iPhone SE specs, UK price, features and release date: Our first impressions of Apple's budget 4in phone


After months of rumours, Apple has unveiled the next iPhone – but it’s not the iPhone 7. Instead, Apple has released the iPhone SE, a 4in smartphone with similar specs to the iPhone 6s.

Apple hopes the iPhone SE’s lower price will be able to secure more sales in developing countries, and capture the lower-end of the market, usually occupied by budget handsets. Of course, the iPhone SE will also have a smaller screen, meaning it will also appeal to those who find the current iPhone’s 4.7in display on the large side. Here’s what we think of it.

iPhone SE: First impressions

With some reluctance, Apple moved to a larger iPhone form factor in 2014 after years of insisting it would never make a bigger handset. Despite that, it has always kept a 4in phone in its lineup and, with the launch of the iPhone SE, it may do so for many years to come.

The iPhone SE is a return to Steve Jobs’ favourite smartphone form factor. It’s a phone you can use with one hand, a phone you can slip into your front pocket without worrying about snapping it when you sit down or wearing a hole in your jeans.

But, despite the smaller form factor, this is definitely not a “low-end” iPhone like the iPhone 5c. The iPhone 5c appeared at the same time as the iPhone 5s as a cheaper, more colourful alternative.

In fact, the iPhone SE is built from aluminium, just like its bigger siblings. It’s been made for those who don’t want to sacrifice the things that make iPhones so desirable: great design and market-leading performance.

iPhone SE: Key specifications

  • 4in screen, 1,136 x 640 resolution

  • 64-bit Apple A9 processor

  • Embedded M9 motion coprocessor

  • 12MP iSight rear camera with True Tone flash and 4K video capture

  • 1.2MP front-facing camera

  • Touch ID with Apple Pay support via NFC

  • Available in rose gold, black, white and gold

  • Prices start at £359 for the 16GB model; £439 for the 64GB model

  • Pre-order from 24 March; shipping from 31 March

iPhone SE: Design and display

Take a closer look, however, and you can see where Apple has cut corners. I had expected the iPhone SE to closely follow the iPhone 6s’ design – instead, it’s little more than a warmed-up iPhone 5s in terms of the way it looks.

The sides are straight up and flat with chamfered, glinting edges. The rear is dead flat, with coloured insets at the top and bottom to match the overall colour scheme, and there are no dramatic design departures elsewhere.

The much-written-about Lightning port headphone jack failed to materialise. And all the buttons and switches look the same as on the iPhone 5s, and are in the same positions. Same old, same old.

iPhone SE: Performance, camera and battery life

The big news with the Apple iPhone SE, however, is its performance. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are still the fastest phones around, despite the attempts of many rivals, and the pocket-sized SE will be just as quick. That’s unheard of in a phone this compact.

The camera should take photographs, video and selfies that look just as good, too, with a 12-megapixel camera on the rear that can capture 4K video. The iPhone SE is basically an iPhone 6s in the body of an iPhone 5s in all the ways that matter, although it’s worth considering the specs that aren’t quite a match for the current flagship.

The front-facing camera is only a 1.2-megapixel unit, down on the iPhone 6s’ 5-megapixel snapper. And there could be a more serious problem: battery life. Unsurprisingly, Apple failed to mention the size of the battery in its new smaller handset during the keynote, and it isn’t detailed on the firm’s website either. You can bet your bottom dollar it will be smaller, though, and with a more power-hungry processor, the worry will be that stamina will be even worse than it is on the iPhone 6s.

iPhone SE: Early verdict

Apple could have introduced a big new feature alongside the small form factor. It didn’t. It could have designed the iPhone SE to look like its larger siblings. It failed. That might have left me feeling flat.

Instead, I’m upbeat about Apple’s pint-size powerhouse. Here’s a phone that will take wonderful photographs and video, just like the iPhone 6s, a phone that will remain just as responsive when the next two or three iOS updates have dropped, and it’s a phone that will please all those people who want a compact handset that doesn’t wear a hole in their pocket.

Most importantly, it’s much, much cheaper than the iPhone 6s – £180 less expensive, in fact, for the 16GB model – which should get cash-strapped iPhone fans signing up in their droves.

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