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Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone SE: Forget the X, Apple's cheapest phone gets cheaper

The iPhone X made waves for its design and price, but Apple also made its most affordable phone cheaper than ever.


The iPhone SE is small compared to most phones, and the product lines harken back to iPhones of old.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On Tuesday, Apple held an event to announce the long rumored iPhone X. At $999, £999 and AU$1,579, it is the most expensive iPhone ever released.

Apple has been criticized for the high prices of its products and appealing to the affluent. Earlier this week, Apple's CEO Tim Cook addressed the issue in an interview with Fortune.

"You can buy an iPad today for under $300. You can buy an iPhone, depending upon which one you select, in that same kind of ballpark," said Cook. "And so these are not for the rich."

Whatever you think of Apple's prices, there is some truth to what Cook said. At that same event, Apple quietly reduced the price of the iPhone SE to $349, £349 and AU$549, making it the cheapest iPhone Apple has ever sold.

True, the iPhone X and SE are very different iPhones. But that still doesn't mean the SE is obsolete. Especially since there's a lot to like about the SE.

With a 4-inch display, the SE is one of the smallest, most pocket-friendly phones you can buy. It has TouchID, ApplePay, a headphone jack (which newer iPhones lack) and it will be able to run iOS 11 when it's released on Sept. 19.

Now playing: Watch this: iPhone SE: Get now, or wait?

In May, CNET editor Scott Stein took second look at the phone and was impressed with the SE's performance and how it kept up in daily use against the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. He acknowledged that the small, "nifty" design will immediately appeal to some while others might be turned off by its older iPhone 5S looks.

If you're still not feeling the SE and are willing to trade in those iOS iMessage blue bubbles for Android, you'll find even cheaper options that are just as capable, if not more so, like the Motorola Moto G5 Plus or the Alcatel Idol 5S.

But for those looking specifically for a new iPhone that won't break the bank, the SE is your best bet.

iPhone models and prices

iPhone SE iPhone 6S/6S Plus iPhone 7/7 Plus iPhone 8/8 Plus iPhone X
Storage 32GB, 128GB 32GB, 128GB 32GB, 128GB 64GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB
Display size 4-inch 4.7-inch, 5.5-inch (Plus model) 4.7-inch, 5.5-inch (Plus model) 4.7-inch, 5.5-inch (Plus model) 5.8-inch
Camera(s) 12-megapixel 12-megapixel, dual 12-megapixel (Plus model) 12-megapixel, dual 12-megapixel (Plus model) 12-megapixel, dual 12-megapixel (Plus model) Dual 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 1.2-megapixel 5-megapixel 7-megapixel 7-megapixel 7-megapixel
Video capture 4K (720p front-facing) 4K (720p front-facing) 4K (1080p front-facing) 4K (1080p front-facing) 4K (1080p front-facing)
Processor A9 A9 A10 A11 A11
Fingerprint sensor Touch ID home button Touch ID home button Touch ID solid-state home button Touch ID solid-state home button None
ApplePay Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Headphone jack Yes Yes None None None
Connector Lightning Lightning Lightning Lightning Lightning
Special features - 3D Touch 3D Touch, water/dust resistant 3D Touch, water/dust resistant FaceID, 3D Touch, water/dust resistant
Base model price 32GB -- $349, £349, AU$549 32GB -- $449, £449, AU$699 32GB -- $549, £549, AU$849 64GB -- $699, £699, AU$1,079 64GB -- $999, £999, AU$1,229
Base model price with more storage 128GB -- $449, £449, AU$699 128GB -- $549, £549, AU$849 128GB -- $649, £649, AU$999 256GB -- $849, £849, AU$1,329 256GB -- $1,149, £1,149, AU$1,479
Plus model price - 32GB -- $549, £549, AU$849 32GB -- $669, £669, AU$1,049 64GB -- $799, £799, AU$1,229 -
Plus model price with more storage - 128GB -- $649, £649, AU$999 128GB -- $769, £769, AU$1,199 256GB -- $949, £949, AU$1,479 -