Is Apple’s cheap iPhone worth it?

Apple's 2020 iPhone might be the perfect device for this year.

And, no, that doesn't mean it's a disaster that few anticipated.

The second iPhone SE ticks the boxes of our time because (a) it's frugal, (b) it's pocketable enough to wear around the house in sweatpants or activewear, and (c) it's powerful enough to help you work from home.

It also brings back a device with a passionate fan base - not everyone likes the big-screen flagship devices that command the highest prices.

That said, the iPhone SE won't appeal to everyone. This is what you can expect from Apple's cheapest iPhone due out on Friday.

 

TECH THROWBACK

A lot has changed since Apple launched its first iPhone SE.

That's because the launch took place four years ago, or what feels like at least a decade in smartphone years.

This device still seems retro, though. Its screen is bigger than before - an upgrade to 4.7 inches from four inches in 2016 - but is still quite small by modern standards.

 

That feeling is cemented by the substantial "forehead and chin" borders above and below it that are absent in modern iPhones, and the Touch ID fingerprint scanner that we haven't seen on a modern iPhone or iPad in years.

The screen and the scanner work just as expected, however, and the smaller, Retina HD screen is clear and easy to read.

Its small display and tiny form should also appeal to fans of modestly sized smartphones who are regularly overwhelmed by the size of flagship devices.

 

MODERN TOUCHES

Apple's new "cheapie" shares a lot of its features with the iPhone 8 from 2017.

In fact, in a specifications showdown, you'll find only modest differences between the two.

What is different is the power behind this pocketable device.

The second generation iPhone SE gets a boost to an A13 Bionic chip and a third-generation Neural Engine just as you'd find in the recently released iPhone 11.

That helps this phone operate hefty apps on its small screen, and makes it very capable of wielding the latest Apple operating system.

Apple’s new iPhone SE features just one rear camera. Picture: Supplied
Apple’s new iPhone SE features just one rear camera. Picture: Supplied

This phone's other thoroughly modern upgrade is in its camera.

While the 12-megapixel shooter is still alone on the back of this device, with just one lens in play, it uses software to deliver Portrait mode and does a better job than you might expect.

Even when it didn't detect a face before it, this camera blurred the background of objects in an artful way to approximate what a digital camera would do.

Other additions like Portrait lighting, QuickTake video (you can hold the shutter icon down to capture video), and HDR that makes the most of available light make this camera better than you might expect from its hardware alone.

 

FEATURE BOOST

The new iPhone SE appropriates a few modern upgrades from the iPhone 8 that new users should appreciate.

You can charge this smartphone wirelessly, for example.

It's also water and dust-resistant, with Apple promising it can survive long dunks in water or spills from soft drink and coffee.

 

This model also connects to faster 4G networks and, like the iPhone 11, will support two mobile phone services at once - one from a physical SIM card and the other from an eSIM.

This can be handy if you're travelling (when that's allowed), or if you want to combine work and home services into one device.

 

VERDICT

Apple's latest iPhone isn't a breakthrough gadget, except when it comes to price.

Its single camera, small screen, big borders, and limited battery won't appease demanding smartphone users.

But the second iPhone SE costs just one third the price of a top model iPhone, and even a 256GB version of it sneaks in under the $1000 barrier.

If you've been asked to buy an iPhone for a demanding tween, if you need to replace a broken device, or if you're a fan of small phones (and cannot lie), the second iPhone SE will be very attractive.

Plus, this canny device could sweep up any wavering Google Android users who want to see what life is like on the other side of the software divide.

Originally published as Is Apple's cheap iPhone worth it?



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