Hardware

Opinion: why you shouldn’t buy the latest iPhone

It’s September, which means everybody is hyped for all the new products Apple announced this week. The iPhone X in particular looks set to be the best iPhone ever, with advanced facial recognition, incredible processing power, and a bold new design. For many users, however, that’s unnecessary. It’s overkill.

If you’re not bothered about living on the bleeding edge of technology, the best phone for your needs could already be out there – and without the wallet-destroying price tag of the latest iPhones. We’re talking about the iPhone SE, a “budget” device released over a year ago which holds up surprisingly well versus its more powerful siblings.

iPhone SE comfortably runs iOS 11

The iPhone SE is Apple’s response to customers who wish to continue using smaller devices. Though the smartphone industry as a whole has evolved to larger screens, there’s still a lot of people who miss the bygone days when a phone would fit easily in a bag or pocket. Thus, the iPhone SE rocks almost the exact design of the old iPhone 5S, with the same 4-inch display that was popular with so many.

Inside, though, are updated guts that offer similar performance to the much faster iPhone 6S, alongside an improved camera and newer features like Apple Pay. It starts at just $399/£399 – that’s a full $600/£600 cheaper than the iPhone X – without skimping too much on the specs. Maybe it’s a good time to consider what you can get for less.

Those interested in more processor-intensive tasks like video editing or 3D gaming might miss the raw power of Apple’s more expensive phones – not to mention the larger displays that come with them. But for simpler tasks like phone calls and messages, email and web browsing, watching videos and taking photos, the iPhone SE is a snappy machine. The 12-megapixel camera is pretty impressive, too, with a lens that was best-in-class just a few years ago.

So what are the downsides of the iPhone SE? What do you lose by saving so much money? Well, the small display size has something to do with it of course, and it lacks some of the high contrast beauty of more expensive screens. Beyond that, there are a few missing features: iPhone SE doesn’t incorporate the pressure-sensitive “3D Touch” screens of more recent designs; it uses the slightly slower first-gen Touch ID technology; the front-facing camera clocks in at a measly 1.2 megapixels, and it’s not water resistant.

Touch ID is present, but a little slow

Small price to pay for the chance to, uh, pay a small price, though.

And if you can wait a few months for a new phone, rumor has it the iPhone SE will be refreshed early next year with a faster processing chip to match the iPhone 7. If the price stays the same, that’s ridiculously good value for money. Looks like Apple’s plan is to always leave the SE a year or so behind the pack in terms of specs – enough to justify the lower cost, but not enough to be noticeable for day-to-day use.

The bottom line is that although the iPhone SE will never set the tech world on fire, for a great many users it’s the phone we’d recommend above all others. If you miss the smaller smartphones of days gone by, if you don’t use your iPhone for much more than the basics, or if you just want to save some money without leaving the Apple ecosystem, it could be for you. Ignore the iPhone X fanfare and consider picking up the plucky little iPhone SE instead.

Oh, and lest we forget – the iPhone SE still has a headphone port.