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Apple iPhone SE Review: A Phone for the Anti-Consumer

Apple has a new, cheaper iPhone arriving in stores Friday that contains the bare minimum of what we need in a smartphone. The latest iPhone SE has a bright screen, a fast processor, a quality camera and a robust battery life. He also calls.

But for most of us, that won’t be enough.

Year after year, the majority of customers turn to more expensive iPhones ranging from $700 to $1,100. While we get redundant features that we rarely use, for many of us a phone is more than just a phone. Instead, it’s an investment in how we expect to do work, entertain, and connect with our loved ones. Some of us are alike willing to take on debt for which has become a status symbol.

This is all to say that Apple’s budget iPhone SE is for a certain type of customer: the anti-consumer. You’ll probably want this $430 phone if you meet one of the following criteria:

• You don’t care about super fast features like ultra fast mobile speed.

• You rightly acknowledge that smartphone technology has been around for so long that today you should pay less for it.

• You don’t care what the number of camera lenses or pixels on a screen tells your friends and colleagues about your wealth.

• You only upgrade to a new phone if you really think it’s necessary.

In short, the latest iPhone is for those who just want a no-nonsense phone that works well for a reasonable price. If that’s you, here’s what you need to know about it.

For this budget iPhone, Apple took the best parts of its more expensive iPhones and pressed them into the shell of an older iPhone with a home button and smaller screen.

Let’s start with the highlights.

Like the more luxurious iPhones, the new iPhone SE offers connectivity to 5G, the latest cellular network. In my testing of the device in the San Francisco Bay Area, 5G data speeds were up to 20 percent faster than 4G. That’s not amazing, but it’s a nice feature to have as 5G networks become more widespread.

The new iPhone also has the same computing processor as the more expensive iPhone 13 models. According to the speed-testing app Geekbench, the computing power of the cheaper phone was equal to that of the iPhone 13. That meant that apps and games opened in a jiffy and ran smoothly.

The iPhone SE’s battery was another strong point. The previous generation of the 2020 phone had an insufficient battery that drained around 7pm every day. I found that the new model has enough battery life until bedtime.

Just as important to know is what the new iPhone lacks compared to the more expensive models. Here’s some good news: In my testing, the compromises were small.

One of the iPhone SE’s most notable omissions was compatibility with an ultra-fast variant of 5G known as “millimetre wave.” This data connection, hyped by carriers like Verizon and AT&T, can deliver speeds so fast that a movie can be downloaded in seconds.

The problem is that 5G millimeter wave technology travels short distances and struggles to penetrate walls and obstacles. As a result, it is rare to even find a connection. People who buy an iPhone SE probably won’t even know it’s missing.

The more notable downside of the latest iPhone is the camera. The fancy camera system on more expensive iPhones has multiple lenses that can capture more light.

In my testing, the iPhone SE took clear and vibrant photos in daylight, but didn’t do as well in more challenging lighting conditions. In a photo of my dogs on a shaded trail, the iPhone SE produced an image with less detail and unnatural colors compared to the $700 iPhone 13 Mini. The iPhone SE camera also lacks the special night mode found on the more luxurious iPhones for taking pictures in the dark. However, using Flash is always an option.

The most noticeable difference was the screen. The iPhone SE’s 4.7-inch screen felt limited and looked fainter compared to more expensive iPhones, which have 5.4 to 6.7-inch screens. This was probably the most distinguishing factor: if your eyesight isn’t good or you spend a lot of time streaming videos, you probably prefer a bigger screen.

While there are some trade-offs when spending less on a smartphone, the new iPhone delivers more than satisfactory results. The $700+ iPhones are better, but not 60 percent better.

It’s worth remembering that there are other strong phone contenders in the iPhone SE’s price range. Those include Google’s $400 Pixel 5A, which has several pros and cons. In my testing, the Google phone has a slightly larger screen and takes better photos in low light. But the Pixel phone wasn’t as fast as the iPhone SE, and it may not last as long because Google guarantees it device software updates only until 2024.

But in the end, both phones excel at what we need—connect to the Internet, make calls, and take photos—at a fraction of the price of their more expensive counterparts. In an age where the cost of just about everything seems to be skyrocketing, that’s something to celebrate.

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