Tech review: with the cheaper, smaller iPhone SE, Apple opens itself up to millions more customers

Far from undercutting its existing products, the little brother to the iPhone 6S should help the company expand its market share in China and India, and gives owners of older models more options for upgrade

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2016, 5:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2016, 5:45pm

Small, medium or large? Seems like there’s a right size for everything these days – including mobile phones.

Apple introduced the original iPhone with a 3.5-inch screen and kept that size through the iPhone 4S before screens started getting bigger. It’s just in the past two years that Apple started rolling out two iPhones per year with differing screen sizes; from the 4-inch iPhone 5S to the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

I’ve read that 25 per cent of iPhone users did not upgrade to one of the larger iPhones. Indeed, Apple kept selling the iPhone 5S with its smaller screen and 2-year-old processor as the “entry level” iPhone, and it was apparently selling pretty well.

I like to keep my phone in my back pocket, and I found the iPhone 6S Plus just too big. I also know iPad mini owners who think the larger iPhones are just too close in size to their iPads. Plus a lot of people like using their phone one-handed, and the 6S made that almost impossible.

Thankfully, Apple decided to listen to the market and introduce the iPhone SE, which is basically the guts of an iPhone 6S crammed into the case of an iPhone 5S.

The good stuff

The iPhone SE has a lot of features in common with the iPhone 6S, but not everything. It uses the same processor, the A9, with the same M9 motion co-processor.

The main camera on the SE is the same 12-megapixel model as in the 6S, and it can capture 4K HD video. It has a CPU that’s twice as fast and graphics performance three times as fast as the iPhone 5S.

The faster processor also allows for “Hey, Siri” hands-free use.

The differences

The insides of the SE have a lot in common with the 6S, but the case and screen are the same as the 5S.

That means the SE’s 4-inch screen has a resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch.

It uses Apple’s first-generation Touch ID sensor, which is not as fast as the second-generation fingerprint sensor of the 6S. The fingerprint recognition is still plenty fast, but not lightning-fast like in the 6S.

The price drop

Apple surprised a lot of people with a low starting price for the SE. There are two storage configurations – 16 gigabytes for HK$3,488 and 64 GB for HK$4,288. The low starting price is going to bring a lot of new customers to Apple and perhaps convince a number of iPhone 5 and 5S users to upgrade.

There are naysayers who claim Apple is going to eat into its own market share with the SE, but honestly, while there are some 6S and 6S Plus users who will jump to a smaller iPhone, I think the people holding onto their 5S handset now have a good reason to upgrade.

Hong Kong still the world’s most connected place; Singapore not even in top 10

Plus, in markets such as China and India, iPhones have been out of reach for a good chunk of the population. The SE will be popular in those markets.

Apple seems to be pretty good at waiting to see what people want and then giving it to them.

People are fickle. We want bigger phones until it’s all we have, and then we want smaller phones.

Now there is a current-generation iPhone for everyone.

The Dallas Morning News