The iPhone SE: more than just a smaller iPhone

Around the time I upgraded to the iPhone 6, I lost my enthusiasm for phones. After moving through the iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, 5 and 5S, the upward movements were minor, incremental and familiar. The iPhone has become something that is with me all of the time and which I use for so many tasks that I no longer feel impressed by it. It is, ironically, impressive that I do not notice it and only do things on it without thinking.

And so I moved to the iPhone 6 and found myself only mildly impressed, but sub-consciously annoyed that it does not sit in my pocket invisibly and that many tasks require two hands. It was only mildly noticeable, but here I was with the best iPhone (128GB of space, fastest processor and best camera etc) and I was not exactly fulfilled.

It comes down to those moments that cannot be described in a spec sheet or by an executive during a keynote, and it goes back to what I said earlier about not noticing it as an object. The iPhone 6 is noticeable to me because of its size and that is a minor negative when using it throughout the day; simple things like using it with one hand, carrying it in my pocket and just having it with me, unconsciously.

So, after some time with an SE in the Apple Store I decided to see if the perceived advantages of a smaller phone could make up for having half of the available space, less screen real estate and no 3D Touch…

After 2 hours with the SE, there is no doubt in my mind that the screen size is by far the hardest part to deal with. It’s jarring at first and quite a strange feeling- it really did feel like I was stepping back to something from the past and I was surprised at how difficult I found it. The problem was that the form and size of the phone are ‘so’ much nicer than the 6s and so it becomes a direct trade off between screen space and hand/pocket space.

1 day later

I have stuck with the SE and done everything I can to avoid the 6s, and things are starting to fall into place. SwiftKey one-handed is a brilliant data input solution which outperforms the default keyboard with two hands for me. The sheer convenience of being able to send a message or do anything else this way is positive indeed.

The speaker is surprisingly not as good as the 6s, which I didn’t expect because of the extra depth of the SE. I only tend to play podcasts through it so it’s not the end of the world, but there is a perceived difference and it is only when at maximum volume could the podcasts be heard loud and clear. For me, there was a noticeable difference between the second-top loudness and the maximum which appeared to be inconsistent with the rest of the levels. When I played the same podcast on both devices I admit that the differences are minimal, but there does still appear to be slightly more depth to the 6s speaker.

Navigation, games and apps presented differing challenges depending on what I needed to do, and most of them centred around getting my brain around the fact I was using a smaller device. The joy of being able to use one hand to do most things and being able to carry it in a shirt pocket without feeling its presence is a huge bonus and one that I underestimated. Indeed, I found myself quickly adjusting to the size and my long-term memory kicking in to take me back a couple of years to the time when my phone was not so obvious.

3 days later

I am completely sold on the iPhone SE.

It never gets in the way.

It is incredibly easy to use and I do not miss the larger screen at all.

It is very fast, easily on a par with the 6s, and for some reason feels snappier.

Not having 3D Touch is a bonus for me because there are no more moments of thinking what I need to do next.

The battery is better for me and in my case it puts the SE above the usability line for my usage. I am finding that I reach the end of a working day on approx 55% whereas on the 6s I was having to consider a charge before I got back in the car for the drive home.

I can genuinely say that I miss nothing about the 6s at all and am only seeing positives in the SE. I was careful to think hard about the novelty factor, but I have been here before with the iPhone 5 and 5s and I suspect that this is the perfect form factor for me.

I’m not a small guy and have fairly big hands, but still the SE feels right and more importantly, it feels right in every situation. A phone should be something that complements you on a daily basis and it should ‘never’ get in the way. That is the SE.

It may not be innovative, it may look and feel familiar, but boy does it feel good.

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