iPhone SE, analysis: power, camera and autonomy highlighted in a compact format and a high price

It seemed that with the presentation of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Apple had left behind the small screens for its smartphones but the iPhone SE retakes a diagonal of which Apple says it still sells a significant amount of millions of units each year. This new iPhone comes to the market to satisfy those current consumers who opted for the combination and diagonal of the iPhone 5s or to attract potential iOS users for whom the price of the more diagonal models is beyond their reach.

How has it been for an iPhone to maintain such a small screen for what is in the price range in which it moves with the only update of the processor and camera? We tell you in our analysis of the iPhone SE what we think of this new iPhone and how the experience with it has been.

iPhone SE, main features

Until now, to buy an iPhone at a lower price than the flagship of each year, the only option was to opt for a model of previous generations that had components with several years behind them. The new iPhone SE modifies that trend slightly by giving the interior a familiar design with some of the new components of the iPhone 6s.

iPhone SE, technical characteristics Physical dimensions 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm, 113 grams screen IPS 4 inches Resolution 1136 x 640 (326 dpi) Processor Apple A9 (64-bit), Siri Voice Activated M9 Coprocessor RAM 2 GB Memory 16/64 GB (without microSD slot) Software version iOS 9.3 Connectivity LTE Cat 6, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC Cameras 12 MP rear, 1.22 microns per pixel, f / 2.2 aperture
4K recording at 30 FPS, 1080p 60 FPS
1.2 MP front with Retina flash Battery 1624 mAh (non-removable) Additional features Fingerprint reader / Puerto Lighting Price From 489 euros (at Fnac you can already buy it for 474 euros)

Of the technical innovations of the iPhone SE, it is worth noting the arrival of the Apple A9 processor that is present in the best models of the company, including the M9 coprocessor, as well as the 12 megapixel sensor (without stabilization), Wifi AC and NFC connectivity, or the fingerprint reader (from a previous generation, not the last one).

In internal memory it must be said that there are only two options: 16 or 64 GB. Therefore, there are no 128 GB models that the user can choose from. It should also be noted that the secondary camera remains in the previous generation, with 1.2 MP.

Let's see how the launch of an iPhone with current components and a well-known design that has sought to satisfy a niche market that still bought the 5s version of the iPhone has resulted, giving them the opportunity to renew equipment without going over diagonally, while offering an iPhone with a substantially lower entry price than its 6s and 6s Plus. 489 euros in Spain.

iPhone SE, video analysis

We started the analysis of the iPhone SE with its video review, where we can know it in detail:

Return to the 4-inch format: a matter of preference

Let's forget about processor, camera, battery or performance input. The key factor that I consider marks the initial experience with this iPhone SE is the 4-inch design. Has Apple succeeded in maintaining it? Will it create a trend?

The only truth is that, in a certain range and among the main manufacturers, Apple has been left alone. But he says he has a niche to cover because he sold last year, according to data provided by the company, almost 30 million iPhones with said screen diagonal. To these users, it offers a more current terminal to think about its renewal in some key sections such as the processor or the camera. But also, by choosing certain components not so in line with the range in which it wants to compete, it lowers the price of an entry-level and current-generation iPhone below 500 euros, more than 200 euros below the more affordable iPhone 6s.

On the iPhone SE and its 4 inches, two are the starting lines: design and screen. Of the first, there are no words, because it is the same that we already knew from the iPhone 5s: a one-piece metal body, robust and very light. At the current rate of movement in the market, repeating design seems like an offense or a sign of weakness, but it doesn't have to be.

Choosing the previous iPhone 5s design for this iPhone SE is largely logical. The metal and well-designed body of the iPhone 5s was a reference for Apple products, and except for the bevel that almost just looking at it was marked and lost the clean finish, it worked. That is just the point that they have improved, becoming now edges with a matte finish like that of the rest of the body, which seems to serve to better resist the passage of time. In our test unit, in striking pink gold, everything is like at the beginning, something that we could not say when we tested the iPhone 5s, for example.

Maintaining a previous design should not be a sign of weakness because the previous one worked. But it needed some touches that have only reached the edge that is now matte to better resist the passage of time

Regarding the omission of curvature at the edges, symbol of the new iPhone, in a format such as the 4-inch one, it does not seem critical to me, since in this more compact size, not having curves helps grip. That does not mean that I would have liked the finish to be with the same aluminum as the last iPhone 6s to give the new SE an extra grip that I found very correct in the last iPhone.

