Apple’s reputation, carefully crafted over the years, is that of a premium brand that is more than happy catering to certain segments of the market and not the entire mass base of probable customers. The positioning has served the brand well too. But as the company hit saturation points in terms of geographies, price points, and user experience, Cupertino has been willing to expand its horizons in more ways than one. In 2020, it offers more choice with the iPhone that it has ever in the past, and that’s because it has followed up the iPhone 11 with the second version of its budget iPhone SE. But where does this affordable and smaller, but powerful, new iPhone fit in the overall scheme of things? Here’s our review.
Specifications: 4.7-inch LCD Multi-Touch display (1334x750p, ~ 326 ppi) | A13 Bionic processor | 64GB, 128GB, 256GB | 12MP camera ƒ/1.8 aperture with 5X digital zoom + 7MP selfie camera ƒ/2.2 aperture | 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps | LTE, Bluetooth 5 | Dual SIM (nano-SIM and eSIM) | wireless charging + 18W fast charging | 148 g
The iPhone SE turns the concept of a budget phone on its head. There is no other phone in this price range that has the same innards and processor as a flagship. Across brands, the most powerful, and expensive, processor is kept aside for the flagship. But here Apple has brought the latest A13 Bionic processor, which also powers its top of the line iPhone 11 Pro Max to its most affordable offering. This means a clear message that all iPhones are the same when it comes to processing power and hence software experience and what you pay extra for are additional features like more cameras, storage and FaceID. This means the competition will now be under pressure to offer the best processors across price points.
What is really new about the iPhone SE however is something old. Yes, it is the 4.7-inch form factor which most of us had thought had become a thing of the past. But Apple seems to be confident there are still those who need a smaller, more handy, smartphone for various reasons. At the moment this is a great strategy because there are hardly any premium options for those who don’t need a gigantic phone. The interest some of my colleagues, who are still holding on to their iPhone 5s and SEs, have shown suggests Apple might have a winner here.
What could make you buy it?
When it comes to the sheer experience of using a smartphone, the iPhone SE is second to none, not even what Apple can offer. It can do anything and everything, from the top of the line AR apps to creating a portrait mode purely on its processing power and without the optics others need for it. That’s the A13 Bionic processor at work, syncing perfectly with the iOS 13. That’s what you should buy this phone for.
Along with the handy size, the iPhone SE has an elegant design. I loved the looks of the black unit I used over the past week. So much so, I think there is an incentive here to not put a cover on this one. Also, the phone offers water and dust resistance, which is very critical for the Indian market. Then the glass back of the phone also means this can support wireless charging and I tested it on the pad I have by my bed. With charging pads becoming cheaper, the SE makes wireless charging way more affordable than before.
The iPhone SE has only one 12MP ƒ/1.8 camera at the rear. But it still offers portrait mode as we have seen in other iPhones of late. The camera quality is good, capturing the subtle colours of the sky as well as details in portraits. The low-light images are fine, but some noise does creep in. It offers a decent bokeh too.
The selfie camera is good too as I realised while playing around with the portrait mode. It does not over-process the images as we have seen with most of the new Android phones and maybe offers the most natural selfies in this price range.
With optical image stabilisation in the camera, the iPhone SE can shoot some pretty neat videos. Try this one for some time-lapses and you will be left impressed. And you can shoot at 4K 60fps, which is quite an achievement for a budget phone. Also impressive is how the details from the still camera are not lost in the video mode of this phone.
What to keep in mind if you buy?
The 4.7-inch form factor means there is less screen to see. Also, the iPhone SE has the iconic iPhone Home Button, which means lips and bezels that eat into the screen space. So if moving from a large screen phone, be sure what you are getting into. But despite being an HD Retina display, the iPhone SE’s screen is crisp and bright. Reading on this phone will not be an issue, nor will watching movies. It is just smaller than what a lot of us might be used to now.
The iPhone SE is a smaller phone with a more powerful processor. This also means it has a smaller battery. With all guns blazing, you will need to charge this phone by evening every day. This is better than what earlier SE used to do, but for users, this means carrying a battery back in your bag.
Yes, this phone has only one rear camera. So what you are missing out on in comparison with Android phones are many two cameras, one offering zoom, and the other a wider angle. But despite the hype around the triple camera set up, the fact is that most users just use one of the lenses most of the time. I did miss the wide-angle while shooting with the iPhone SE as I love taking cloud shots.
Who should buy it and why?
For those looking for a new budget phone that will last them a few years and offer solid performance, good photos, and the latest software, the iPhone SE is a perfect phone. But this is not for those who want a lot of features on the phone. The iPhone SE does what it does well, but it is not the sort of phone which has so many features and gimmicks that you forget to use most of them. The iPhone SE is also a very good option for those who have been looking for a smaller phone that fits their hand. It is also a much lighter phone.
In my books, this becomes the first iPhone for those looking to switch from Android. This is also the upgrade phone for those on the smaller form factor iPhones. Also, those who need a simple phone that slips into the shirt pocket can consider the iPhone SE.
But despite its simple nature, the iPhone SE will be a game-changer in the smartphone industry because it has by now got all brands thinking on whether their concept of a budget phone stands anymore.
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