iPhone SE vs iPhone 6s vs iPhone 6

Apple has unveiled the iPhone SE - a 4in alternative to its flagship iPhone 6s and 6s Plus phablets.

Fans have been requesting a return to handsets like the iPhone 4s and 5s over since Apple launched its larger iPhone 6 range, with the new iPhone SE stacking up against its bigger stablemates surprisingly well.

Display and body

The biggest difference between Apple's flagship iPhones and the new iPhone SE is obviously the size. The new model marks the company's first return to the older 4in size since the iPhone 5s, two generations ago.

iphone SE

For many, the 4.7in display of the iPhone 6 and 6s is just too large, hence why a return to form was so highly requested. However, while the screen has shrunk in size, Apple has ensured that it doesn't also drop in quality, and both devices have high pixel densities of 326ppi.

The SE is virtually identical to the 5s in terms of appearance. It's still got flat, chamfered edges, rather than the iPhone 6's rounded curves, and it's even got the exact same weight and dimensions.

Which one you prefer is ultimately a matter of personal taste, but in our experience, the iPhone 6's larger size makes it that touch more slippery to hold than the 5s and thus the SE, especially for those with smaller hands.


The iPhone SE is touted as being Apple's most affordable new iPhone yet, clocking in at just 359 inc VAT for the 16GB option. While that's still not cheap compared to some Android competitors, it's a remarkable steal considering that the SE supposedly has the same performance as the 6s.

The 16GB 6s model, by contrast will set you back 539 inc VAT - a clear 200 more expensive. You can save some money by opting for the 459 iPhone 6, but you'll still be paying over 100 more than you would for the SE, and you'll almost certainly be getting slower performance too.

If the iPhone SE's performance is as good as Apple claims - and there's no reason to suspect otherwise - it really is a rather phenomenal deal.

Processor and storage

Given the iPhone SE's size and price-point, many manufacturers may have been tempted to skimp on the device's internal components. In this case, however, Apple has outdone itself, squeezing the iPhone 6s' A9 and M9 processors into the SE.

The company is claiming the iPhone SE delivers equal performance to its flagship stablemate the iPhone 6s, and double that of the iPhone 5s. Given this, we'd imagine it has the same 2GB RAM allocation as the 6s, although we won't know for sure until we can fully test it.

Given the more powerful processor, the SE is almost certain to outperform the iPhone 6, if only because it has a smaller, lower resolution screen to drive. While the iPhone 6 is still a very capable smartphone, it'll likely be outsped by the new arrival.

Apple consistently produces some of the best-performing devices on the market, and we'd be surprised if this changed significantly with the iPhone SE, but we won't be able to form a truly accurate comparison until we can run our own benchmarks.

Annoyingly Apple has not retained the 5s' 32GB storage option. Instead, it's followed the iPhone 6's lead in jumping straight from 16GB to 64GB. It's a shame one of the richest and most powerful technology companies, so adept at wringing every last drop of value out of its component suppliers, can't drive economics of scale down low enough to raise the base level of storage.

Camera, wireless and battery

As the iPhone SE is essentially a diminutive iPhone 6s, it carries all the key connectivity features you'd expect from its big brother. It's got NFC with built-in Apple Pay support and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

It's also got the iPhone 6s' superlative rear camera, which will be a relief for any photographers. The snapper on the 6s is one of the best we've tested, and includes a 12MP sensor, high quality slow motion video, a reasonably flattering True Tone flash and 4K video recording.

Apple claims the SE has roughly the same battery life as the iPhone 6s too, but we can't verify this without testing. The screen is smaller, and therefore less power-hungry, but there's also less room to fit a battery into, so we'll have to wait and see.

Preliminary conclusions

The iPhone SE is what iPhone 5s fans have been wanting for years -- all the upgrades and innovations of the 6 and 6s, fitted into a more comfortable 4in package. If you like the look of the more recent iPhones on paper, but find them tricky to actually use, you should be very excited indeed.

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.