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Why the iPhone SE is the best value Apple smartphone on the market
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Why the iPhone SE is the best value Apple smartphone on the market

by Stephen Charlton2017/04/28

My iPhone 5s died on me recently so I had the unenviable task of working out which model to replace it with. Apple currently offer five different iPhone models, so it can be a bit of a task to work out which one is right for you. The line-up is: iPhone 7 Plus (from $769), 7 (from $649), 6S Plus (from $649), 6S (from $549) and SE (from $399).

Sometimes the cheapest option means a rubbish product. However, in the case of the iPhone SE, what you get is a great little compact phone that has many of the advantages of its bigger brothers. The best value phone of course depends on what specifically you are looking for. But many of the features of the high-end models are not essentials by any means, so the SE will serve many people just as well.

Bigger isn’t always better

Apple iPhone SE iPhone 6S Plus comparison

The current line-up of iPhone models.

The current smartphone trend is bigger screens. They are beloved by people who extensively use video on their phone, professionals and for being easier on the eyes. But a smaller format is often easier to handle and getting around with a 7 or 6s Plus-size phone in your pocket isn’t much fun. The iPhone SE is the smallest in the line-up, which makes it decidedly untrendy, but more practical for many users. It also means a lower price-tag, and we’re not all made of money.

Battery life matters

Apple iPhone SE iPhone 6S Plus side

The iPhone SE.

OK so big screens may be good for video, but they ain’t so great for battery life. The more pixels your phone has to light up, the faster the battery is going to drain. I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest hassles of smartphone use for me is keeping the damn thing charged. The SE’s smaller footprint means that it’s better at holding its charge. For me, that’s a big plus.

Headphone jack hangs on

Apple iPhone SE iPhone 6S Plus headphones

The accessories included with the iPhone SE.

The iPhone 6s and SE retain the trusty 3.5mm headphone jack. This little survivor has been hanging on since the 19th century and consumers were pretty upset when Apple gave it the flick for the iPhone 7. Apple were able to make several design improvements by removing it, and they also made a big push for wireless headphones via Beats. Wireless headphones may indeed be on the rise but many of us, particularly audiophiles, still value the audio quality provided by wired headphones. Many headphones still use the 3.5mm standard and having to plug your cans into a Lightning adapter is a hassle.

Advantages of iPhone 6s and 7

Apple iPhone SE iPhone 6S Plus iPhone 7

The iPhone 7.

So what do you get for your money in the high-end models? As Apple staff will tell you, the SE is basically an iPhone 6s crammed into the chassis of an iPhone 5. So there’s not a huge amount of difference between the two models apart from the size of the phone. There’s a second generation finger print sensor in the iPhone 6s as opposed to the older sensor in the SE. That’s about it in terms of the notable differences.

The iPhone 7 does have a raft of new features. There’s more colour options for one and the max storage size available is 256GB rather than 128GB. There’s stereo speakers and a new Retina HD display. It’s also water, splash and dust resistant. I admit having a water resistant phone is one notable upgrade, having bricked an iPhone a few years back by dropping it in a sink.

Apple have included an updated A10 chip and a new camera, although all models have the same 12 megapixel quality. The updated chip means that the iPhone 7 has an hour longer battery life than the 6s, as stated clearly on the Apple website. However, Apple notably fail to compare the 7 battery life to the SE, which tells you a thing or two about the battery advantages of having a smaller screen.

iPhone SE wins for budget-conscious buyers

Apple iPhone SE iPhone 6S Plus rear

The iPhone SE.

So there’s a bunch of new features on the iPhone 7, but none of them are really essential. They’re nice upgrades but if you are on a budget, you aren’t going to lose any sleep pining after an A10 chip and a redesigned camera. Clearly some consumers will value the upgrades depending on their requirements, but many will get by perfectly fine with the SE. Apple has previously exclusively targeted the high-end market in terms of smartphones, and maybe at the time they had the market pull to do it. But now, with increasing competition from Samsung, they’ve bowed to consumer expectation and offered a more competitive budget option. And as consumers we benefit from it.

The 128GB vs 32GB debate

It’s worth mentioning that whatever model you choose, you’re likely better off going for the 128GB model or higher rather than the 32GB. With 12 megapixel photos and 4K videos, your iPhone can fill up a lot quicker now. With 32GB I couldn’t fit more than 1/10th of my music collection on my iPhone, and that’s not including any other storage content. Not everyone has the type of music collection I do, but most people I know struggle with managing their iTunes with only 32GB to play with. There’s also downloadable Apple music playlists and Netflix video downloads which can eat up your storage. Some people don’t extensively use music, video and photo content, and they would be fine getting by with a 32GB. But I’d say if you do regularly use that type of content, 128GB is the way to go.

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About The Author
Stephen Charlton
Stephen Charlton is a musician, journalist and editor.

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