The iPhone SE is an apology in the shape of a smartphone.

Remember the iPhone 5c? Apple’s first ‘cheap’ handset was as close as it’s ever come to a dud. Well, in the last decade at least. Too expensive for the folks it was aimed at and too underpowered compared to any other handset at the same price, the 5c never really caught on and was effectively nixed within a year of its launch.

So here’s the SE, Apple’s second crack at the ‘affordable smartphone’ whip. And do you know what? It’s an absolute banger.

The cheapest iPhone ever made packs pretty much all the power of the iPhone 6s into the 4-inch aluminium shell of the iPhone 5s. Get ahold of the thing and it feels like value for money, rather than a step backwards for 5s owners who just wanted to stick with a smaller handset.

For a phone of such slight stature, the SE is uncompromisingly current.

Retro chic

Just like Donald Trump, I’m afflicted by small hands syndrome. This means the 4in iPhone 5s has always been the perfect size for me. Moving up to the new 4.7-in iPhone 6s meant learning to stretch my thumb in new opposable directions.

And as for the 5.5in 6s Plus? I can’t hold that thing one-handed without suffering from a near-constant anxiety attack. Sure, I might not be tall but it’s still a long way to travel from my digits to the pavement.

Having become accustomed to the more portly iPhone 6s, I kind of expected using the SE to feel like a step backwards. That using it would force my muscle memory to take a time warp into the past. Thankfully, my hands took to it as naturally as Mr Trump does to douchebaggery.

Returning to the power button at the top took a little bit of mental recalibration, but I’ve always prefered that placement: it makes your phone that little bit more more secure to grasp on to.

At just 113g in weight, the iPhone SE barely registers in my hand either. I can nimbly flip the phone into landscape mode to take a photo, then revert back to answering a message without missing a beat, all with one hand. That’s something I’ve really missed since big iPhones became a thing.

SE no evil?

Thankfully, dropping down to the iPhone SE doesn’t condemn you to a loss in screen quality. Remember, it’s only been two years since 4in handsets were the norm for most iOS fans. The SE retains the 326ppi of the iPhone 6s’ Retina display, so reading emails and text onscreen is no trouble at all. Despite my myopic vision.

Don’t ache for the days before ‘phablet’ was a word? Then the SE probably isn’t your bag. It’s an acquired taste, like caviar, liquorice and Michael Bay movies. Hopping from the iPhone 6s to its diddy cousin is a drag when you’re used to luxuriating in that extra display real estate.

The sheer quantity of video we watch nowadays means having a bigger iPhone to hand makes for a significantly more immersive viewing experience. Even if you are just hoovering through episodes of Rick and Morty on your morning commute.

For anyone who likes the idea of an iPhone that’ll easily squeak into a jeans pocket, then the SE will prove a perfect fit. Apple’s displays have always offered magnificent amounts of detail and contrast, and that’s certainly the case here. Footage from Dark Souls III looked suitably austere and gruesome, while the LEGO Batman Movie trailer was bristling with colour and levity.

Compare to the glossy, saturated tones you get from many Android phones, the iPhone SE offers a more natural take on screen tech. Personally, that’s my preference, but there’s certainly a place in the world for brash Samsung and LG displays too.

Protect phone in style
Tech Specs 
123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm
Screen size & resolution
4 inches, 640 x 1136 pixels
Apple A9
Operating system
iOS 9.3
16/64 GB
Primary camera
12 MP, f/2.2
Selfie camera
1.2 MP, f/2.4
Touch ID
Stuff says... 

Apple iPhone SE review

A form factor favourite returns rejuvenated. Apple's iPhone SE is the best small phone you can buy.
Good Stuff 
Great battery life
Compact without compromise
It’s a bargain... for an iPhone
Bad Stuff 
16GB? Come on
Old design
No 3D Touch