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iPhone SE early reviews: Retro on the outside, modern on the inside

Roman Loyola | March 29, 2016
The iPhone SE is like the iPhone 5s... But it's also not like the iPhone 5s.

On the surface, the fascination with the size of the iPhone SE seems odd. It’s not like we’ve never seen a 4-inch iPhone before. To understand what the big deal is, you have to go underneath the surface—you have to experience what’s behind the 4-inch screen to understand what the hype is all about.

Form the looks of the early reviews, the consensus is that the iPhone SE packs a lot of power in a smaller package. iPhone SE preorders began on March 24, and actual phones won’t reach the general public until March 31. In the meantime, a few media outlets got their hands on the iPhone SE and posted their reviews after a day or two of use. Here’s what they have to say. (Our review of the iPhone SE is in the works. Look for it soon.)

The obvious

iphone 5se hands on 02 
iPhone 5s (left) and iPhone SE (right). Credit: Jason Snell

Every early review points out that the iPhone SE looks just like the iPhone 5s. Sure, that seems obvious, but it’s a clear point of reference for iPhone users. It lets you know almost exactly what the iPhone SE looks like—almost, because there are a few cosmetic changes that don’t change the overall design. (In fact, I wasn’t able to find a review that didn’t mention the iPhone 5s.)

In a world where phones have increased in size, Mashable’s Christina Warren reminds us why many people prefer a 4-inch phone. “Apple used to vaunt the one-handed nature of its 4-inch phones. And it’s true, there is something to be said about a phone that can truly be used with one hand. No need for reachability, no need for adjusting your hands.”

BuzzFeed’s Nicole Nguyen put the iPhone SE to the pocket test: “The SE fares better than, er, other phones I’ve tried to put in my pants, but it’s no Motorola Razr, you know what I mean?”

Performance

Spec-wise, the iPhone SE is similar to the iPhone 6s, but The Verge’s Lauren Goode says, “It’s a little trite to describe the new phone as an ‘iPhone 6s in the body of an iPhone 5s,’ because that’s not exactly true.” The iPhone SE is missing a lot of features found in the iPhone 6s, such as 3D Touch and a barometer.

The iPhone SE, with its A9 processor and 2GB of RAM is fast, though. “The SE, as I heard one person refer to it, is a little pocket rocket. It’s corny, but it’s true,” wrote Goode. Mashable’s review provides GeekBench benchmark results, which are practically identical. The Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey A. Fowler says that the iPhone SE is about 70 percent faster than the iPhone 5s, based on GeekBench results.

 

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