Apple's iPhone SE smartphone packs impressive punch

One of the key target markets for the iPhone SE, Apple’s new more affordable smartphone with a 4-inch screen, are Android users like me who are unmoved by the big screens of flagship smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Even though the Moto G I’ve used for the past two years is still working, it’s getting a little old. So could Apple’s new affordable device be my new smartphone?

In short, the iPhone SE is both a super-powered iPhone 5S, and a compressed iPhone 6S.

The SE’s design is almost identical to that of the iPhone 5S, launched in 2013, to the extent that several people asked me why I bought an old iPhone and not a new one.

It’s 1 gram lighter, and comes in the now-obligatory “rose gold”, but feels virtually iden­tical in the hand to its older cousin.

Under the hood, however, the SE’s performance and camera are identical in most ways to 2015’s iPhone 6S.

The SE sports the same internal RAM and processor as last year’s flagship device, meaning that while it’s small it’s also ser­iously quick.

The battery is bigger and better than the iPhone 5S, but still struggles a little to last an entire day. And while there’s no 3D touch, it does come with a fingerprint sensor.

However, the best feature (espe­cially compared with my old Moto G) is the SE’s superb 12MP camera, offering a whole new world of colours, slow ­motion videos and time lapses.

It might not be the brightest camera on the market, but it offers much more than the aver­age user will ever need. The selfie camera, at just 1.2MP, is unchanged from the 5S though.

The iPhone SE retails from Dh1,649 for the base level 16GB model, rising to Dh2,049 for a 64GB model.

This makes it very reasonable compared with the entry-level models of the iPhone 6 (Dh2,199) and 6S (Dh2,599), but facing competition from plenty of similarly priced Android ­models.

But if you’re looking for a powerful iPhone with a great camera but a smaller display, the SE is the best of its kind.

q&a tried and tested formula

Alvaro Sanmarti expands on the selling points of the new ­iPhone SE:

Let’s take a step back here: why is Apple selling a phone with a 4-inch display. Aren’t we all used to 5-inch displays now?

Well, Apple says that it sold more than 30 million devices with 4-inch displays during 2015. So it seems that plenty of people still appreciate a smaller display, or perhaps don’t mind a smaller screen if it means paying a little less.

And why has Apple decided to use the same design of iPhone 5, which was launched in 2012, and not a new one?

It’s safe to assume that a fair proportion of those 30 million devices sold last year were ­either iPhone 5s or 5Ss, meaning it’s a design that people still like.

How have sales been so far?

Apple hasn’t given any early sales figures yet, so it’s hard to say. CNBC claimed that there had been more than 3.4 million pre-orders in China, with rose-gold the most popular option. However, the mobile analytics firm Localytics described early take up as “lacklustre”, compared with first weekend sales of the 5S, 6 and 6S models.

So is Apple’s latest small-screen device enough to tempt Android users to make the switch?

I like the iPhone SE, especially its power and its camera, but I still personally don’t like the way iOS looks, even after sev­eral days of trying to get used to it. One difference I can’t get over is the notifications, which are stacked one after the other, unlike in Android where they are grouped by app.

* with additional reporting from John Everington

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