Tech Review: $399 for a New iPhone? What’s the Catch?

iphone displayed
iPhone SE

Affordable isn’t exactly the first word that jumps to mind when I think about Apple.

This isn’t a complaint. Apple products cost more than the competition, and I’m OK with that.

But a few weeks ago, Apple did something it doesn’t do very often — it released an affordable iPhone. The new iPhone SE starts at $399.

Some might even call it cheap.

Is it right for you? Could it be right for me?

Let’s take a look.

MOM’S NEXT PHONE

The iPhone SE should look really familiar if you are an iPhone user. It shares the basic iPhone body design Apple has used since 2014.

It has a home button with a touch ID sensor, pretty tall bezels above and below the screen and a glass back.

The new SE is identical to the iPhone 8 on the outside, but inside, it has the A13 Bionic processor from Apple’s newest phone, the iPhone 11.

Yes, the same iPhone 11 that came out last September with a starting price of $699.

This means the iPhone SE will be a viable phone for the next five years or so.

What I mean by viable is the SE will continue to be supported for iOS updates.

This is Apple’s second-generation iPhone SE.

The first SE was released in 2016. It had the body of an iPhone 5S with the internal processor of the iPhone 6S.

The new iPhone SE is perfect next phone for my parents.

My parents both carry the iPhone 6S, and my mom has been asking whether her phone was due for an upgrade because her battery life was getting shorter.

I replaced their batteries last year and it helped, but I suspect they are ready for an upgrade.

SPECS

Everything inside the iPhone SE should be familiar, as the parts have been used before. This is an off-the-shelf upgrade, which means Apple used parts it already had to make this phone to keep costs down.

Apple has been using robots at the iPhone factories in China to make parts for the iPhone 8 for many years, so those machines are long-since paid for. Using them to keep churning out parts for the iPhone SE is very cheap for Apple.

There are lots of new parts inside, though, from the battery to the CPU. Everything had to be reconfigured to fit inside the smaller case.

The display is a 4.7-inch Redina HD touch screen display. It is not an OLED screen like Apple uses on its newest iPhones, but it’s still a great screen.

It has Touch ID, which is a fingerprint sensor inside the home button. I’d gotten really used to using my face to unlock my phone, but in this time of wearing masks to the store, I’m finding the Touch ID to be a better (faster) way to authenticate when I use Apple Pay.

Internal storage starts at 64 gigabytes ($399), with upgrade options for 128 GB ($449) or 256 GB ($549).

Doubling the storage to 128 GB for an extra $50 is a no-brainer if you can afford it.

The SE is water- and dust-resistant and can survive a dunk into 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

The A13 Bionic CPU is Apple’s fastest-ever chip in a smartphone. The chip in the SE is exactly the same as the iPhone 11.

Battery life in the SE is the same as the iPhone 8, which is up to 13 hours of video playback.

It has wireless charging and it can fast charge with an 18w USB adapter (sold separately) up to 50% in 30 minutes.

The SE measures 5.4 by 2.65 by 0.29 inches and weighs just 5.22 ounces.

The radios inside the SE are an upgrade. It supports gigabit-class LTE, which means faster data transfers from cell towers.

It also has Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

The SE is a dual SIM phone, with one physical SIM card and one eSIM. This means you can have two phone numbers on the SE as long as one is an eSIM (electronic SIM).

CAMERAS

Apple describes the main camera in the SE as the “best single-camera system in an iPhone.”

The SE has a single camera on the back with a 12-megapixel sensor and a f/1.8 wide angle lens. There is no optical zoom, but there is digital zoom up to 5x.

The front camera has a seven-megapixel sensor.

Because the SE has the A13 Bionic processor, it can shoot portrait mode photos with the front and back cameras.

The SE also has next-generation Smart HDR, which is a mode that uses multiple exposures to create better tonal range. It also has auto image stabilization.

It can shoot 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, and you can capture 8 megapixel still photos while you are shooting 4K video.

CONCLUSIONS

The first thing I did when I unboxed the SE was take the SIM out of my XS Max and put it in the SE to use as my daily phone.

Aside from having to retrain myself to use a fingerprint instead of my face to unlock and use Apple Pay, I thought the SE was a great phone.

But I’ve found I’m a screen size snob.

I’m not sure I want to go back to using a phone with a smaller screen, but the experience of carrying the SE as my everyday phone has been flawless. It is fast and light and does everything I need it to do.

I do miss the zoom lens, but for a phone that costs one-third of what I paid, I can overlook it.

I have a few friends who don’t mind spending $1,000 and up on a new phone every year, but most of the people I know are looking to save money.

For $400, this is the iPhone I’m recommending for almost everyone, including my wife and my parents.

The iPhone SE is available now from Apple, Best Buy, Walmart and all major wireless carriers.

Pros: Inexpensive, fast, great camera

Cons: Small screen

Bottom line: This is my mom’s next phone.

(SOURCE: TNS)

(Article written by Jim Rossman)