Apple’s 4-inch iPhone: What the Reviewers Are Saying

In the old days, Steve Jobs would soften up the press for a new iPhone by seeding samples to his favorite reviewers—Walt Mossberg, then at the Wall Street Journal, David Pogue, then at the New York Times—a week to 10 days before the device shipped.

As times changed, the universe of Apple-blessed reviewers grew to include smaller outlets, bloggers, and the foreign press. But with the iPhone SE, Apple (AAPL) followed a new script. Review copies went out on Monday, the day the product was unveiled, and the reviews posted this week—just before the phone went on sale—were first impressions rather than in-depth appraisals.

You don’t have to read very many to get the gist. Below: Excerpts from the reviews we’ve seen.

Lauren Goode, The Verge: iPhone SE review: today’s tech, yesterday’s design. “Earlier this week at Apple’s campus in Cupertino, the company announced a brand-new iPhone. The heavens didn’t part, pop bands didn’t play, and people aren’t camping out at Apple Stores to buy the thing. It was a subdued launch, for a smaller, mid-cycle phone that looks exactly like a phone from 2013. But don’t let its unspectacular rollout or its throwback design fool you: Apple knows exactly what it’s doing with the $399 iPhone SE. It’s a shiny little fishing lure for first-time iPhone buyers or people who feel overdue for an upgrade. Those people might be tempted by the many good Android phones that can be had for less than $400, and Apple is taking them on more directly than it ever has before.”

Geoffrey Fowler, The Wall Street Journal: Smaller Gets Smarter With Better Battery Life to Boot. “iPhone SE is the first one made for everybody whose thumbs lack the wingspan of eagles. The phone, which [went] on sale Thursday, packs Apple’s best phone processor and camera into a width of just 2.3 inches. And it does it with significantly better battery life and Apple’s lowest-ever starting price, $399. After years of the “phablet,” the small phone is back with a vengeance… In my lab stress test, which cycles through websites with uniform screen brightness, the SE lasted 10 hours—more than two hours longer than both the iPhone 6S and iPhone 5S, and nearly three hours longer than the Galaxy S7.”

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Rene Ritche, iMore: Bigger on the Inside! “At first, I did feel a little claustrophobic returning to the smaller display; like my window to the internet and apps suddenly shrank way down. The human brain is remarkably elastic, though, and it’s getting better. What’s nice is not having to juggle, or resort to Reachability Mode — a double touch of the Home button that shifts the entire interface halfway down the display — to use it one-handed. That’s especially useful for when I’m walking around, carrying things, or otherwise hurrying about.”

Mark Prigg, The Daily Mail: A familiar old friend that could be the perfect starter phone. “This is a handset that looks and feels identical, on the outside at least, to the hugely popular iPhone 5s, with the only obvious difference being a new matt metal finish. However, switch it on, and it becomes apparent this is a ‘retro’ iPhone in looks only. Although we’ve only been using the phone for a few days, one thing is clear—it’s blazingly fast.”

David Phelan, The Independent: The best small handset in the world. “Not quite everything from the 6s is here: it lacks the 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screen and the super-fast Touch ID of the latest handsets. It has a perfectly decent first-generation Touch ID, but not quite as fast. And it still powers Apple Pay, arguably the only phone wallet solution that’s actually drawing the crowds at the moment, though the UK will get to see Samsung Pay later this year.”

Highlights from Apple’s March 21 Event:

Chris Velazco, Engadget: A powerful little blast from the past. “If you loved the iPhone 5s — as I and apparently many others did — the iPhone SE will feel like a compelling blend of old and new. For once, we’re getting a small iPhone that doesn’t feel like a second-class device. (I’m looking at you, iPhone 5c.)… Really, though, the most curious thing about the iPhone SE is its price. Despite having many of the components that make the iPhone 6s such a powerhouse, the SE is a fraction of the price. You lose 3D Touch, but that’s a tradeoff I suspect many people can put up with.”

Edward Baig, USA Today: First impressions of Apple’s new iPhone SE. “I plan to spend a bit of time living with a smaller form-factor iPhone again, but now that I’ve got one in my hands here are a few quick thoughts… I’ve suspected as much ever since Apple announced its new phone Monday, but the SE got a quick, positive reaction from the people I showed it to around my office. OK, so it’s not a scientific study. But one editor who’s not into gadgets and who still carries around an iPhone 3G — yes, with its 3.5-inch display, it’s actually a device she’d be moving up in size from — told me that she’d actually consider buying this one. Her first reaction to the SE: ‘Whoa!'”

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