iPhone SE FAQ: Everything you need to know!

Published on March 22 2016

Apple is putting new life into the 4-inch smartphone, turning it into the iPhone SE.

Rather than letting the 4-inch iPhone go the way of the dinosaur, Apple is giving it new specs and a new life as the iPhone SE. It keeps the small iPhone on the market, for those that still prefer it, but also keeps the entry-level iPhone distinct from Apple's flagships.

What kind of spec bumps will we see, and when will the SE appear? Read on!

Why name the iPhone "SE"?

The name for Apple's new 4-inch smartphone model is iPhone SE. That may look odd for those used to seeing numbers in their iPhone names, but here's the deal: It's likely not being called a variant of the iPhone 5 because, even though it's the same size, it won't be at all the same internally. It's not using the "c" designator because, unlike the iPhone 5c, it's not in a candy-colored shell. It also won't be named after the iPhone 6s because that could devalue Apple's current flagship lineup.

So, iPhone SE.

Apple introduced the "S"-variant names in 2009 with the iPhone 3GS. Back then, the "S" stood for "speed" in recognition of the increase in processor and radio performance. Apple continued the convention with the iPhone 4S — later re-styled iPhone 4s — in 2011. While the iPhone 4s was speedier in many ways, it also had "Siri". The iPhone 5s came in 2013, which was again speedier, but again also had a new "sensor" in Touch ID. If iPhone SE is an upgraded iPhone 5s, it makes sense to brand it as such.

Apple has, of course, sometimes skipped new branding entirely. The early 2013 iPad was simply the "new iPad" and the 2015 Apple TV was simple the "new Apple TV", even though both were major updates. That can cause confusion, though, especially for those searching for accessories.

iPhone SE isn't the first double letter name either. The first "S"-variant was also packed double letters: iPhone 3GS. The original iPhone 3G name — which could just as easily have been iPhone 2 —reflected the updated radio technology. Apple could have gone with iPhone 3S, but they wanted to keep the iPhone 3G branding. iPhone SE fits this pattern: It keeps the iPhone branding, but enhances it.

(Way back in 1987, of course, Apple released a Macintosh SE. Convenient nostalgia is still nostalgia, after all.)

What's the iPhone SE going to look like?

The iPhone SE design is almost identical to that of the original four-inch iPhone 5s, which should come as no surprise. The front is nearly indistinguishable, with a 4-inch LCD display, ambient light sensor, earpiece and front-mounted FaceTime camera on top, and the same Home button with Touch ID on the bottom.

iPhone SE FAQ: Everything you need to know!

What about colors?

The original iPhone 5s introduced the champagne gold color to the lineup, expanding on the previous space gray and silver.

The iPhone SE carries on those three colors, but adds the iPhone 6s line's rose gold color as well.

What do the iPhone SE's internals look like?

While the iPhone SE may, on the outside, resemble a 5s, internally it's much closer to an iPhone 6s.

Inside, we have the Apple A9 64-bit processor and M9 co-processor — 2x the speed of the iPhone 5s, and 3x the GPU speed. The iPhone SE also gets the 6s's LTE Advanced antennas (more bands that support up to 150 mbps and voice over LTE), and 802.11ac (up to 433 mbps and support for Wi-Fi calling).

This means you'll have the same iPhone 6s fitness tracking opportunities, as well as always-on "Hey Siri" (if you so choose).

What about the cameras?

Photography lovers, rejoice: The iPhone SE offers the same 12-megapixel rear iSight camera with True Tone Flash, supporting 4K video, up-to-63MP Panoramas, Live Photos, and more.

On the front-facing camera side, SE users will be able to snap selfies, but not quite as nicely as their iPhone 6s counterparts: The 4-inch iPhone sport the 5s's 1.2 megapixel sensor, rather than the 6s's 5 megapixel camera. But it's not a complete wash: You'll get the image-optimized brains of the iPhone 6s, which means better tone mapping and facial recognition.

What about 3D Touch?

Unfortunately, that's one feature reserved for the upper-tier iPhone models. The iPhone SE doesn't currently offer 3D Touch, or pressure-sensitive drawing, like the 6s does.

If you're viewing a Live Photo, a long press will have the same effect as a 3D Touch press on a iPhone 6s.

iPhone SE Apple Pay

iPhone SE FAQ: Everything you need to know!

Apple Pay is the company's contactless mobile payment service — also known as tap-to-pay — currently available on the iPhones 6, iPhones 6s, and Apple Watch. (And available digitally on the latest Touch ID-capable iPads.)

Now, Apple Pay is coming to the iPhone SE: The phone supports both NFC and includes the hardware-built Secure Element.

When is the iPhone SE coming out?

Since the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple has released all its new iPhones in September. The iPhone SE, however, will be available for preorder on March 24 for a March 31 release. Why the early launch? Likely because it gets a new 4-inch iPhone onto the market sooner rather than later.

iPhone SE FAQ: Everything you need to know!

That should hopefully encourage the 60 percent of customers who haven't yet upgraded from an iPhone 5s or older to get back into the new smartphone game — especially customers who prefer the 4-inch size. It also keeps it away from iPhone 7 this fall, where it would either be overshadowed by the new design or distract from new messaging.

How much will it cost?

You can pick up the iPhone SE for a number of different prices, depending on how you buy it.

If you purchase it unlocked, you can pick up the phone for $399 (16GB) or $499 (64GB). (There's no 128GB model.)

If you want to pay for it with either carrier financing or the Apple Upgrade Program, you'll pay around $13/month for two years.

If you want trade in your old iPhone 5s for a new iPhone SE, you'll pay just $10/month.

Where can I buy it?

At launch, the iPhone SE will be available in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, and Singapore. Don't despair if your location is not on the list yet, however: Apple's aiming to expand that to a hundred countries by the end of May.

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