Apple iPhone SE: a break in the pattern

Earlier this month Apple sent out an invite for a special event where they would ‘loop us in’ and now the event is done and their new devices (the iPhone SE and iPad Pro 9.7) about to launch in select markets. I’ll update you on what they’ve recently announced as well as my take on things.

 

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Apple iPhone 5c (2013)

Long rumored to have been making a mini (and importantly, cheaper) version of their iPhone, Apple played with the idea in 2013 by launching the iPhone 5c but it was overpriced at launch and didn’t gain any traction in the market.

This time they have juggled things around a bit. Instead of using a cheaper plastic design and dated internals, Apple have decided to reuse a 2012 design (from the iPhone 5) and internals that are borrowed mostly from the iPhone 6s from late last year. The new budget phone from Apple is called the iPhone SE (SE stands for Special Edition), and does away with the numbering scheme. It features powerful internals and pocket size compactness.

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Rose Gold variant (more like pink)

Here are the key specs at a glance:

  • 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm, 113 g aluminum and glass body
  • 4″ Retina display (640 x 1136 pixels, 326 PPI)
  • Apple A9 dual-core 1.87 GHz CPU, M9 Motion co-processor
  • PowerVR GT7600 six-core GPU
  • 16/64GB memory, 2GB RAM
  • 1642 mAh Li-Polymer battery, 14 hours talk time
  • 12 MP iSight camera, f/2.2, phase detection autofocus, live photos, dual-tone flash
  • 4K video at 30 FPS, slow motion at 240 FPS, HDR
  • 1.2 MP, f/2.4, Retina flash
  • LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, Apple Pay, lightning connector
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor (1st generation)
  • Always on Siri feature
  •  Runs iOS 9.3
  • 16GB – $399, 64GB – $499

The good

Apple has put most of their technological innovations from the iPhone 6s launched six months ago into a smaller 4″ smartphone without sacrificing much in thickness and it should be lauded as an amazing feat of engineering.  The iPhone SE has the same CPU, GPU, RAM, rear camera, always on Siri feature, Live Photos (though it doesn’t have the 3D Touch display), and even has a Rose Gold color variant just like its elder sibling. It should have no problem running the latest apps, intensive games and multitask (the Apple way) as it is loaded with cutting-edge specifications.

And to top it all off Apple has priced the iPhone SE competitively. At $399 for the 16Gb model, it’s $250 cheaper than the baseline iPhone 6s with virtually the same specs.

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Old design • No 3D Touch • ld Touch ID • Old selfie cam

The catch

As with almost all Apple announcements and product launches, there is always a catch.

Apple is reusing a design that’s nearly 4 years old, which is a tad lazy on their part. I can’t argue that it is a design that is tried and tested and works for most people, but Apple being (or claiming) to be the leading innovator could’ve done better in this aspect.

Another disappointing feature is the front facing camera. Apple lifted the entire rear camera from the iPhone 6s but refused to do so for the front-facing selfie camera. It uses the old 1.2 MP sensor instead of the 5 MP sensor from the iPhone 6s. Thankfully it does feature the Retina flash.

The Touch ID sensor is the first gen version that debuted on the iPhone 5s back in 2013 instead of the 2nd gen sensor that featured on the iPhone 6s.

The final catch and my biggest worry is the lack of a 3D Touch display in the iPhone SE. Apple launched the 3D Touch technology with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and touted it as the latest and greatest display tech (as they always do). They encouraged app developers to adopt it in their apps to gain traction and used the feature as a key differentiating factor for the latest iPhones. Oddly they dropped it for the iPhone SE. Maybe they couldn’t fit the 3D Touch display in the dimensions, maybe they were trying to keep the price competitive, but it fragments Apple’s latest iPhone lineup. Apple usually introduces a new feature for the long term and there may be an outside chance that Apple may be giving up on 3D Touch, which is bad news for existing iPhone 6s and 6s Plus customers as well as the app developers as they spent hard-earned money and time in adapting to the 3D Touch display. Fingers crossed that isn’t the case.

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Same old look but a different beast on the inside

 

And in the end…

In the end Apple SE is a good proposition with its is relatively cheap price tag, most of the latest tech and specs carried over from the iPhone 6s. There are a few emissions but those can’t be labeled as game changing, especially if you’re upgrading from an older iPhone or an Android smartphone. This is a budget phone that runs like a premium flagship device.

 

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The iPhone family (6s Plus, 6s, SE)

 

 

 

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