iPhone SE Hardware & Software Features

iPhone SE
Apple

Introduced: March 21, 2016

Released: March 31, 2016

Discontinued: n/a, still being sold

For many years, Apple released new iPhone models just once a year, usually in the fall. That changed with the 2016 release of the iPhone SE. But the release schedule isn't the only big change ushered in with the SE. After two generations of larger phones — the 6 and 6S series (and continued with the 7 and 8 series) have screens that are 4.7 or 5.5 inches — the SE brings a 4-inch screen back to the line up of new iPhone models.

It can be helpful to think of the iPhone SE as being an iPhone 6S in the body of a 5S. This isn't completely accurate, as we'll see, but it puts you in the right mindset.

To get a sense of how the iPhone SE stacks up against other iPhones released around the same time, and after it, check out our side-by-side chart Comparison of iPhone Models.

Why Apple Released the iPhone SE

The release of a new 4-inch iPhone in 2016 came as a but of a surprise after two years of larger phones and the gradual phasing out of older, 4-inch models. Apple's introduction of the SE stemmed from two major drivers:

  1. Emerging Markets: Apple has huge opportunities to gain new customers in populous emerging markets like India and China, but its larger, more expensive phones have limited audiences there. By offering a powerful, smaller, more affordable phone, it hopes to capture more customers in those regions.
  2. Slow Upgrades to the iPhone 6/6S: In Apple's quarterly earnings conference call for the first quarter of 2016, CEO Tim Cook revealed that 60% of iPhone owners hadn't yet upgraded to the iPhone 6 series or 6S series. It was assumed that some of this reluctance was driven by people preferring a 4-inch screen. Apple hoped that the SE would prompt these users to upgrade.

iPhone SE Hardware Features

Key hardware features of the iPhone SE include:

  • 64-bit Apple A9 processor.
  • M9 motion co-processor.
  • NFC (near-field communication) and Apple Pay support.
  • Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
  • Faster 4G LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity, including 802.11ac compatibility.

Screen

  • 4 inches
  • 1136 x 640 pixels, at 326 pixels per inch (same as the iPhone 5S)
  • Does not support 3D Touch

iPhone SE Cameras

Back Camera

  • Photos: 12 megapixels, panoramic photos up to 63 megapixels
  • Video: 4K video at 30 frames/per second (fps); 1080p HD at 30 or 60 fps; Slo-mo at 120 fps (1080p) or 240 fps (720p)

User-Facing Camera

  • Photos: 1.2 megapixels
  • Video: 720p HD recording
  • Use the phone screen as the camera flash

Battery Life

  • Talk: up to 14 hours on 3G
  • Internet: up to 13 hours on LTE and Wi-Fi
  • Video: up to 13 hours
  • Audio: up to 50 hours
  • Standby: up to 10 days

Colors 

  • Gold
  • Rose Gold
  • Silver
  • Space Gray

Size and Weight 

  • 4.87 inches tall x 2.31 inches wide x 0.30 inches thick
  • 3.99 ounces

iPhone SE Software Features

The iPhone SE supports all of the common software features available on all current iPhones, such as FaceTime, iMessage, Wi-Fi calling, and supports new features including:

Capacity and Price

32GB: $399

128GB: $499

Availability

The iPhone SE was updated in early 2017 with higher storage capacities (but no price increase) and is currently available at Apple and all carrier stores.

The Fate of Previous iPhone Models

When Apple releases a new iPhone model, it usually replaces the previous model and knocks some older models out of production entirely. That isn't the case with the iPhone SE. Rather than replacing a model, the SE is complementary to the models with larger screens and simply expands the options in the iPhone line up.

Critical Reception of the iPhone SE

Reviews of the iPhone SE were generally very positive, with reviews tending to be in the 4-stars-out-of-5 range:

  • Engadget awarded the SE 89 out of 100 points, saying "the iPhone SE is a lovely smartphone for iOS newcomers and small-handed users alike."
  • CNET rated the SE as 81 out of 100 points and said: "Apple's most affordable phone is still a nice little speed demon, and totally holds its own against the larger, newer iPhones."
  • In giving it 4 out of 5 stars, PC World named it the magazine's "Editors' Choice for smaller smartphones."