a lot like the iPhone 8 because it is essentially an iPhone 8 that got upgraded internals. The shape, size, button placements all remain the same.
On the left, you’ll find the mute button and volume rockers and the power button on the right. There is nothing on the top, while you’ll find the speakers, lightning port, and microphone at the bottom.
At the back sits a familiar single-camera setup with a flash and second microphone.
In the box, Apple keeps it 2017 with a pair of wired earbuds and a 5W charger. You read that right, 5W, in a time where 15W and 20W are minimum.
It looks the same, but what did they upgrade? Well, here’s the list with carry-over specs marked:
- *4.7-inch display with a resolution of 1334×750 with a pixel density of 326ppi, true-tone, with haptic-touch once again.
- A13 Bionic chip (from the iPhone 11)
- *IP67 water and dust resistance
- 12MP f/1.8 rear camera with 5x digital zoom, OIS, smart HDR, and 6 portrait modes and 4K video recording up to 60fps
- *7MP f/2.2 front-facing camera and 1080p video recording up to 30fps
- LTE, Bluetooth 5, NFC, VoLTE and Apple pay
- 64GB, 12GB, and 256GB variants
- Black, white and Product (RED) colors
- Product dimensions: 138.4mm x 67.3mm x 7.3mm and weighs 148grams
There is little visible difference between the iPhone 8 and the SE, and they are limited to the Apple logo being centered on the back and using a black front regardless of rear body-color (iPhone 8 had a white front on their white models).
Where the iPhone SE wins is being the new entry point for those sitting on the sidelines waiting to enter Apple’s ecosystem and experience iOS, and those who have an iPhone older than the iPhone 8 and cannot be fussed with any more than the basics.
The device is built premium, as this was their flagship build just 3 years ago, and feels robust and expensive. There is a sense of nostalgia using this device since it looks incredible, fits brilliantly in your palm or pocket, and the Apple logo makes it feel more expensive than it is.
The first real feature that is up to date is the camera. Apple has not announced that it is lifted off the iPhone 11, but it seems nearly identical. The device takes epic shots and videos when the lighting is on your side. The camera does lack a night mode, and fancy features you’d expect with multiple camera modules, but if you are one to flip the camera on and quickly snap photos in auto-mode, you will not be disappointed one bit.
It could easily take one of the best shots and even beat some flagships costing a lot more.
The second upgrade Apple had done is to borrow the internals from the iPhone 11. The A13 Bionic is coupled with 3GB of RAM, which means this device can handle a lot more than the physical hardware Apple has provided.
With a camera and processor derived from the iPhone 11, is this iPhone SE a true bargain?
Well, it gets better. As with all new Apple products, you get 1-year of free Apple TV+, which is valued at $49.99.
The thing with all that awesomeness, sadly, is not particularly best utilized in the iPhone SE. Let me explain;
The device comes with the battery from the iPhone 8, which is ~1800mAh, and that was fine back then, but with such a powerful processor, it becomes power-intensive. Playing games, doing a lot of videography and photography drains the battery fast.
Which would question, why put that much power if the device can’t handle it? And to top it off, Apple only supplies a 5W charger (it can charge quickly with an 18W charger that Apple will charge you extra for).
There is no getting around the fact that buying a new iPhone for $399 sounds epic, but buying a phone for $399 is a different conversation. Due to competition in the Android space, you are bound to get a bigger and better display, battery life, customization, and features.
Finally, regardless of price, one would be buying a phone that looks like a smartphone from 2017, with only a few upgrades. I am positive Apple could have done a little more to make the iPhone SE stand out.
What does this device cost you?
Initially, $399. It will get you a powerful, premium, elegant, and Apple-branded iPhone.
You will then get $49.99 worth of Apple TV+ and the full suite of Apple Apps and updates for a very long time.
It is a premium Apple device, and you will want to protect it. Assume an official case will cost you the $49.99 that you saved earlier. Here’s the Product (RED) leather case, which is exactly $49.99.
The real price impact is what you are leaving behind, choosing the iPhone SE, a new design, bigger and better display, battery life, choice of cameras, and customization.
Who is it for, then?
After spending a few weeks with the iPhone SE, I can recommend the device for a select group of people;
- Someone who has an iPhone older than the iPhone 8, who need an upgrade but not looking to pay a premium, nor move from the Apple ecosystem or iOS
- Youngsters who want an iPhone and to be able to smoothly go online to engage with friends and use Social Media
- Someone who wants to move to iOS and is not in the market for a $1000 iPhone or as a second phone
If you’re in one of the three groups above, go out and get the iPhone today, you will love it.
If you’re not, buying it would be a choice you are making being aware of the limitations and options you are leaving behind, you will love it.