A review of the iPhone SE: reasonably priced entry-level device

May 1, 2020 — by Michael Wong

After rumors circulated for years about a new release of the 2016 iPhone SE, Apple has finally released a second-generation of the budget phone with major upgrades and changes on April 24.

For the last three years, I’ve been using the iPhone SE, and my daily usage has given me a thorough impression of the phone.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the iPhone SE is its size. The original version measures in with a screen diagonal of 4 inches, and the newly-released one still maintains a relatively tiny 4.7 inches despite the current trend toward larger smartphones. In addition, it weighs only 113 grams (148 grams for the new version), which means I frequently lose track of my phone when it slips to the bottom of my pant pockets or when I happen to sit on it for too long.

Personally, I’m glad that Apple agreed that the old phone is simply too small. Though there has been an outcry against the fact that the newer model is enlarged to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus model size, the extra space means easier viewability. Sure, I can easily touch all four corners of my phone with my thumb while holding it in one hand, but I would rather be able to see content without having to physically zoom in and place my phone an inch in front of my eyes.

Those who wanted the same design with the power button on top and a headphone jack on the bottom will find that the new iPhone SE has ditched most of these older features though the home button is still there along with the mostly-forgotten Touch ID. Its internal chips and components have all been upgraded to current specifications, and the phone camera, which served me well on the former version, has been upgraded to support most of Apple’s computational photography features.

One thing I appreciate about my phone is its durability. When my $7, ultra-thin plastic case cracked after a year, and the screen protector peeled off, I decided to go commando with my phone. Despite constantly dropping it onto concrete surfaces and porcelain tiles, the screen has yet to crack or even scratch (though, admittedly, the entire screen seems to be peeling out from the top right corner). The new design, however, scraps the blockiness of the old one in favor of a sleeker, curved-edge design, which means that my experience may drastically differ when using the new generation.

Still, my biggest problem by far is the battery life. While my usage pattern does not promote the healthiest practices, my current maximum of two- to three-hour cycles pales in comparison with the advertised 12-plus hours of battery life. Intensive applications, such as streams or games, overheat my phone and drain the battery even more quickly. Early tests of the new iPhone SE by independent reviewers don’t seem to be too positive on the battery life either, in comparison to other iPhones and competitor models.

At its $399 price tag, though, the new iPhone SE will be a great alternative for those who want the Apple brand but cannot afford or disagree with the Apple premium that has priced its top phones at over $1,000. The huge bezels, physical home button and the limited color options are minor inconveniences for its smaller form factor and much cheaper cost.

 

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.

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