Apple iPhone SE (2016) review: Still great, one year later

A speedy phone, even on iOS 10. The SE keeps up with iOS 10 very nicely, and feels as fast as most new iPhones. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have a speed edge, but for most instances no one would notice the difference.

The headphone jack is back (and I missed it). The iPhone SE has a headphone jack, unlike the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. To a lot of people -- myself included -- that's a welcome feature. No dongles necessary.

Many iPhone apps feel better on larger screens, though. As much as I love the tiny size of the SE, it's not the ideal canvas for most iPhone apps, which assume you have a larger phone. The more cramped feel of the SE still, amazingly, works, but for all that I do on my phone (mainly photos, editing and some video work) it becomes challenging.


A smaller screen means more squinting and scrolling.

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Could be a good choice for runners. Going full-on into Apple's connected wireless universe with an Apple Watch and AirPods, you're more likely to keep that phone in your pocket anyway. This is a phone that you could attach to your arm with a band.

Battery life is best of the current iPhones. The iPhone SE lasted for 12 hours 18 minutes playing a video loop offline. It edges out the iPhone 7 Plus' battery runtime of 12 hours 6 minutes, and the iPhone 7's 10 hours 55 minutes. That alone could be a reason to go SE.

Your main alternatives: Cheaper, bigger Androids or pricier iPhone 6S

While the iPhone SE is Apple's answer to a "budget" phone, it's really more of a midpriced model. There are very good Android alternatives for as little as $250 or less, most notably the Moto G5 Plus ($185 with Amazon Prime ads) or the Huawei Honor 6X.

If you're looking for something that's more in the price and feature ballpark of the iPhone SE, your two best choices are the OnePlus 3T or the iPhone 6S, which start at $430 and $550, respectively. (See full specs comparison below.)

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Small, affordable, fuss-free

If you don't want a small screen, don't go here. If you live your life on your phone screen and need a large canvas, don't go here. If you're on a budget and want an iPhone, go for it. It's still great. Just note those alternatives listed above, especially if you're OK with living on Android.

The iPhone SE is a really good little phone, the sort of phone that I actually miss a bit. "It's nifty," as a colleague said.

But if you're looking for something new, be forewarned: 2017 phones like the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 are making thick bezels a thing of the past. The iPhone 8, expected in September, is sure to follow with similarly radical changes. The SE isn't going to be your ticket to the future. It will, however, be a really nice pocket companion for the present if you're seeking a low-key and affordable iPhone.

iPhone SE vs iPhone 6S and iPhone 7

iPhone SE iPhone 6S iPhone 7
Display size, resolution 4.0-inch; 1,136x640 pixels 4.7-inch; 1,334x750 pixels 4.7-inch; 1,334x750 pixels
Pixel density 326ppi 326ppi 326ppi
Dimensions (inches) 4.87x2.31x0.3 in 5.44x2.64x0.28 in 5.44x2.64x0.28 in
Dimensions (millimeters) 123.8x58.6x7.6 mm 138.3x67.1x7.1 mm 138.3x67.1x7.1 mm
Weight (Ounces, grams) 3.99 oz, 113 g 5.04 oz, 143 g 4.87 oz, 138 g
Mobile software iOS 10.3 iOS 10.3 iOS 10.3
Camera 12-megapixel 12-megapixel 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 1.2-megapixel 5-megapixel 7-megapixel
Video capture 4K (720p front-facing) 4K (720p front-facing) 4K (1080p front-facing)
Processor A9 A9 A10
Storage 32GB, 128GB 32GB, 128GB 32GB, 128GB, 256GB
Expandable storage None None None
Battery 1,624 mAh 1,715 mAh 1,960 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Touch ID home button Touch ID home button Touch ID solid-state home button
Connector Lightning Lightning Lightning
Special features Apple Pay Apple Pay, 3D Touch Apple Pay, 3D Touch, water/dust resistant
Price off-contract (USD) $399 (32GB), $499 (128GB) $549 (32GB), $649 (128GB) $649 (32GB), $749 (128GB), $849 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £379 (32GB), £479 (128GB) £499 (32GB), £599 (128GB) £599 (32GB), £699 (128GB), £799 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$679 (32GB), AU$829 (128GB) AU$929 (32GB), AU$1,079 (128GB) AU$1,079 (32GB), AU$1,229 (128GB), AU$1,379 (256GB)

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