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  • Cheryl Tan

5 Things We Discovered About the iPhone SE

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

We’ve been using the iPhone SE as our daily driver for the last few weeks and here are five things we discovered about it.

First off, it’s the size. It’s been a while since we’ve used a small phone, with all the new phones on the market lately like the iPhone 11 Pro Max, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and more having screens over 6-inches. We’ve gotten used to that nowadays, especially when consuming so much content.

But when you pick up the SE for the first time, you really get that joy of being able to use a phone with one hand. Typing, taking photos, navigating menus and more, it’s just so much easier. It’s more convenient to carry the iPhone SE around than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, especially for people who are active users.

Now, there is the iPhone XR and 11 Pro, but at this size point, Apple could really consider bringing out a Pro variant for people who want a flagship device in a smaller form factor.

Touch ID makes its way into the SE, and it’s a godsend for people in recent times. With requirements for people to constantly wear masks when out and about, it’s definitely hindering the ease of access that Face Unlock provides.

Instead of having to pull down your mask to authenticate for Apple Pay or unlock your phone, it’s much more convenient nowadays to be able to unlock the phone via fingerprint. Having said that though, hopefully, Apple moves away from the Touch ID home button and implements an in-screen fingerprint reader for future iPhones since that would take away the bottom bezel and offer users more screen real-estate.

Yes, this phone doesn’t have all the ultra-wide-angle and telephoto lenses that the new flagship phones have, but we didn’t miss it as much as we thought we would. People were already taking great photos when the first few iPhones launched, and working with the limitations of the cameras then.

Even though there’s just one rear camera on this phone, we think it’s the sweet spot for many photographers out there and it’s just like taking photos with a camera. You work with the tools you have. One of the things that we do miss is the software.

Portrait mode on the iPhone SE is only for humans, so if you’re looking to use it for static objects or even pets, you don’t get that separation and beautiful depth of field effect. Perhaps they’re just limiting the phone so that it doesn’t encroach onto the other flagship iPhones’ territories, but it would be nice to have.

The front-facing camera is a lower megapixel lens, but it does the job and we have no complaints at all about it.

You might think that performance takes a hit since this is a more affordable phone, but it doesn’t. In fact, it’s blazing fast thanks to the A13 chip that’s inside, the same chip that powers the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

We didn’t expect Apple to use this chipset here at all, but it’s definitely a huge bonus that they have. Unfortunately, performance comes at a cost. And that cost is battery life.

It’s our main complaint about the iPhone SE, in fact. If you’re constantly on your phone, editing photos and videos, watching YouTube content and more, you’re probably not the type of user Apple is targeting either.

With heavy usage, you might find yourself charging this phone as much as twice a day. The battery life is pretty much on par with the iPhone 8, which we found we had to charge quite frequently as well.

Of course, we’re not expecting the battery life on this to compete with the iPhone 11 Pro Max since they’re different phones and all, but we do think that Apple could have put a bigger battery in the iPhone SE.

Like we said in our MacBook Air review a while back, you need to know where this product sits in the lineup and you shouldn’t try to push it to do what it’s not intended for. So who is it for? Maybe for schooling children, the elderly who just want to keep in touch with their family and consume content occasionally, or even business travellers who just needs a backup phone in case their main phone gets stolen or lost.

We don’t recommend this for power users who demand a lot out of their phone because of the battery life, but we do applaud Apple for coming out with a phone that has this level of build quality at a more affordable price point.

More information and purchase options for the iPhone SE (starting from S$649) can be found on Apple’s website.

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