Same design as the iPhone 5s but with new colors and a beveled edge with a matte tone and more resistant to the passage of time

I found the iPhone SE to be extremely comfortable in hand, very light, thin and manageable, and it conveys the feeling of being very robust. There are no changes to the controls, and if you're coming from a more current iPhone, it seems strange that the power button returns to the top. But you get used to it fast.

This no change in design will please users of old 5s who want to switch directly to an iPhone SE because all its accessories will work for them, even the cases.

Same screen as in 2013

That said, opting for a previous design also benefits Apple, which pays off all development better, although they could have made an effort to improve aspects such as the use of different color and material in the upper and lower bands. Here it will depend on the tastes of each one to think that they could have given at least the same tone or that it is a success for the personality that it gives to the terminal. What they do change are the colors, which reflect the range of the top iPhone, especially the rose gold model.

Using an old design has had two direct consequences for the iPhone SE: the positive is to be able to increase the capacity of the battery slightly, and the negative, to maintain a diagonal of 4 inches with the same dimensions, which leaves us again with some frames they do not benefit the screen / dimensions ratios, especially in the upper and lower.

It seems unlikely that a user accustomed to diagonals of at least 5 inches can be satisfied with the 4 inches of the iPhone SE, but if your ideal diagonal is reduced, there are no alternatives of this level on the market and it is the great asset of Apple.

The screen size is something very personal for each user, but in the upper-middle range this iPhone SE is a completely counter-current model. This bet remains to be seen if it turns out well for Apple and is imitated by other Android manufacturers. It has certainly been equally comfortable and strange for us to drop more than an inch compared to all terminals of a certain level that we have tested in recent years, but we understand that there are users that it is just this 4-inch diagonal that they were waiting for in a iOS terminal. Or even from other platforms, because at the level of the iPhone SE there are currently no alternatives on the market.

Using the iPhone SE with its small (for me) screen during the test time has made me enjoy the ease of reaching any part of the screen with one hand, and how comfortable it is to carry. Its little more than 100 grams of weight is almost like carrying nothing.

However, a part of consumers (and this is what has happened to me) may feel that they are short of diagonal for the use they make of a smartphone in their daily lives. In general, four inches seem few to consume content comfortably, from text to video, as well as for communication, where the keyboard already occupies a large part of the screen.

The improvement of the iPhone SE screen is not its diagonal, something personal, but the quality of the panel, below what we would expect at this level and today

Regarding the screen, it's not just about the number of a diagonal. The quality of the panel also counts and there are many more doubts and no longer so subjective. The panel of the iPhone SE is another of the aspects where Apple has cut the level in order to reduce the price. Both in brightness and contrast it is not at the level of the current Apple panels on their iPhones, but it can compete in quality with most screens in that price range, especially in outdoor visibility or color reproduction.

Regarding the quality of the IPS panel of the iPhone SE, it would also be necessary to add a pixel density of just over 300 dpi, remaining below that offered by all the smartphones with which we compare it, both by price and by range according to your specifications. It is true that it does not affect in this diagonal excessively the experience of use, but the so-called Retina display should already be overcome.

Finally we have 3D Touch technology. I find it hard to believe that in such a small diagonal it is worth having contextual menus, but in any case, there is no pressure sensitive screen on the iPhone SE, although some function such as Live Photos have crept into its options, in this case resorting a long press on the screen.

Excellent performance with phablet battery

Little could Apple motivate the renewal of the iPhone 5s for current users or attract potential users from other platforms who are comfortable with a 4-inch screen if it did not update key elements for the user experience. The first was the processor.

With so little resolution to move, the raw power of the A9 and 2 GB of RAM make the iPhone SE any action is instantaneous, without waiting for any kind

Here there have been no concessions and the protagonist of the iPhone SE is the same one that we find in the most expensive and highest-level Apple smartphones. The A9 SoC, along with the M9 coprocessor and 2 GB of RAM are the base of the interior of this new iPhone.

With this combination of processor and RAM, coupled with the lower screen resolution than the top iPhone, all on the iPhone SE "FlyingAny action is instantaneous, multitasking has no wait and we can edit photos or modify documents quickly. eyelashes and tabs in browsers without bottlenecks, it is the most faithful reflection of how good it feels to have all the necessary power. It is certainly good news so that the user experience is at the level of any high-end, but also with a view to thinking about a long useful life of the terminal.

