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iPhone SE vs iPhone 6S vs iPhone 6 – Which should you buy?

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Apple has just announced the new iPhone SE and it’s not quite what we expected. Instead of making a new plastic handset for a more price-conscious customer, it has instead packed pretty much all the technology of the iPhone 6S into a smaller handset, so that you don’t have to compromise on the latest technology just because you want a smaller phone. If you thought the

If you thought the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S were a bit on the big size then maybe the new iPhone SE will be more up your street? We look at the key differences between the current handsets in Apple’s range.

Screen

The new iPhone SE uses a similar 4in display to previous Apple handsets of this size. That means a fairly modest 1,136×640 resolution. It may not sound like much but on that considerably smaller screen it still amounts to 326ppi (pixels per inch). It was this resolution that Apple originally coined the terms Retina Display for, the idea being that you can’t see the pixels at the usual distance you hold the phone from your face. The iPhone SE also loses out in terms of contrast with an 800:1 quoted figure, well behind 1400:1 figure on the iPhone 6 and 6S.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S have larger 4.7in displays, which in turn have bigger 1,334×750 resolutions, but this still works out to 326ppi. The big gain here is simply a bigger display, a 4in screen feels cramped by modern standards, with even mobile-friendly websites being challenged by a lack of screen space. Watching movies and games will also suffer too. By picking a 6 or 6S you’re getting 38% more screen area.

The other big difference here is that the iPhone SE is not getting the iPhone 6S’s 3D Touch feature. This allows you to make shortcuts all over the operating system by simply pushing down harder on the screen. We’ve got mixed opinions here about how useful this is, with some using it every day and others forgetting it’s there altogether, still it’s a rare omission from the smaller phone.

Design

We were surprised to see the iPhone SE coming in a metal body, just like its bigger siblings. However, in terms of design, it looks similar to the iPhone 5S rather than the more recent, more curvaceous handsets. Like that phone it has squared off edges, which we find makes it easier to keep a grip on. That said, we narrowly prefer the new designs overall and some might worry that their brand new iPhone SE might be mistaken for the old 5S – though they should probably find something better to worry about.

In terms of size, the iPhone SE is 124x59x7.6mm and weighs 113g. The other phones both measure roughly the same (138x67x7mm) with the 6 weighing 129g and 6S weighing 143g, making them larger and heavier but a little slimmer. The iPhone SE is smaller than both, as you’d expect, but the key difference is in weight and being 8mm more slender across, letting it fit easier in smaller palms and be easier to reach across with your thumb.

Performance

The iPhone SE uses the same Apple A9 chipset as the iPhone 6S. According to Apple, it matches the current flagship phone in respects to CPU and GPU performance. That makes it considerably quicker than the more expensive iPhone 6. It’s a huge amount of processing power for a phone of this size and price.

In terms of battery performance, all three handsets have similar figures, according to Apple at least, with 14 hours of 3G talk time, 10 days on standby and 50 hours of music playback. We’ll have to test this obviously but there shouldn’t be a huge differential here.

Camera

Apple’s cameras have always been excellent, with the iPhone 6S currently using a 12-megapixel sensor, with a bright F2.2 lens and dual LED flash for more natural colours. Apple has decided to go with this again on the iPhone SE. That makes the 6S and the new phone a step-up over the 8-megapixel iPhone 6.

The iPhone SE also has the latest features that come with that sensor and the A9 chip powering it. So you get Live Photos, where it captures a burst of video with each photo, and 4K video recording – something else that’s missing from the iPhone 6.

Around the front, the iPhone SE shares the same 1.2-megapixel resolution for stills as the iPhone 6 on its Facetime camera, although it does have the new Retina Flash function, which uses the screen to provided a makeshift flash for selfies.

Price

The iPhone SE comes at a very reasonable £359 for the 16GB model, although that jumps to £439 for the 64GB model (which you’ll want if you use your phone for music, video playback or any serious gaming). The less-powerful iPhone 6 costs £459 and £539 respectively for 16GB and 64GB, which is £100 more. While the top-end 6S costs £539 and £619, a further £80 on top of the iPhone 6.

Conclusion

The iPhone SE has the design of the iPhone 5S but the specifications of the iPhone 6S. It trumps the more expensive iPhone 6 in numerous areas, although that phone has a bigger, better screen and the newer, curvier design. The iPhone 6S, of course, has it all, plus some unique features such as 3D Touch, but then you pay for it. We think the iPhone SE is a better buy for many than the iPhone 6, which looks to be edged out by the new, lower-cost yet faster handset while the 6S is still the one to buy if you want a bigger phone.

How does the new iPhone SE handset stand up to the current iPhone 6 & 6S models?

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