iPhone SE Specs, Price, and Features: Should You Upgrade?

Apple introduces the iPhone SE

Trying to figure out if the iPhone SE is the right iPhone for you? Here are the factors you should consider | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Since Apple introduced the iPhone SE this spring, plenty of Apple fans have been asking themselves whether they should upgrade to the new iPhone. If you long for the days when your iPhone could fit neatly in your hand and you didn’t need features like Reachability to make the device easier to use one-handed — or if you’ve simply avoided upgrading from an old iPhone — then upgrading to the iPhone SE is a compelling option.

The phone has specifications that will far outpace what you’d get with the outdated iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s, and the new 4-inch iPhone isn’t far behind Apple’s larger iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus. Trying to figure out if the iPhone SE is the right phone for you? Read on to find out everything you need to know.

What are the specs and price of the iPhone SE?

The iPhone SE is equipped with the A9 processor, M9 motion coprocessor, and 2GB of RAM found in the iPhone 6s. It supports LTE up to 150Mbps, which makes it up to 50% faster than the iPhone 5s, and supports more LTE bands. The phone features 802.11ac Wi-Fi, supports high-quality Wi-Fi calling, is equipped with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and integrates an NFC radio and the Secure Element for Apple Pay.

It also integrates Apple’s “most advanced” camera system, comprised of a 12MP iSight camera with Focus Pixels for fast focusing, True Tone flash, a new image signal processor, Live Photos support, and the ability to capture panoramas up to 63MP and record 4K video. The device costs $399 for a model with 16GB of storage or $499 for a 64GB model. It’s available in space gray, silver, gold, and rose gold metallic finishes.

How does the iPhone SE compare to the iPhone 6S, or 5S?

The new iPhone SE seen at Apple's headquarters

To figure out if the iPhone SE is for you, you have to compare it to the other models in Apple’s iPhone lineup | Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

The iPhone SE is smaller and lighter than the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. The iPhone SE features the A9 processor and M9 motion coprocessor that Apple introduced with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Those chips are a generation better than the chips used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and significantly more advanced than those in Apple’s last small-screen iPhone, the iPhone 5s. The iPhone SE is equipped with 2GB of RAM, which is the same level found in the iPhone 6s and twice as much as what powers the iPhone 6. Apple added the iPhone 6s’s 12MP iSight camera — a camera that it positioned as a significant upgrade from the 8MP camera used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus — to the iPhone SE. The phone is also equipped with an NFC chip and the Secure Element for Apple Pay, plus a Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

Though externally, the iPhone SE is largely indistinguishable from the iPhone 5s, the new model is a major upgrade, and is basically a smaller version of the iPhone 6s. Of course, you can always wait until the iPhone 7 release date to find out what changes with the newest iPhone, but right now, the iPhone SE isn’t far behind the current iPhone 6s. And while it may be a moot point if you’re set on the smaller size, it is worth noting that the SE does lack a few features of the larger phone.

That includes 3D Touch, the latest Touch ID sensor, and the option to upgrade to 128GB of storage. The iPhone SE also uses an older display that isn’t as bright or impressive as the one found on the iPhone 6s. Additionally, the front-facing selfie camera in the iPhone SE is the iPhone 5’s selfie camera, instead of the one introduced with the iPhone 5s or the iPhone 6s. And even though the iPhone incorporates the M9 motion coprocessor, it lacks the barometer that would enable it to accurately estimate how many stairs you’ve climbed.

Who should consider the iPhone SE?

Apple's new iPhone SE starts at just 16GB of storage

For some types of smartphone users, the iPhone SE is a great deal | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple now offers a full range of modern iPhones. There’s the 4-inch iPhone SE, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus. But the iPhone SE isn’t just for iPhone owners who aren’t ready to let go of a smaller-sized device. Reviews from a wide range of journalists and bloggers have been largely positive, and many reviewers praised Apple’s choice to pack powerful specifications into a small body. The upshot is that if you prefer a smaller iPhone to the larger body of the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus form factors, the SE is a great model to consider.

Using the iPhone SE may take some adjusting if you’re currently using a larger smartphone, iPhone or otherwise. But if you’ve been holding on to a smaller iPhone 5s or iPhone 5, you’ll feel right at home when you pick up Apple’s latest iPhone model. The smaller size makes it easier to handle, especially for tech fans with smaller hands. The device is more budget-friendly than Apple’s other current iPhones, and the powerful specs packed into the SE mean that the device will remain capable for multiple years.

iPhone fans who really want the latest and greatest may want to wait a couple more months for the iPhone 7 to be released, since the iPhone SE’s March release means that a new iPhone was slated to arrive sooner rather than later. Ultimately, unless you plan to upgrade to a new iPhone every year, there’s always going to be something better on its way. If you always want to wait to see what’s coming next, you’ll end up waiting forever. But if you need a new iPhone this year — instead of next year or the year after — the iPhone SE is a pretty great deal for Apple fans who prefer a smaller phone.

What’s the best way to buy the iPhone SE?

Customers outside of an Apple store, one of the places you can buy the iPhone SE

If you’ve decided to purchase the iPhone SE, you next have to figure out the best way to do so | John Gress/Getty Images

Figuring out when to buy a new iPhone is a conundrum on its own. But if you’re ready to upgrade to the iPhone SE, here’s what you need to know. The iPhone SE is less expensive than the other options in Apple’s lineup, and starts at just $399, as compared to a starting price of $549 for the iPhone 6 or $649 for the iPhone 6s. We maintain that the best way to buy a new iPhone is to purchase the device outright, if you’re comfortable spending the cash. If you have an old iPhone to sell, doing so can help you offset the purchase price of your new iPhone.

If you prefer to pay for your iPhone in installments, you have a lot of options. Some carriers are offering the 16GB iPhone SE for free with a two-year contract, and with Apple’s Upgrade Program, the devices starts at $17 per month for 24 monthly payments. The Apple store can also get you set up with the Trade Up With Installments program, which enables you to purchase the iPhone SE for as little as $10 per month for 24 months.

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