Choosing such a powerful processor and 2GB of RAM also caters to service needs. In other words, for fluidity in the use of Touch ID, a camera with more megapixels and a better focusing system, NFC connectivity, or the possibility of using Siri by voice, required the most current technology possible.

iPhone SE (A9) Nexus 6P (Snapdragon 810) iPhone 6s (A9) Galaxy S7 Edge (Exynos 8) Geekbench (Single / Multi) 2552 / 4448 1342 / 4778 2467 / 4331 2117 / 6063

If we take the 3D Mark Ice Storm test as a reference, the iPhone SE scores 28,271 points.

The other component that has benefited most from the improvement of the A9 processor while keeping other elements intact has been the battery. This increases its capacity very slightly, up to 1600 mAh, which together with the low demand of the screen and the greater efficiency of the processor, results in a significant improvement in autonomy.

In our test this week with the iPhone SE we have managed to overcome the day of intensive use in a very solvent way, staying on average over 30% of battery at the end of the day. I'm not just talking about the workday but about that use before going to bed where we spend time with social media. In that time we have managed mail, messaging, web browsing, videos, camera use, calls and streaming music time. In total, with this iPhone SE we can say that we achieved autonomy of a day and a half without problems. Even more depending on your usage profile.

Going solvent for a day and a half of use is a reason to buy this iPhone, but the little attention Apple puts on charging its batteries is already desperate.

In our test we have not managed to achieve the autonomy that we achieved with the iPhone 6s Plus, but we have exceeded that of the iPhone 6s in many days. These data correspond fairly closely with other tests. Along with the screen size and the camera, the battery will be one of the keys for those who choose this iPhone SE as the main terminal

What we didn't like about the iPhone SE's battery was the charging time. Despite its low capacity, the load takes more than two hours to reach 100%. Here Apple has a lot of disadvantage with other manufacturers who have taken fast charging very seriously. Even to reach the first 50% charge we need more than 50 minutes with the iPhone SE. Thereafter the load slows down even further.

16GB as a base - a big repeated mistake

In the rest of the technical characteristics it is necessary to return to the discomfort that the most basic model and that we could consider as more attractive in price, only offers us 16 GB of internal memory. There may be users able to adapt by controlling which applications they install or often making backup copies of their photos and videos, but it seems to us a capacity not worthy for a model with this price.

The sensible choice would therefore be the 64 GB (there is certainly no possibility of going to 128 GB) but in that case the price already shoots up to 589 euros. And that's too close to an iPhone 6s (if we talk about iOS users) or very solvent alternatives in Android (if we think about potentials "switchers"). In the case of those who stay or bet on iOS, the price difference does not compensate for losing what superior models offer us, such as the screen, 3D Touch or a more current design. Unless you are fully convinced to bet on 4 inches.

The starting price of a new iPhone is now 489 euros, but only if we choose the internal memory of 16 GB without the possibility of external expansion. And it's a ridiculous ability

One of the most appreciated improvements on this iPhone SE is that of the fingerprint reader. Once you get used to using your fingerprint to identify yourself securely both when accessing the terminal and when making purchases or accessing applications, there is no turning back. Touch ID repeats after its release on the iPhone 5s but is not present with the last iteration.

Despite this, fingerprint identification on iPhone SE works reliably and quickly. The sensors of the iPhone have managed it since the first generation, and despite having improved that Touch ID in the latest Iphone 6s and 6s Plus, Apple places the previous one on the start button of this iPhone SE. Of course, in reality, the difference in operating speed on access is practically negligible.

A camera to not stop taking (good) photos

Power, autonomy ... and camera. They are the three pillars of the iPhone SE once you assume that you will get along with a 4-inch diagonal. And that of the camera seems to me the most relevant. Apple has given its new iPhone SE the qualitative and quantitative leap that the camera has in the latest iPhone.

The sensor has a resolution of 12 megapixels, and due to the greater thickness of the iPhone SE, it is housed in the case without any protrusion. Two-tone flash also arrives on this iPhone, which certainly improves flash photography somewhat but does not work miracles. I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I have used it.

