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has introduced the 4” iPhone SE for those that want a smaller iPhone without having to buy something that is relatively out of date.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to the 399 USD price point of the new iPhone SE, previously you had to get a phone 2 generations old with a relatively outdated SoC, so it’s impressive to see that now for the same price you can get something that has the latest and greatest in almost every way save for modem and size.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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  • Sexytimeturtle - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    For me a 4" screen is just fine. I'm a heavy phone user at home and for work and have no issue with the screen size. A 4" screen is still very easy to read and provides plenty of real estate imo. Also since I'm active and need a phone on me at all times I prefer something with a smaller foot print in my pocket especially in the summer time. I will be switching over to this from my 6 when my renewal comes around this fall. The 5 was the perfect phone size for me and I preferred the square sided chassis.
  • whiteiphoneproblems - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Yeah, I'm seriously contemplating switching to this from my 6S -- while I love the larger screen size (after using a 5C for two years), the weight and "rounded/slippery" design of the 6S are driving me nuts. (I've tried 6 different cases, and they all have their own issues...)
  • Daniel Egger - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    I agree, I just got an iPhone 6 and without even having been able to use it in daily routine (new nano SIM is not activated yet) I'll already find it to big compared to the older ones used by my better half...
  • danbob999 - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    you should return it and get a SE. More performance and cheaper.
  • Daniel Egger - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Unfortunately that's not how it works. ;) I'd probably need to find someone entitled to a new phone who wasn't for some unknown reason not hit by the latest iPhone rain to swap it. Most likely it's much easier to just put the cash on the table and buy it privately (as I usually tend to do anyways).
  • kmmatney - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Yeah - I have an iPhone 6S+, and while a like it most of the time (battery life is insane) I miss my iphone 5 at times (my son now has my iphone 5 and loves it). I've been tempted to buy another iphone 5 and switch my SIM card back and forth when I'm jogging, biking, or just want something smaller and lighter. The price of a used iphone 5 will probably drop a lot after these come out.
  • rm19 - Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - link

    I don't know why everyone who prefers larger phones has to keep telling me what I should prefer. I loved my 4S and only recently went to a 6S for performance reasons. I want the smallest phone possible, but I just wish Apple would put a bit more effort into making a premium small phone because 4" screen with a tiny bezel and a fresh new design would be awesome. If it doesn't sell well, I'm sure they'll blame the size. Small shouldn't necessarily mean budget. I'll probably go for an SE.
  • MikhailT - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    I don't know about anyone else but for me, it's about the ability to use the phone with one hand.

    Keep in mind that an iPhone 4" is much larger than the typical 4" non-iPhone device because of the fat bezels with Touch ID sensor. If you take an iPhone 6, reduce the bezels, remove the bottom chin with Touch ID and so on, the iPhone would feel more comfortable to use with one hand. That's why an Android device has a much higher screen to body ratio than iPhone of the same size, they don't require the home button and can put fingerscreen scanner on the side or the back.
  • BD2003 - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    There is nothing more that I want in the world than a 4" iPhone with the guts of a 6S.
  • Daniel Egger - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Hell yes. This might actually be the first iPhone I buy myself since all other companies so spectacularly fail to create a decent small phone.

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