An iPhone for Everyone

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Apple’s new iPhone SE offers outstanding value at a shockingly reasonable price

Apple is not a company that’s known for offering adequate bang for your hard-earned buck. While iPhones have always been considered elite-grade flagships in general, they are also notorious for being ridiculously overpriced, lacking basic and essential features, and also relying far too much on gimmicks instead of providing actual utility. For a lot of people, iPhones even do double duty as status symbols because of their premium build quality, prohibitive prices and, of course, the fruit logo adorning the phone.

Since Apple has pretty much normalized the idea that a flagship-grade phone needs to cost an arm and a leg (a trend sadly adopted by a vast number of other smartphone manufacturers, it came as a massively jarring shock to us when we learned about the new iPhone SE – an Apple product bearing a reasonable price tag of ‘only’ USD 399. No, that is not a typo, you read it right.

But how many corners did Apple have to cut to make this wonder possible? Surely it’s a cheap phone without any features, and no one would want that, right? Right?
Wrong.

The most interesting part about the iPhone SE is that it completely eschews the trend of full-face displays that have become normal for modern smartphones, instead choosing to invoke the relatively vintage appearance of the 2017 iPhone 8. While this means the phone has very prominent bezels, notably a large forehead and a chin bearing the much-missed home button (which also doubles as the housing for the triumphantly returning Touch ID fingerprint sensor, an essential feature that Apple had decided to toss out of its flagship phones for reasons too absurd to guess), it also means that it has a screen size of only 4.7 inches, making it one of the most petite phones currently available on the market, perfect for smaller hands and also for people who dearly miss the days when every phone wasn’t the size of a pavement slab. Despite the dated appearance, the minimalistic metal-and-glass construction of the phone still continues to remain beautiful, and many old-school customers are overjoyed by the return of the home button.

The most interesting part about the iPhone SE is that it completely eschews the trend of full-face displays that has become normal for modern smartphones, instead choosing to invoke the relatively vintage appearance of the 2017 iPhone 8

The lower screen size also means that the lower display resolution (a paltry 750×1334 pixels, barely above basic 720p HD resolutions, and far lower than the market standard set by 1080p full HD displays) is less obvious because of the slightly increased pixel density. It is still unknown why Apple deliberately chooses to gimp the screen resolutions of iPhones, but while the lower pixel density is one of the few notable cons of the iPhone SE, the quality of the display is undeniably stunning despite the lower pixel count, and the lower pixel count also comes with the secondary benefit of increased battery life, as the processor of the phone would have to push fewer pixels per second.

Speaking of processors, the most interesting feature about the iPhone SE is the fact that instead of turning it into a subpar midrange offering, Apple chose to equip it with a six-core A13 Bionic CPU, which is the best processor the company has to offer. Not only is the processor immensely powerful (being used in their top-of-the-line iPhone 11 range of smartphones), but it is also incredibly efficient, with minimal power draw that gives the iPhone SE superb battery life, despite having a battery with half the capacity of most current-generation flagship phones. Sure enough, the iPhone SE can easily last for over 24 hours on a single charge under moderate use, sometimes even longer – an extremely impressive feat. It is also capable of running every app on the Apple Store without hiccups, and it can be said with confidence that the device is going to remain adequately future-proofed for at least a couple of years from now. The 3GB of RAM also keeps things zippy and lag-free.

The 64GB storage on the base model of the iPhone SE is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done, even without support for removable storage options, especially if you are diligent about routinely transferring your 4K video recordings to other devices. The camera of the iPhone SE is also extremely formidable, capable of producing photos of extraordinary quality despite being equipped with only a single rear camera. Effects like Smart HDR and Portrait Mode are executed well, and while it lacks an ultrawide-angle lens, it isn’t exactly regular for one of those to show up in phones at this price point. The colour accuracy and detail of the photos are stunning even in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, but there are no Night Mode or advanced processing options.

To make the deal even sweeter, the iPhone SE comes with dual SIM card slots by default (as if its eagerness to compete for neck-and-neck with Chinese smartphones was not obvious enough already), along with IP67 water and dust resistance rating and support for wireless charging. These features don’t normally make appearances in similarly priced phones, which makes it even more stunning as an offering, especially when one stops to consider that it’s from Apple, a company that has been selling cut-throat priced gadgets to customers for decades.

For what is probably the first time ever, not only is Apple launching an offensive directly into the midrange market, but it is doing so with a device that people would actually want to buy, and because of the affordable price, actually buy it and be happy about it too. It is safe to say that every Chinese smartphone manufacturer has moved its alertness levels to DEFCON 4 after seeing the iPhone SE drop in. In a world that is likely to be riddled with financial complications following the COVID-19 catastrophe, this is probably one of the best phones you can buy if you aren’t looking for something from the Android camp, and it’s a pretty compelling offering even when being assessed on its own without drawing comparisons.

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