In photography this iPhone SE is kept at the high level of Apple terminals. The results are great in good light, and it will be a joy for anyone who opts for this iPhone SE to know that it will have a high-end camera with all the guarantees, both in results and in focus and shooting speed, largely due to the power from your processor.

The compact size of the iPhone SE helps us to use its camera more: it is more discreet and that in point-and-shoot photography is a great value already almost forgotten by today's big smartphones, everything less suitable to go unnoticed when it comes to take pictures

In automatic mode, the only option Apple gives us without having to resort to third-party applications, the photos we get in good light have enough detail, make it clear that Apple is still the best at processing raw snapshots, and that no problems with high dynamic ranges. It is very easy to get balanced scenes without burned or too dark areas. And HDR, without being the best, is very balanced and never exaggerated.

See complete gallery »iPhone SE (16 photos)

For fans of Live Photos, this iPhone SE can also be made and the processor does its job in taking 4K videos with the quality that an iPhone always assures us. The panoramas are also very good, they exceed 60 MP resolution and are united in the best way we have seen on a smartphone.

A pleasant surprise is that due to the compact size I have been encouraged to take even more photos than I usually do. Speed ​​and above all discretion are perfect allies for this iPhone SE.

It is scenes in low light we can achieve acceptable results but already surpassed by the cameras of other smartphones (but of higher price)

When there is less light is where the results are no longer so spectacular, but in any case they are among the three best cameras on the market today in these situations. Except when there is hardly any light, which are not situations in which you usually take photos and where this year the Galaxy S7 has surpassed all, the results are quite acceptable. There is noise, we lose detail but the scene works and is at the level of the best on the market. As with the iPhone 6s, there is no optical stabilization.

Regarding the interface, without news. In iOS 9.3 Apple maintains its idea that the camera works without having to think or control anything, so there is no trace of control of any kind, for which you will have to resort to third-party applications. In this aspect and with the results of other terminals, Apple is no longer the reference.

One last point in the photographic section of the iPhone SE is related to the secondary camera and is a reflection of the absurd things that the company sometimes clings to: it places the same main iPhone camera as superior but is unable to do the same with the Secondary sensor, which remains at 1.2 MP, practically testimonial and for video calls, but not for photos with it with level of detail or performance in night scenes. And be careful because it is a camera that is gaining prominence among users, some of them even potential for this particular model.

Despite what it might seem from its size, this iPhone SE also includes the possibility of recording 4K video and slow-motion video with excellent results.

iPhone SE: Xataka's opinion and note

It seemed that Apple would not return to screens below 4.7 inches after the successful launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014. That diagonal that even for the high-end is smaller than the vast majority, has been lowered with the arrival of the iPhone SE.

Of the two "reasons" to buy an iPhone SE (Apple smartphone with the lowest price ever and preference for the 4-inch diagonal) really only the reason for the diagonal is real

This new terminal we believe reaches the market with two clear objectives: to offer itself as a renewal for those who come from an iPhone 5s and prefer a terminal with a 4-inch screen but with the power and camera of the best, and raise a reasonable doubt for those who do not They entered iOS for the high price of their more diagonal models. Or perhaps the combination of both.

In this strategy Apple has opted for a mixture when least strange. The 4-inch diagonal is not for everyone at all, and few think they can return to that format with satisfaction. But if you prefer, Apple has recycled with good manners a 2013 design with some 2016 components.

The screen is not, where panel quality and above all resolution should have been at a higher level given the price of the 64GB terminal, close to 600 euros and the one we would recommend given that 16GB of the basic seems very scarce. No microSD slot of course.

Where we are very satisfied is in the performance of the equipment, the battery and the camera. Who really is convinced that with 4 inches there are more advantages than disadvantages, the iPhone SE has enough arguments to convince you. And for now with little competition on other platforms at this level. We will see for how long.


Design8.5 screen Performance9.5 Camera9 Software8.5 Autonomy9

In favor

  • Comfortable to the point of appearing to be carrying nothing
  • Main camera of the best on the market
  • Autonomy closer to a phablet
  • Absolute operating fluidity


  • High price if we ignore the basic model
  • Screen Resolution / Without 3D Touch
  • Basic model with only 16 GB of internal memory
  • Only 1.2 MP secondary camera

The terminal has been loaned for testing by Apple. Can inquire our policy of relationships with enterprises.

Apple iPhone SE 32GB Space Gray, MP822DN_A (Gray)

Today in amazon for 241.30 €

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