Our Verdict

Apple's really dialled back the screen and design to hit the price point - but it's still a brilliant phone for the subset of people that still crave a small phone.

For

  • Great power
  • Longer battery than 5S
  • Lower price

Against

  • Tired design
  • Old, old screen technology
  • Rattling home key

The iPhone SE still has an audience. Holding out against its big-screen siblings, this 4-inch handset continues to offer a compact, one-handed use guarantee no other current iPhone can muster.

Update: While there's no sign of an iPhone SE 2, the iPhone SE is still holding its own. It has been updated to iOS 12 and is now cheaper than ever - though Apple has stopped selling it, so it might soon be hard to get hold of.

It is getting long in the tooth though, having launched well over two years ago, which means when compared to the likes of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR it's significantly under-powered and feature-sparse.

Yet, it's still a more than viable option for those looking for a low-cost iPhone, or a compact Apple handset. It's been updated to iOS 12 - the latest software from Apple - and unlike the XS, it has a Touch ID fingerprint scanner.

iPhone SE review

iPhone SE price and availability

  • iPhone SE release date: March 2016
  • 32GB iPhone SE price: around $300 (£280, AU$550)
  • 128GB iPhone SE price: around $450 (£450, AU$670)

At launch the iPhone SE price was $399 (£379, AU$679) for the 16GB model and $449 (£429, $AU749) if you choose the larger 64GB option - although things have changed since March 2016.

Apple quickly discontinued the 16GB and 64GB variants, replacing them with more appealing 32GB and 128GB capacities. But now those sizes too have been discontinued, which is to say you can no longer buy the iPhone SE from Apple itself. You can, however, still get it from some other stores.

Prices vary, but you should be able to find it for around £280 / $300 / AU$550 if opting for a 32GB version. The 128GB version is a lot pricier though at around £450 / $450 / AU$670 and also seems less widely available.

Fancy seeing the iPhone SE in action? We've filmed a video review of the palm-friendly iPhone for that exact reason - watch it below.

Key features

  • All the power of a larger iPhone in a smaller chassis
  • Camera is strong - on a par with the iPhone 6S
  • Lack of 3D Touch is disappointing and would have worked well here
  • Battery life is significantly longer than iPhone 5 / 5S

Besides price the key selling point with this phone is the design. The chassis is precisely the same as on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S, and beyond coming in rose gold, doesn't offer anything new at all.

That said, so many people are looking at the iPhone's evolution to the 4.7-inch display of the 6, 6S, 7 and 8 - not to mention the move to the X and XS - and scrunching their noses up a bit, not wanting to make the leap to the larger size of screen (and that's before we even get to the iPhone XS Max).

iPhone SE review

The iPhone SE is designed to be easily operated with one hand, the 4-inch screen sitting just at the edge of a thumb stretch.

iPhone SE specs

Weight: 113g
Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm
OS: iOS 12.1
Screen size: 4-inch
Resolution: 640 x 1136
CPU: Apple A9
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32GB / 128GB
Battery: 1624mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 1.2MP

However, internally things are genuinely supercharged, at least by 2016 standards. The camera had an overhaul, coming with the 12MP iSight sensor found in iPhone 6S, and offering the same array of tricks.

That means Focus Pixels to offer clearer and faster autofocus, the improved two-tone flash and Live Photos, where a small amount of video is captured with every photo taken. 4K video recording and ultra-slo-mo movie modes really help sweeten the deal too.

The power of the iPhone SE is something to behold as well - it's as powerful as the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus thanks to having the A9 chip, the M9 co-processor and 2GB of RAM.

iPhone SE review

Compare that to the A7 chip with a measly 1GB of RAM from the iPhone 5S and side by side they're absolutely night and day in terms of speed and battery life management. Though of course newer models like the iPhone XS well and truly crush this for power, but at a much higher price.

The M9 co-processor is an important element too, telling the phone when it should be heading into a dormant mode thanks to being sat quietly on a desk or in a pocket, which prevents the battery-hungry pings that lead to the red line of doom and you needing to reach for the charger at 6PM.

Battery life is impressive on the phone, especially when you consider there are only a few mAh added in here, from 1,560mAh to 1,624mAh, and with no increase to the size of the chassis at all, this is a really impressive feat and addresses one of the key concerns we had with the iPhone 5S.