iPhone SE Review Roundup: The ‘Best iPhone for Most People’

Apple unveiled the iPhone SE last week, the first time it has ever announced a phone without a glitzy press event.

Since then, the iPhone SE has been in the hands of tech journalists and influencers everywhere, and today the first round of reviews have hit the web. Here’s a convenient review roundup from some of the most in-depth articles so far.

The inclusion of the A13 Bionic processor is what “future-proofs the phone,” allowing it to be updated for years to come, says Lauren Goode from Wired:

That power-efficient processor, though, is one of the biggest selling points of the iPhone SE. It’s what future-proofs the phone—to a point, since the iPhone SE won’t be able to connect to 5G networks when they’re more widespread. Apple has equipped the iPhone SE with the same chip system that powers the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max. It has a six-core CPU, a four-core GPU, and an eight-core neural engine, all of which are involved in a delicate dance of task handoffs, depending on the intensity of the task at hand. […]

Of course, this “A13 Bionic” chip may soon enough become the second-most performant mobile chip Apple makes, depending on what’s in the devices that launch this fall. But for now, the iPhone SE’s chip is in the same class as the flagships.

Patrick Holland from CNET says the iPhone SE’s camera goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11’s main rear camera:

The rear camera on the SE has the same specs as the iPhone 8, but when combined with the A13 chip and iOS 13 it transforms the camera into something that can compete with the best phone cameras, and even go toe-to-toe with the main rear camera on the iPhone 11. It has a slew of features, including Smart HDR for photos, Quick Take filming and Portrait Mode — these are impressive features and a first for a $399 iPhone.

Engadget‘s Chris Velazco wasn’t super impressed with the phone’s display, saying it was a bit too small for his hands. The size, however, might be a plus for some users:

I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m in love with this screen — it’s easily the least impressive part of this phone. Even so, this display is perfectly fine for what it is. The only real question is whether it’s big enough for you. Frankly, it isn’t for me: My eyes aren’t great, so I gravitate toward phones with bigger screens. And my thumbs are sort of fat, so typing on this display took a lot longer to get used to than I had hoped. If some of that rings true for you, too, the iPhone SE may not be the right fit. 

Of course, there are people for whom the opposite might be true. I’ve met a surprising number of people over the years who found the original iPhone SE design — the one it shared with the iPhone 5s — ideal. For them, this newer version might actually feel a little too big. What can I say? It all boils down to taste. 

Matthew Panzarino from TechCrunch says the new iPhone SE is “cheap and cheerful”, and will widen the gate for people to spend money on Apple’s services:

[…] Apple stands to gain far more from making the front door wider than it does from making the threshold higher. The iPhone SE opens up new audiences for Apple. It’s an ideal phone for first time iPhone users, young buyers getting their first device and people currently on a budget.

Besides being the first attempt by Apple at this market in the modern smartphone era, it’s also the first iPhone since the company pivoted heavily into the services business. Apple saw that every iPhone needed to give the breath of life to more business for its other divisions as the market for devices entered its oxygen-saturation phase.

The iPhone SE will bring, or graduate, people into the Apple ecosystem and push money into the services category of its business for years to come. Even if they keep the device for years and never upgrade.

The Verge‘s Dieter Bohn was stunned by the price to quality ratio of the iPhone SE, saying it’s the best sub-$500 USD phone on the market:

If I were buying the iPhone SE, I’d seriously consider spending the extra $50 to upgrade the storage to 128GB, just in case I’d want it three or five years down the road. That timespan is the reason the iPhone SE is a big deal. No other phone that costs less than $500 can claim to be this good, nor last that long.

The iPhone SE is not just a good deal. It’s also a really good smartphone.

Todd Haselton from CNBC calls it the “best iPhone for most people”:

When I reviewed the iPhone 11 in September, I said it was the best iPhone for most people. But we’re in a vastly changed economic situation. You may be saving pennies for food, your mortgage or rent. For $399, the iPhone SE is the new best iPhone for most people. It’s an incredible value for something you’ll use every day and will last you at least three years.

The new iPhone SE can be pre-ordered on Apple.com in Canada and more than 40 other countries and regions. Pricing starts at $599 CAD for 64GB of storage, with 128GB and 256GB options available for $669 and $809, respectively. The first deliveries to customers and in-store availability at select resellers will begin Friday, April 24.