iPhone SE review: Ultimate power at a lower price – what's not love?

iPhone SE review: Ultimate power at a lower price – what's not love?

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Apple iPhone SE review (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

The original iPhone SE was first shown to the world a little over four years ago and quickly became one of those iconic devices has a regular habit of producing. Despite its age, there’s still plenty of people who continue to adore this dinky device with its small size and low price making it a hugely popular option.

Apple stopped selling the original iPhone SE back in 2018 with no word on whether it would reboot the fan favourite. Thankfully, those who have been pining for a new iPhone SE are in luck. Apple has just released its refreshed iPhone SE. A lot has changed since the original, but thankfully the new model packs an abundance of features that could make it just as popular as its predecessor.

The iPhone SE will start shipping to customers later this week, but Express.co.uk has already had this new ‘budget’ iPhone in our pockets for a little while and you’ll be please to know that there’s plenty to love.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Apple has included its latest and greatest A13 Bionic processor inside this entry-level device. This is the same immensely powerful chip that drives the flagship iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max – three devices that cost a whole lot more than the SE.

Giving this entry-level handset the same power as its priciest iPhones may seem like an unusual decision from Apple, however, it means customers can now buy a hugely capable device without breaking the bank.

Apple iPhone SE review

You get an all-glass finish an single rear camera (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

And believe us, the iPhone SE isn’t going to struggle with any of your daily digital life tasks. Apps open in the blink of an eye and even the most memory hungry of tasks – like graphics-intensive games, or loading up hefty PDFs on the go – are performed without a hint of a stutter.

Even editing memory-hungry 4K video is a breeze with the SE churning through this silicon-sapping task with ease. Packing the A13 Bionic inside also means the SE is totally future-proofed and will be ready to cope with the demands of the next few years of blockbuster iOS updates. So opting for the iPhone SE over the iPhone 11 Pro shouldn’t mean you miss out on the next must-have iOS feature coming from Apple in the next two or three years.

Along with its supremely capable performance, another impressive upgrade on the new iPhone SE is the camera. Admittedly, there’s no flashy dual-lens rear snapper on this phone, but Apple has included a very competent 12-megapixel camera on the back.

iPhone SE review

iPhone SE review (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Like the rest of the world, we’re currently in lockdown so it’s not been as easy to do our usual camera comparisons but the images we’ve shot on the iPhone SE’s main snapper look clear, sharp and packed with colour.

Although there’s only a single lens, Apple has packed it with plenty of neat software tricks including Portrait Mode. When shooting a person, this allows you to add DSLR-style bokeh effects to your images and there’s even the option to edit this background blur once the photo has been taken.

It works really well and this upgrade is also available when snapping selfies on the 7-megapixel front-facing camera.

Apple iPhone SE review

The SE features a clever Portrait mode which adds some style to images (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Apple iPhone SE review

Portrait lighting is another feature included on this entry-level phone (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Sadly, if you want to add the same effect to your pet cat it won’t work as Portrait Mode is only available when the camera spots a human face – one of the limitations of using software for the trick instead of two cameras, like the iPhone 11 Pro uses to tackle the effect.

Other nice additions include the arty Portrait Lightning effects and a boost to 4K Ultra HD resolution. You’ll also get slow-motion capture, which is an immensely fun effect to have available in your pocket at the touch of a button, and panoramas too.

Apple iPhone SE review

You can’t add the bokeh effect to pictures of your pets (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

All in all, the iPhone SE’s camera is very competent. However, it doesn’t quite match what Apple offers on its pricier models. Unfortunately, that means you won’t find the ridiculously clever Night mode – so any photos taken in a dingy pub or over a candlelit dinner are going to be borderline unusable. There’s also no ultra wide-angle or telephoto lens, so skyscrapers and zoomed-in shots at concerts are going to be missing from your arsenal too.

If those omissions don’t phase you, iPhone SE offers a solid camera that’s unlikely to disappoint.

