iPhone SE: Apple's mid-range mobile reviewed

We compare Apple’s new mid-range phone to its predecessor.

Apple new iphone se black camera and touch id 04152020 big

The iPhone SE range is the closest Apple comes to releasing a mid-range phone. This new SE is, in essence, a revamp of the three-year-old iPhone 8 with a new chipset, so it runs faster.

The SE is meant to be a simple iPhone that can run the latest software, rather than being a powerhouse phone with all the bells, whistles and multiple cameras of high-end flagship models. It’s aimed at consumers who have older iPhones and are thinking of upgrading, but don’t need all the pricey extras.

20jun iphone se review product

I’ve had the old generation iPhone SE – based on the iPhone 5 – since it was released in 2016. I’ve always loved it and have never been tempted by any new releases. I don’t need multiple cameras, since I only ever take pictures of my cats, and the size was just right – it could easily fit in my pocket. I’ll only replace it when Apple inevitably stops supporting it (something that’s due in the next couple of years). I want to stick with Apple, so the logical choice for me is the new SE.

The latest version is noticeably larger than the old one (when I stacked it on top of the new screen there was room to spare on all sides). An appealing feature is the home button. Other new iPhones don’t have one, and I can never work out how to use someone else’s when I pick it up. This one has a feeling of familiarity, which is nice for people like me who resist change.

First thing I noticed was the bigger and better screen. It was also much, much faster at opening apps. I did a side-by-side comparison of opening Zwift (the cycling workout app). It only took a few seconds to load on the new SE, whereas the old one had to think about it for over 10 seconds before it finally booted up.

The battery is also notably better. Rather than nearly dying by the end of the workday, this one lasts me through the entire day and evening. There’s also an added bonus of dust and water resistance on this model.

My cat photo game improved dramatically as well. The combo of fancy processing chip and better camera made for some great shots. I also had a play with the portrait mode, of which some presets do feel a tad gimmicky, but it does make for better photos than I could ever take without it.

Verdict

I quickly got used to having a bigger phone, but it isn’t without its drawbacks. It has a tendency to pop out of my pockets when I sit down in the car or on the couch. If Apple could put this package into the old SE body, I’d be over the moon. But this probably won’t happen (the 4.7-inch screen is relatively small by smartphone standards these days anyway).

As it stands, this is the perfect replacement for my old phone when Apple finally pulls the support pin.

This phone was loaned to the writer by Apple.

Specs:

Price: starting from $799
Dimensions: 138.4x67.3x7.3mm
Display: 4.7”, 750x1334 pixels, 16:9 ratio
Processor: Hexa-core (2x2.65GHz Lightning + 4x1.8GHz Thunder)
Camera: Rear – 12MP, f/1.8 (wide). Front – 7MP, f/2.2
Water resistant: IP67 dust/water resistant (up to 1m for 30 mins)

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John P.
05 Jul 2020
No review comment on dual sim?

I understand this phone is being released with a virtual sim and a regular sim - but do virtual sim cards work in NZ yet?. Potentially this is an exciting development - the old Windows/Nokia and current Android phones all have two sim card options

Consumer staff
07 Jul 2020
e-SIMs work in NZ

Hi John,

Yeah virtual SIM cards (e-SIMs) do work in NZ and Vodafone and Spark both offer them. They will work with the new iPhones and Samsungs, but they may not be supported on other devices.

Cheers
Hadyn Green
Senior Tech Writer