• Similar power levels to iPhone 6S, meaning speedy app opening
  • Works very fluidly under the finger
  • Fingerprint scanner is slower than newer models, but not hugely noticeable

Are you wondering how impressive the iPhone SE is under the finger? Well, the answer is simple: very good indeed. There are a number of factors at work here, from the fact it shares an A9 chipset with flagship iPhones from the period to the doubling of the RAM seen in the iPhone 5S - everything is much faster than expected.

The graphical upgrade is probably the most marked improvement - it's a six-core chip that dwarfs the power of the iPhone 5S and even the iPhone 6, making me wonder why anyone would buy 2014's iPhone other than wanting the larger screen at a lower price.

GeekBench 3 benchmarking offers some interesting stats: the iPhone SE matches the 6S duo almost perfectly, and slightly outdoes them, in fact. The result of 4,438 is a shade ahead of 2015's flagships, likely to do with having to power fewer pixels, and is almost twice as good as the performance from the iPhone 6 - this really is an impressive amount of power for the small phone.

iPhone SE review

The other performance indicators - movies, gaming and audio output - have all been covered in the section above, and while the screen does mar the film-watching experience somewhat, the sheer quality of the images whether from the camera or on the display is impressive.

If you're wondering how much storage you've got to play with here, the good news is that it's raised up to 32GB minimum, with a 128GB highest-capacity option at the top end.

It's much better than the original 16GB option - with the operating system on board too, it gives more space to use.

Touch ID

Another curious / money-saving move from Apple is the use of a last-gen Touch ID sensor, which means it's not quite as fast as the latest option on the newer phones. It's an odd choice, given it surely can't cost a huge amount to offer the functionality, but then again given this phone has a lower cost than the iPhone 6S, perhaps Apple's looking to shave every margin it can.

iPhone SE review

It's another example of the small sacrifices you'll have to make if you go for the iPhone SE over the larger model - nothing major and it won't bug you too much, but not as good as it could be. It's worth noting the speed of opening is pretty fast still, and you'd only notice if you came from one of the newer iPhones.

And this Touch ID is still good enough to enable Apple Pay, so you'll be easily able to use the small phone to pay for goods wherever contactless is enabled. And the smaller size seems to make it easier to find the trigger point for the NFC chip, as it was a complete cinch to pay for a few beers with this thing. Worryingly.

Of course, the presence of Touch ID at all could be a point for or against the iPhone SE depending on your perspective, given that newer iPhones like the iPhone XS have Face ID instead.


It's hard to talk about the interface on an iPhone because, well, I'd be hugely surprised if you don't know it already. Most people reading this article will already be iPhone users, and those that aren't will probably know how one works, such is its iconic status in the smartphone world.

I will say that the 4-inch screen is the perfect portal for iOS though, with the one-handed nature of operating the iPhone SE perfect for doing EVERYTHING from checking notifications to turning on the torch or activating flight mode.

Apple has kept this phone up to date too, as it now has the very latest version of iOS, namely iOS 12, or more specifically iOS 12.1.3. iOS 12 brings new features like grouped notifications, Siri Shortcuts and screen time reports, while 12.1.3 adds extra emoji and Group FaceTime.

It's a strong update to a great interface and the simplicity of the system seems to fit better in one hand - when you start employing a second palm to navigate around a phone, I think you've got more license to get a bit more complex in your tapping patterns.

iPhone SE review

One area that is a slight concern - and one that I'm struggling to work out if it's just a worry because I'm used to much larger phones these days - is the keyboard.

It's fortunate that Apple's upgraded its default keyboard in recent years, as the older version was just terrible. Add to that the cramped conditions on offer with the iPhone SE's smaller screen and I found typing very difficult on this phone.

You can, of course, download a new keyboard from someone like SwiftKey, and this will add in the ability to swipe your words out - I wish the default Apple keyboard had this, as it would be perfect on the smaller iPhone SE screen here.

But overall, it's hard to fault Apple's OS in terms of raw predictability and speed. I'll never be happy until Cook's Crew finally gives us contextual menus (I mean, SURELY it makes more sense to put the ability to change the camera settings in the camera app itself?) but beyond that it's hard to say there's much wrong with iOS.

It's only those that like the idea of customization, to change nearly every element of the phone, that sneer at the platform - and for them, Android is just perfect.

Apple has now confirmed iOS 13 will be coming to the iPhone SE too. It'll land later in 2019, and it'll bring Dark Mode to the handset as well as a revamped version of Apple Maps too.