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iPhone SE : Everything Else You Need to Know Before you Buy

Everything old is new again when it comes to the iPhone line. With the announcement of a new four-inch iPhone, called the iPhone SE, Apple has brought back the screen size that users bid farewell to a couple of years ago. I had a few moments with the phone at Apple's launch event in Cupertino, Calif., and got to re-familiarize myself with the smaller screen.


 If I had to sum up the iPhone SE in one sentence it would be this: This is an iPhone 6S in the body of an iPhone 5S.

That's nice for people who like the metal body and size of the 5S. There probably won't be a lot of people who switch to the SE from a 6S or 6S Plus, though, unless they really miss the smaller screen. In fact, it's sort of shocking how small the phone feels in hand — even though it hasn't been that long since it was the standard size for the iPhone. I've clearly become quickly accustomed to screens that are at least an inch larger.

If you haven't upgraded to the newest iPhones, for whatever reason, this phone will offer you some significant performance improvements. As a way to illustrate how powerful this little model is, an Apple employee demonstrating the phones at the event made sure to show me how well the smaller phone handles complex games.

It is, admittedly, hard to get a good handle on performance in a brief hands-on session. But everything felt very zippy, even features such as Live Photos and video playback, which is unusual on a phone of that size in today's market. Apart from a few missing features such as 3D Touch, the iPhone SE felt pretty much like its larger and more expensive counterparts.

So from an engineering standpoint, this feels like an accomplishment. Being able to pack most of the performance of the latest iPhones into that smaller case is no mean feat. To consumers, however, it may not seem so revolutionary.

Still, it's a nice option to have on the market — a compact phone that feels powerful rather than sluggish and another option to consider for people who really like having a smaller phone.

And who are those people? Anecdotally, I've had a lot of people email me — mostly older smartphone users — who have said they want to retain that smaller screen. Some people say they can't get a grip on the new phones; others say that they're not that interested in watching video that is more conducive to larger screens and prefer to keep things compact.

Is it a niche market? Yes. Is it a pretty big niche? Well, Apple said onstage that it has sold 30 million four-inch iPhones in 2015, using it as justification for going back to the four-inch screen. (Keep in mind that the last four-inch iPhone was launched in 2013.)

Mostly, I'd say this phone will appeal to people who want a good smartphone that works well but who don't need to always be at the cutting edge of technology. Big screens are good for being able to test out all the new things. A smaller screen somehow feels like a phone that goes about its business more quietly.

And it is true that the four-inch screen is somewhat, well, comforting. With a large phone, I often feel as if I'm about to drop it, or that it is going to slip out of my hand because it's so slender. While I don't know that I would personally go back to a smaller phone, I did have a nostalgic moment for the stockier iPhone, even if it didn't exactly bowl me over.

It's clear that Apple isn't going after the wow factor with the iPhone SE. What the company does appear to be going after is consumer demand, both for a smaller iPhone and for a slightly cheaper one. (Because who doesn't like things to be cheaper?) And it comes in the full slate of iPhone colors — gray, white, gold and rose gold — so even smaller-phone fans will have a range of color options.

The new iPhone SE starts at $399, that is 39,990 for India, making it far cheaper than the base $650 iPhone 6S or $750 iPhone 6S Plus. The starting model comes with 16 gigabytes of storage, while an upgrade to 64GB will cost you an additional $100.
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