It’s probably not a secret at this point that a number of people were disappointed when Apple seemed to move away from the 4” form factor with the iPhone 6. It turns out that there’s a sizeable market for a smaller iPhone, so rather than letting the 4” size die away quietly Apple has introduced the 4” iPhone SE for those that want a smaller iPhone without having to buy something that is relatively out of date.

In the hand, the iPhone SE basically feels identical to the iPhone 5s. The design is pretty much the same with its lack of camera hump and sharp lines, but rather than polished chamfered edges Apple has elected to keep the chamfer sand-blasted matte. The weight of the phone is also noticeably less than the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s, which is due to the lack of 3D Touch and the smaller size of the device. The display also looks to be quite similar to the iPhone 5s.

Other than this, I don’t really have a lot to say because it feels almost exactly like an iPhone 6s otherwise. As a heavy 3D Touch user, the lack of 3D Touch is noticeable, especially when playing back Live Photos. But other than that performance is similarly fast and I didn’t see any obvious problems, however many of these under the hood changes are going to be quite difficult to notice in the space of a few minutes as they’re quite subtle.

Although not quite in the realm of a hands-on, the main area of note here is the price as Apple has basically released a cheaper version of the iPhone 6s in a smaller size. In developing countries it seems that the cheaper iPhones are often the most popular, so it’s interesting to see how Apple has effectively upped the value of this version of the iPhone in a very big way. To get close to the 399 USD price point of the new iPhone SE, previously you had to get a phone 2 generations old with a relatively outdated SoC, so it’s impressive to see that now for the same price you can get something that has the latest and greatest in almost every way save for modem and size.

It’s also worth noting that Apple is basically completely uncontested in this part of the market. Although there are a lot of budget phones out there using 4" screens to hit their respective price point, Apple seems to be the only OEM still playing in the 4” display size space for high-end phones. There are a few Android OEMs trying to keep phones at the 4.5-4.7” segment (i.e. iPhone 6s size) with similarly high-end specs, but no Android OEM is trying to sell a 4” phone with high-end hardware. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effects this has on sales, although I’m not entirely sure that Android OEMs are going to be following Apple’s lead here as a smaller device makes battery efficiency more critical due to scaling effects.

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  • lmcd - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    I never feel like I need to click there anymore. Seriously, some parts of the screen are essentially limited to information, and I love that change in smartphone app design. Devices that encourage it are appreciated.
  • Alexvrb - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Don't pretty much all larger phones have a "one-handed" mode that moves everything down, effectively giving you the best of both worlds in a single device? Personally my only real issue with 5"+ devices is pocket real estate.
  • Valantar - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    This is not quite as cut and dry as that. The Sony Z5 Compact has a 4,6" display in a chassis very close in size to the 4" iPhones. Sure, it's a few mm wider, but it's far smaller than an iPhone 6/6s. It's perfectly usable with one hand. Then again, the Z compact range has been Sony's best selling phones (at least here in Norway), and for a reason. And their lack of any real presence in the US kills any chance of global relevance, of course.
  • lilmoe - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link


    Sony's Compact series are really great too. I just wish they'd use OLED already, or at least better IPS screens. The blacks on their LCDs are far too washed out.
  • shadarlo - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Due to huge bezels an iPhone that is 1" smaller than an equally sized android is equally easy/hard to operate. It's amazing apple still hasn't found a way to shrink those bezels when everyone else in the industry figured it out years ago.

    Cue 2 years from now when Apple releases a "zero bezel" iphone like it's a revelation.
  • protomech - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Galaxy S7, which has a 5.1" screen and relatively thin bezels, is almost an inch taller, half an inch wider, and weighs about a third more than the iPhone SE.

    The S7 is also thicker, wider, taller, and heavier than the 4.7" iPhone 6S which has similarly "huge" bezels.

    iPhones do tend to have slightly thicker bezels than many Android flagships - and in particular the round Touch ID sensor takes up a lot of space - but it's not quite as drastic as you make it out to be.
  • retrospooty - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    "iPhones do tend to have slightly thicker bezels than many Android flagships" - Slightly? That is a drastic understatement. The point above is very valid. iPhones have always had massive bezels. The iPhone 6+ and S7 Edge both have 5.5 inch screens. The iPhone 6+ is 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm and the S7 Edge is 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm. That is almost a centimeter taller and 1/2 centimeter wider. That is pretty dramatic when you are referring to an already large device.
  • CaedenV - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    I know right? Everyone else has either gotten the buttons to be nice and small on the bottom of the phone, or else integrated the button onto the display. IPhone only has 1 button! Surely they could make it a bit shorter, or have it wrap around the bottom bezel of the device, or SOMETHING to reclaim some of that realestate and make it useful. The thing that really gets me is how comically large the top bezel is when there is essentially nothing up there... just for the sake of symmetry. At the very least they could reclaim that space with some front facing Beats speakers or something...
  • khanikun - Friday, March 25, 2016 - link

    I have small hands. Use my 5.2" Sony Z2 one handed without an issue. To put it into perspective on how small my hands are, put your middle finger and thumb on a 12 oz Red Bull can and line them up together. I have an inch gap between my thumb and finger.

    I think that's more a finger dexterity issue than a hand size issue when it comes to one handed operation. I grew up playing music instruments and am also a touch typer.
  • ummduh - Friday, March 25, 2016 - link

    Meh, I have tiny hands too. I have to nearly always order in size small gloves, nobody stocks smalls anymore. I generally run phablets, and have a s6 right now.. But will be going back up to a 5.5"+ next time. I don't get why you'd punish yourself with a tiny smart phone..

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