DISCLAIMER: This article is not a review per se, so don’t expect to see any extensive spec sheets or benchmarks.
The Reincarnation Known As SE
In March, Apple introduced the iPhone SE without much aplomb. Leaks were aplenty, and everyone agreed that the new iPhone SE was just an iPhone 5s with slight upgrades in its specifications. Straight after Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered his keynote, the internet was flushed with comments deriding its arrival.
#AppleEvent: 2 smaller devices based on larger devices that were based on smaller devices.
— Pete Brown (@pjb_media) March 21, 2016
Apple – “4 inches is totally acceptable.”
( ?° ?? ?°)
— Jonathan Morrison ????? (@tldtoday) March 21, 2016
Almost two months has passed since, and the hype and derisive commenting has more or less died down.
Not one to judge something without trying it out myself, I recently had the opportunity to get my hands on the iPhone 5SE, to see if it is truly as underwhelming as critics say.
My History with the iPhone
I have never owned an Apple device in my life, save for that one time which I won and then sold an iPod Shuffle. Back when I was a struggling student, the expensive and elusive iPhone was definitely out of my budget.
Aside from the times that I toyed with the display sets in Apple stores or borrowed a friend’s, this is my virgin experience as a full time user of the phone.
As for the phone that I normally use, I’ll just leave an image of it below.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on to the main star of this article.
Synonymous with its clean and minimalist image, a sleek white box greeted me. It seemed like the only way I could pick out the phone I wanted was via its model name, printed in an understated silver-grey text at the side of the box. The success of this unique packaging was vastly appealing to me as a first time user, with imitations by competitors flooding the market soon after its introduction.
As a fan of Youtube unboxing videos, the contents of the box when I opened it did not surprise me- I was simply having my own unboxing experience. Inside the neatly compartmentalised box, there was a charger, USB cable, earpods, and a SIM ejector tool- the important things to get you going as soon as you switch on your iPhone.
This was the last iPhone design that was signed off by the late Steve Jobs – the last truly beautiful iPhone, some might say. While I agree with the tech community that this is just Apple’s way of cutting costs while still charging a premium, for a first time iPhone user such as myself, this is definitely the best way to be introduced into the ecosystem.
The first thing which also struck me when I started using the device was how small it felt as compared to the five inch behemoths of today’s standards. The last time I had a phone this size was when I was using a Nokia way back in the early 2000s.
Next was how simplified the operating system felt- it was almost too simple. Granted, I came from a certain candy-influenced operating system by the world’s largest search engine, but there the learning curve for the iOS was not even close to steep. The downside though, was that I felt that I didn’t have as much control in the setting menu as I wished.
A Pocket Photographer’s Dream
I’ll be honest. My smartphone, whatever it may be, is firstly a camera and secondly a smartphone.
More often than not, my smartphone is the only camera I have with me at all times. Therefore, I’m more than happy with a smartphone that has non-flagship specs but at least has a superb camera.
Being a photography enthusiast myself, I couldn’t wait to test the iPhone SE.
Right off the bat, the camera is impressive. It has an awesome dynamic range, and the colours replicated by the phone are so natural that it is as if you are looking at the scene with your own eyes. The auto-focus was efficient and I was able to get my shots almost instantly. Its interface was also no frills and with minimal buttons, a signature of iPhones.
In good weather, many smartphone cameras can give you great photos but there’s just something special about the quality pf photos that the iPhone SE was able to capture. Unlike the 6s, the 6s Plus especially, the tiny iPhone SE means that you won’t get too much attention when taking photos, and is a great tool for street photography.
The number of times I recorded videos on the SE can be counted on one hand, given that I am not someone big on videography.
What I did during these few times though, was to test the iPhone SE’s recording of videos in 4k. Exporting them to social media applications took some time, though this was expected.
With the SE, I also had my first run-in with the 240 frames per second video feature.
This is nothing new, since many flagship phones have had this feature for a while now. Although it is still a novelty, the feature would definitely yield some interesting results when used correctly.
There have been similar phones in which manufacturers take flagship specs and squeeze them into a smaller chassis, but none got as much attention as the SE.
As someone who has never owned a flagship phone, the iPhone SE was a pleasant surprise. It is by no means affordable by most people’s standards but the performance and the camera was worth it.
However, the Touch ID sensor feels rather ‘last gen’ as there was a second or two before it fully unlocks my phone. The screen too, being the same as the iPhone 5s feels dated too, with the sensitivity not being on par with newer iPhones with 3D Touch screens.
At the end of the day, the 4 inches of the SE is definitely acceptable in my book, even if it’s not for everyone.
I will probably keep using it for as long as possible, until perhaps the next iPhone coming out in Septemeber.
For now, the SE will have a place at my table and life.
Image Credits: Author’s own unless specified.
Find him at @byshaz