It’s probably not a secret at this point that a number of people were disappointed when Apple seemed to move away from the 4” form factor with the iPhone 6. It turns out that there’s a sizeable market for a smaller iPhone, so rather than letting the 4” size die away quietly Apple has introduced the 4” iPhone SE for those that want a smaller iPhone without having to buy something that is relatively out of date.

In the hand, the iPhone SE basically feels identical to the iPhone 5s. The design is pretty much the same with its lack of camera hump and sharp lines, but rather than polished chamfered edges Apple has elected to keep the chamfer sand-blasted matte. The weight of the phone is also noticeably less than the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s, which is due to the lack of 3D Touch and the smaller size of the device. The display also looks to be quite similar to the iPhone 5s.

Other than this, I don’t really have a lot to say because it feels almost exactly like an iPhone 6s otherwise. As a heavy 3D Touch user, the lack of 3D Touch is noticeable, especially when playing back Live Photos. But other than that performance is similarly fast and I didn’t see any obvious problems, however many of these under the hood changes are going to be quite difficult to notice in the space of a few minutes as they’re quite subtle.

Although not quite in the realm of a hands-on, the main area of note here is the price as Apple has basically released a cheaper version of the iPhone 6s in a smaller size. In developing countries it seems that the cheaper iPhones are often the most popular, so it’s interesting to see how Apple has effectively upped the value of this version of the iPhone in a very big way. To get close to the 399 USD price point of the new iPhone SE, previously you had to get a phone 2 generations old with a relatively outdated SoC, so it’s impressive to see that now for the same price you can get something that has the latest and greatest in almost every way save for modem and size.

It’s also worth noting that Apple is basically completely uncontested in this part of the market. Although there are a lot of budget phones out there using 4" screens to hit their respective price point, Apple seems to be the only OEM still playing in the 4” display size space for high-end phones. There are a few Android OEMs trying to keep phones at the 4.5-4.7” segment (i.e. iPhone 6s size) with similarly high-end specs, but no Android OEM is trying to sell a 4” phone with high-end hardware. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effects this has on sales, although I’m not entirely sure that Android OEMs are going to be following Apple’s lead here as a smaller device makes battery efficiency more critical due to scaling effects.

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  • Ryan Smith - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Even with big hands, I'm not sure I'd call it pleasant. That top-left corner is a stretch to get to
  • lilmoe - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Except, smartphones aren't measured by their screen size. Especially when a 5.1" Galaxy has almost the same dimensions of an iPhone 6, yea it's a tiny bit larger, but Samsung really nailed the design it's even easier to handle than the iPhone 6.

    I got the GS7 Edge, my brother got the GS7 standard, my other brother has an iPhone 6S and my friend's wife has a 6S+. We were in a gather the other night and it's absolutely striking how much smaller my 5.5" Edge is compared to the 6S+. The 6S+ is alarmingly unwieldy for its screen size. And to our other surprise, the GS7 standard seriously felt smaller than the iPhone 6S........

    You'll get exactly what you want if Apple lets go of those huge bezels on the 4.7" model. 4" is too small for any modern usage of a smartphone. Apple needs to go back to the drawing board. Their designs are nice, but too huge for the screen size they provide.
  • radar86 - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Wow are we not the lucky ones since we are receiving input from a real life cell phone design engineer - NOT!

    So Apple is stupid and out of touch with their customers but somehow has been the #1 selling high end smartphone maker since day 1 and they collect 94% of all smart phone profits (

    Yeah Apple needs advice from you since they do not not know they are doing.
  • lilmoe - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Bad day?

    But just to add more sarcasm to your silly comment, they really are stupid. When they were preaching that 3.5" - 4" 3 years ago, myself and a handful of other "cell phone design engineers" challenged other iPhone fans that a bigger iPhone would sell better, but not much to our surprise people like you laughed us off. Guess what........

    Here's a million $ idea for new features in the future: water resistance, SD card support (with workable file system) and a mini-iPen for their plus model ;)

    Now here's some good advice for you. No one out there is "know it all". Apple eats its hat more often than it doesn't.
  • Samus - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    There is no "perfect size" just what is perfect for YOU as an individual.

    A lot of people 3-4 years ago that didn't want a 4" iPhone and moved to a larger device actually moved BACK to the iPhone 6 (as seen by iPhone sales compared to competitor sales in the 4.7/5.5" market) but at the same time Apple alienated a lot of customers who were used to/valued the smaller devices.

    Now they don't have all their eggs in one basket, they are in 3 baskets (4"/4.7"/5.5") which is ideal, because as the article states, this is the only powerful 4" phone available.

    Apple knows what they are doing. They're not stupid, but they are often "behind" market trends because they like to get it right, and they don't like pushing unproven features, which is why NFC was delayed, Saphire was used for a camera lens before an entire display on the Apple Watch, Force Touch was on the Apple Watch before the iPhone, Touch ID was on the iPhone before the iPad, and wireless charging is still MIA...which is a real head scratcher because it is quite proven by now.

    Apple isn't one to push the feature envelope, but they do push the technology envelope. Most of it is under the hood though. This is a stark contract to Samsung, who throws in EVERYTHING including the kitchen sink to see what sticks. A lot of it doesn't, which is why features has disappeared from recurring products. The only feature to actually disappear from iPhones has been...larger screens.
  • bigboxes - Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - link

    Get off your knees
  • grayson_carr - Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - link

    "The only feature to actually disappear from iPhones has been...larger screens."

    Oh really? I'm pretty sure one of the very features you specific mentioned disappeared in the 6S... the sapphire camera cover. I think it was causing too many purple lens flairs so they switched to their ion glass for the camera cover in the 6S. The difference is obvious is obvious if you look at the cameras of the 6 and 6S side by side.
  • lilmoe - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Just a little something I missed before clicking the submit button.

    When Apple figures out new features or new market trends, they think really hard how they'd milk the crap out of their loyal consumers before adding those features. And when they do, they PR, media and marketing machines work really hard to make consumers more accepting to those money making decisions. Things consumers would normally not accept.

    That's how you get these outrageous profits. Apple is second to none there, I'll give them that.
  • Donkey2008 - Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - link

    Does anyone actually take your opinion seriously? Reading your comments actually gave me a laugh.
  • kmmatney - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    I briefly switched to Android when the 5s came out, wanting a mlarger screen. i bought an LG phone with a large screen and minimal bezel, and found it very annoying. Once you put a cover on it, it was very hard to hit the edge of the screen. Without a cover, the buttons would constantly press in my pocket. I think the bezel on the sides of the iPhone are ideal - you can have a thin cover, while still easily accessing the edge of the screen. They can probably cut the top bezel a little bit, the but bottom and sides are ideal, IMO.

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