iPhone SE Releases March 28: Should You Upgrade?

Apple’s iPhone SE becomes available for purchase on March 28. What is known about the new iOS device, and is it worth upgrading from your older model?

Apple’s release dates for its products are always telling. Apple historically schedules major upgrades for September 19-21. For example, the iPhone 5 was released on September 20, 2013, and the next major version, the iPhone 6, became available September 19, 2014. Minor upgrades have fallen on various dates in years past but generally happen during the spring and early summer following the September release of the major version.

So it goes to follow that a March release of the iPhone SE means that it is a minor upgrade based on the last major release, which was the iPhone 6S. Therefore, the SE at its heart will be a 6S. If you purchased a 6S or 6S Plus back in September, save your money.

iPhone SE capable of 4K Video
[AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez]

There are only two differences between the SE and the two 6S versions that matter: form factor and price. Everything else is virtually the same. According to TechRadar, all the guts of the phone are the same; the same A9 processor, 12MP iSight camera, Touch ID, everything.

The form factor is the key difference in this release. The iPhone SE has a form factor that is closer to the 5S. This provides a few significant differences between the SE and its parent phones.

The most noticeable difference is in size. The SE is smaller, with a 4-inch Retina display, compared to the 4.7-inch 6S and the 5.5-inch 6S Plus displays. Size is a difficult trait to balance in a smartphone. On one hand, there is the compact design that people love in their phones. On the other hand, bigger screens provide larger images and fonts and more screen real estate for apps and games to use.

So, some will see the iPhone SE release as a downgrade in size. Then again, others will be relieved that they can upgrade to a more powerful phone while still maintaining its compact size.

Another aspect of the SE’s form factor is the location of its power button. Starting with the iPhone 6, Apple has relocated the power button from the top of the phone to the right side of the phone. While not a huge change, it has caused some users to complain as they get used to the new switch location.

With the iPhone SE release, the power button goes back up to the top of the phone. Users who take a lot of pictures in landscape mode using the volume button for the shutter release will be relieved that they will not have to contend with accidentally turning off their phone when trying to snap a picture.

The final difference in the form factor is that the camera lens is flush with the back of the phone. While this is a minor difference, the raised lens of the 6S and 6S plus has been known to catch on pockets, and to some, it is just not aesthetically pleasing.

Essentially what Apple is offering is an iPhone 6S in a 5S casing. So for those who like the compact design of the 5S, the SE offering might be a more appealing upgrade opportunity. They will still get all of the features and power of the 6S without changing the form factor of their current 5S too much (the SE is just slightly thicker than the 5S).

This leaves the price as the last consideration. The iPhone SE will release at a retail price of $399. This is $250 less than the 6S and $350 less than the 6S Plus. That is quite a savings for what is essentially the same phone.

So to sum it up.

The iPhone SE release is nothing to get excited about if you have recently upgraded to the iPhone 6S or 6S Plus. Save your money and wait for the next major release. However, if you are a current owner of an iPhone 5S and have been considering upgrading to a 6S, the only things you have to consider are the size and the price.

If a larger screen is desirable, you should probably forget about the 6S and go with the 6S Plus. The reason is that the difference between a 4-inch display and a 4.7-inch display is negligible. It makes very little difference in visibility or quality.

If the size of the screen is not important to you, you should go with the iPhone SE. Unless there is just something about the 6S form factor that you like, such as the power button being on the side, there is just no reason to pay the extra $250 for a 6S. You will be getting the same power and features of the 6S, but with the familiar look and feel of the 5S.

Apple’s latest upgrade might not be anything to get too excited about, but for owners of the 5S or earlier models, the release of the iPhone SE might be just what they were waiting for.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]