New iPhone SE: 9 things you have to try as soon as you unbox it
It has an iPhone 8 body with an iPhone 11 Pro brain, which add up to a combination of features never seen on a 4.7-inch iPhone before.
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
The mix of old design and new power means you can unlock the new SE with Touch ID, which is handy now that face masks are a must. You also have the processing power to support future
software updates longer than an iPhone 8, with its two-and-a-half-year old A11 processor, will manage.
Here are nine things you should try with your new iPhone SE.
1. Transfer your old phone's date without iCloud or iTunes
Probably the absolute first thing you're going to want to do is get your stuff off your old iPhone and onto your new one. If it's been a while since you transferred data, you have a few options.
The first would be to back up your old phone to
and then restore the backup on your new iPhone. You can also do this using iCloud, but you might not have enough storage and may not want to buy more from
If you owned an
, 6S, 7 or 8, then you've never experienced the joy of taking a photo with a shallow depth of field, also known as Portrait Mode. It can turn your mundane background into a creamy, blurry wonderland. The iPhone SE uses processing to separate your subject from the background and then it blurs it to make it look beautiful.
To try it out, go into the Camera app, swipe to Portrait and then center your subject and take a photo. Before you take the photo, you can preview what it will look like by tapping and holding on the portrait mode dial at the bottom and spinning through the different looks. You can even adjust the amount of background blur by tapping on the aperture button in the top right corner of the screen. Use the slider at the bottom to make it more or less blurry.
If you took a portrait mode photo, but still want to make adjustments, you're in luck. Find a portrait mode photo that you want to adjust and tap the edit button. To adjust the amount of background blur, go to the top left side of the screen and tap on the aperture icon. Use the aperture slider that appears at the bottom of the screen to make the background more or less blurry.
You can also change Apple's portrait lighting after the fact by going to the top left corner of the screen and tapping the portrait mode icon. Swipe through the various modes using the dial that appears at the bottom.
If the face of your subject is too dark, go back into edit mode and then rotate the portrait mode dial up to any lighting effect other than Natural Light. A slider will appear below and you can adjust it to increase or decrease the lighting effect on your subject.
One last portrait mode tip: The iPhone SE can only capture portrait mode photos of humans. Sorry, but your cat photos won't have beautiful blurry backgrounds.
3. Take a portrait mode selfie
Remember all the stuff I just shared about Portrait Mode? Well, lucky for you it applies to portrait mode on your phone's rear and selfie camera. That means you can take epic and artistic selfies using portrait lighting effects.
4. Admire the centered Apple
The new iPhone SE is almost identical to the 2017 iPhone 8. But there's one way to tell the difference between the two. Look at the Apple Logo on the back. On the iPhone 8, it's higher up. But on the new iPhone SE, it's right in the middle. This matches the logo's placement on other new iPhones. Take a moment and admire the centered logo on the back of your iPhone SE. (OK, your mileage on this tip may vary.)
5. Use Quick Take to record video
Another cool thing you can do on the iPhone SE is start recording a video even when you're not in video mode. From the Camera app, simply press and hold on the shutter button to start recording (kind of like Instagram or Snapchat). When you let go, it will stop recording. If you're filming a long video that you started with Quick Take, simply drag your finger from the shutter button to the lock on the right side.
6. Put a case on it
I'm a non-case person, but I'm told most normal people put cases on their
. Now, if you're wondering if an iPhone 8 case will fit on your iPhone SE. The answer is yes it will. But there will be new cases for the phone as well. I still prefer no case. Why would you cover up that beautiful centered logo?
7. Take a photo with SmartHDR
One of the SE's most amazing features is also one of the least flashy. It's SmartHDR photo processing. There have been a few flavors of Apple's computational high dynamic range software but the one on the iPhone SE does an impressive job of capturing a scene with lots of shadows and bright lights. Check out the photo I shot below of a tree against a bright blue sky.
8. Connect AirPods and AirPods Pro via iCloud
Like other recent iPhones, the new SE has no headphone jack. Look, it's natural to be upset, but I don't think that will change anything. Fortunately, if you own a fancy pants pair of Apple or Beats wireless headphones, there's some redemption in the form of iCloud.
If you already have your AirPods,
or Beats wireless headphones paired to an Apple device that using the same iCloud account, they should automatically pair to your new iPhone SE.
All you have to do is connect them. To do so, from Bluetooth settings select your headphones from the list and tap connect. If your other Apple devices are off, your headphones might automatically connect when you place them in your ears.
Your iPhone SE has the most powerful processor currently found in any phone. See what it can do by playing a game like Children of Light or an Apple Arcade game like Doomsday Vault or Sneaky Sasquatch. But if you really want to experience something impressive, checkout an AR app such as Wonderscope. It transformed my room into a mansion where I can train to be a ghost.