YOU CAN CHECK OUT SOME SAMPLE IMAGES BELOW

iPhone SE review

iPhone SE review – camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

iPhone SE review

iPhone SE review – camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

iPhone SE review

iPhone SE review – camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

iPhone SE review

iPhone SE review – camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Away from the camera, another nice extra that didn’t appear on the original SE is wireless charging, which has quickly become a must-have feature of any phone. The SE is compatible with all Qi chargers meaning you’ll be able to refill the battery at cafes, restaurants and airports without needing a cable.

There’s also the option to boost the battery at much faster speeds with the iPhone SE able to go from flat to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. Sadly, you won’t find a quick charger in the box so you’ll need to fork out for the £29 fast-charging plug and a £19 Lightning-to-USB-C cable from the Apple Store to be able to take advantage of that nifty new feature.

Other extras worth mentioning is the fast Touch ID fingerprint scanner which unlocks the pin-sharp 4.7-inch Retina display in a flash and a water-resistant design, which wasn’t available on the iPhone SE first-time around, and should ensure the SE survives an accidental dip in the pool during the summer.

There’s clearly plenty to like about the iPhone SE, but some might be disappointed by the way it looks. Unlike Apple’s more recent iPhone models, the SE doesn’t get an all-screen design, which means you get two big black borders at the top and bottom of the 4.7-inch Retina display.

Apple iPhone SE review

The SE comes with a 4.7-inch Retina display (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

That means the iPhone has to be physically larger to accommodate the same 4.7-inch screen – in fact, the iPhone SE stands as tall and as wide as the iPhone 11 Pro, which packs a 5.8-inch display into its edge-to-edge design.

Clearly, adding an edge-to-edge display would have increased costs and would’ve likely resulted in a higher starting price for customers, however, one of the biggest draws of the SE was the small form-factor. In a world where the shelves are stocked with gargantuan smartphones with 5- or 6-inch screens, the iPhone SE could easily be handled in one-hand while walking or juggling a coffee. And those with smaller hands could still reach all corners of the display without the need to buy a case with a grip at the back.

Although the new SE isn’t as big as the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro Max, it is quite a bit larger than the original model.

Had Apple opted for an all-screen design, the company would’ve been able to reduce the overall footprint – making it much easier to handle.

iPhone SE review

The iPhone SE starts from £419 (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Another thing we can’t help feeling is it’s a shame there’s not more colours. At £419, the iPhone SE will no doubt be hugely popular for parents wanting to buy a new smartphone for their kids but this lower cost device only arrives in three styles which include black, white and (PRODUCT)RED.

The more expensive iPhone 11 gets a whole range of flavours including a funky yellow, green, and purple and it’s an odd decision not have produced something similar for this entry-level device.

Of course, you can add a colourful case. And it’s worth noting that any iPhone 8 accessories will fit the new SE – since it has the same dimensions and number of cameras on the back.

One final thing to note is that the SE comes in three memory sizes with 64GB, 128GB and 256GB all available at launch. Although the 64GB model starts at a very tempting £419, we’d always recommend buying the biggest option you can afford as filling that storage with apps, 4K videos and high-resolution photos won’t take long. And with no expandable option, you’ll be stuck deleting apps and photos, or forking out for iCloud storage every month.

iPhone SE review

The iPhone SE comes in three colours (Image: APPLE)

Apple iPhone SE review

PH (Image: EX)

Apple iPhone SE review: Final Verdict

With bucket loads of power, a solid camera and wireless charging, the updated iPhone SE brings an abundance of useful features at a price point that seems insanely good value when compared to the other iPhone models on sale in the Apple Store.

And if you don’t fancy spending the £419 SIM-free price upfront, Apple is giving customers the chance to pop one in their pocket for just £10.99 a month via its interest-free payment plan now available online. It’s also accepting trade-ins with older iPhone models to drop that price further.

The fact that it comes packing the market-leading A13 Bionic processor will also mean this new iPhone SE lasts the test of time, which should make it a good investment.

Yes, it’s a shame about those chunky bezels, lack of fun colours, and the fact that Apple has ditched the charmingly small form-factor that made the first outing so popular, but other than that – it’s hard to find fault with this phone.

For those that want a cheaper iPhone and all of the benefits that come with iOS, this is a solid purchase. After four years, the iPhone SE brand is back and could easily prove to be just as popular the second time around.

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