For the price, the iPhone SE is a total steal

Don't let the old design fool you. Apple's iPhone SE is the best bang-for-the-buck iPhone you can buy.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

Apple might be pitching the iPhone SE as an entry-level iPhone, but if you can live with the few hardware limitations, it's the best value iPhone you can currently buy, by far.

Go beyond the old-school shell and little separates the iPhone SE from the iPhone 6S. They have the same processor, the same RAM, and the same 12-megapixel iSight camera which supports both 4K video and Live Photos.

From a battery point of view, the iPhone SE rocks and even gives the iPhone 6S Plus a run for its money, offering 13 hours of internet browsing over Wi-Fi, compared to only 12 hours for the 6S Plus. Unless you have the pockets for an iPhone 6 Plus or 6S Plus then the iPhone SE is the iPhone for you if you value your time away from the charging cord.

Oh, and for those who have money left to spend after buying an iPhone, the iPhone SE also supports Apple Pay.

Don't let the design fool you. It might look like an iPhone 5S, but peel away that cover and on the inside it's all high-end tech.

There are some differences that are worth outlining, though.

The most striking difference is, of course, the display. The iPhone SE features a 4-inch Retina display with 1136 x 640-pixel resolution at 326 pixels-per-inch, while the iPhone 6S is quipped with a 4.7-inch Retina HD display with 3D Touch, and a resolution of 1334 x 750-pixel resolution at 326 pixels-per-inch.

There are also differences in the front-facing camera. The iPhone SE has a 1.2-megapixel front camera with an aperture of f/2.4, while the iPhone 6S has a more capable 5-megapixels camera with an aperture of f/2.2.

Another difference is that the iPhone SE makes use of a first-generation Touch ID sensor, while the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus feature a second-generation unit which is supposed to be faster and more accurate.

But the biggest difference by far is the price. A 16GB iPhone SE costs only $399, compared to $649 for the 16GB iPhone 6S. So that extra 0.7-inch on the display, 3D Touch, a better front-facing camera and second-generation Touch ID sensor is costing you $250.

When you break it down like this, it's clear why Apple chose to go for the old design for the iPhone SE. It's the visual and social penalty that users pay for picking the cheaper iPhone. Think Apple wouldn't do that? Of course it would. This is a company that thinks it's "really sad" if you use an old PC. If the iPhone SE shared the design of the iPhone 6S then there would be a great risk that it would cannibalize sales of the more expensive handsets, dragging down profits.

If you're in the market for a new iPhone, give serious consideration as to whether you're going to let vanity make you spend the extra money on a more expensive iPhone just because the iPhone SE features the old design.

When I moved up to the iPhone 6 Plus with that 5.5-inch display, that was when I fully abandoned the iPad. But if I were still an iPad user, I'd give serious consideration to going back to an iPhone with a 4-inch display, especially since I'd be saving $250 in the process.

iPhone SE: The tech spec highlights

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