We usually hear from Apple three times per year — the iPhone launch in September, the WWDC in June (primarily to introduce operating system updates), and a special event in the spring for whatever else they have in store for the year to come. Today was that ‘whatever else’ press conference — more often than not, we get an iPad and maybe a MacBook update, but as was heavily rumored, there was some iPhone news today as well. Like those rumors suggested, today’s event was a good one for anyone looking to go small.
The rumors of a new 4″ iPhone were true, but it’s anything but budget. The iPhone SE really is the iPhone that proponents of smaller phones have been waiting for — one that doesn’t sacrifice top-of-the-line specs. This phone will run on the same A9 processor/M9 motion processor as the iPhone 6s and will have the same cameras — a 12 MP rear camera with Focus Pixels (more or less, Apple’s marketing term for phase-detection auto-focus) and True Tone flash and a front camera with Retina flash, which makes the display three times brighter and uses natural tones for softer lighting. The SE can take 4k video and is powerful enough to edit two streams of 4k video at once. You can also expect high-speed LTE, LTE calling, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi calling. NFC connectivity and a secure element have been added to ensure compatibility with Apple Pay.
The SE isn’t totally on par with the iPhone 6s, although an aluminum build goes a long way toward reassuring customers that this isn’t the 5c all over again. The SE takes after the iPhone 5 series in terms of design, so don’t expect the round edges of the 6 series. Also, one notable feature has been left off — the SE lacks Force Touch, so there will be no pressure sensitive controls. It’ll still be possible to take Live Photos on the SE, though, and it’s questionable how much Force Touch is really adding to the smartphone experience anyway.
The iPhone SE will be sold in 16 GB and 64 GB models and will come in silver, space grey, gold, and rose gold. Prices will be $400 and $500 unlocked, respectively, and the 16 GB phone will be free with a two-year contract from the carriers that still offer them. Alternately, the 16 GB model will start at $17 per month on monthly payment plans, although Apple didn’t specify whether they meant their own monthly plan or carriers’ plans. The SE will replace the iPhone 5s, which will now be discontinued.
As always, the 16 GB model seems like it isn’t a good deal — the phone still lacks a Micro SD card slot, and relying on iCloud means using up more data against your cap when accessing files on the go (and out of range of Wi-Fi). The other big question will be battery life, especially considering the SE hasn’t made many sacrifices in terms of hardware (it should be noted that Apple also didn’t have anything to say about the display, although we now know it’ll be an 1136 x 640 326 ppi Retina display, which is on par with the 6s when accounting for size differences). Fitting the power of the 6s into a smaller frame could drive battery life down, although Apple’s spec comparison table indicates there should be no significant differences between the SE and the 6/6s. Orders start on March 24 and will ship out on March 31.
Next page: iPad Pro 9.7