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iPhone SE hands-on: It may be small but it sure is powerful

by Brandon Russell | March 21, 2016March 21, 2016 6:29 pm PST

Hate big phones? Among today’s Sequoia-sized devices, Apple has introduced the diminutive iPhone SE, a 4-inch device that pales next to the iPhone 6s Plus. But buoyed by the 30 million 4-inch iPhones it sold in 2015, Apple thought, “Hey, people still want small phones. Here is a small phone. Here is the ‘new’ iPhone SE.”

Maybe small phones aren’t going extinct after all.

To be clear, the iPhone SE is essentially the iPhone 5s with guts that are high-end in Apple Land: A faster A9 chip, an improved camera, an NFC module for Apple Pay, and a little scribble on the back indicating that, yes, this is the iPhone SE, not to be confused with the iPhone 5s. It still comes with 16GB of storage, reminding iPhone owners that they will likely be haunted by the low storage option forever.

But, hey, it starts at just $399, or just over $13/month if you do installments. That’s a pretty enticing price for anyone looking to get their first smartphone, but it is by no means the cheapest device around—the 32GB Nexus 6P, a great and powerful handset, is the same price as the 64GB iPhone SE. Jump down a bracket and the Nexus 5X is just $299 (for a limited time).

Seeing this form factor emerge is like running into an old friend; there’s a familiarity here. I’d call it a happy reunion, because the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s were both terrific—great size, great build, great experience. But if you’re looking for the latest technology, you won’t find it here. Sure, the iPhone SE sports the same guts as the iPhone 6s, but it doesn’t have 3D Touch, something that will no doubt be a big part of Apple’s handset future.

Pre-orders for the iPhone SE kick off on March 24, with shipments expected to go out on March 31, or exactly ten days from now. If you want to pick one up, it’ll cost you $399 for the 16GB model, or $499 for the 64GB model.

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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.