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Apple iPhone SE review

It's the best value iPhone, but is the iPhone SE the best budget smartphone for you? Find out in our no-nonsense review - and find the best pay monthly and SIM free deals in the UK today

The iPhone SE has been getting pulses racing ever since it was released as the first budget iPhone a couple of years ago already.

It’s everything the popular iPhone 6s was (fast and sleek with some great cameras), but this time in a tidy 4-inch body.

Some people don’t mind queuing for hours to get their hands on the latest iPhone. But then there are those of us get a bigger high from bagging a great deal.

And now the iPhone SE is available for as little as £15 a month or just over £300 SIM free, it’s perfect for the savvy shoppers among us, who still want a handset we’re proud to whip out.

In this no-nonsense iPhone SE review, we’ll clue you in on everything you need to work out if the most affordable iPhone is the right phone for you (all its tech specs as well as real user reviews).

Plus, we’ll link you to the best mobile phone deals on pay monthly and SIM free, so you can save on what’s already a great value iPhone.

✔ PROS – Best value iPhone, super-fast, eye-candy design, great camera
✘ CONS – So-so battery, some may want a bigger handset
★ VERDICT – The best value iPhone ever made

In this iPhone SE review we cover:

iPhone SE pros and cons

The good

  • Best value iPhone – You can own the iPhone SE now for under £15 a month.
  • Speedy processor – Apple’s rated A9 processor is known for its speed.
  • Slick design – If you’re into your looks, the iPhone SE will make you proud.
  • Great camera – This 12 Mp iSight camera is every bit as good as the iPhone 6s.

The less good

  • Average battery life – But then again, it’s only a couple hours’ off the iPhone X.
  • Screen may be too small for some – Pocket-sized phones may not be for everyone.

iPhone SE pricing

Best pay monthly deals

Best SIM free deals (unlocked iPhone SE)RRP £379Right now, TobyDeals UK and eGlobal Central UK both have the cheapest iPhone SE on the market for just £222.99. You can see the full list of deals at the bottom of this page.
iPhone SE user ratingsStartups rating
★★★★★ (4.7)Build ★★★★★ (5)
Speed ★★★★★ (5)
Screen ★★★★★ (5)Battery ★★★★ (3.5)
Camera ★★★★★ (5)
Value ★★★★★ (4.5)
Customer feedback★★★★29 customer user reviews on Carphone Warehouse

  • Ease of use: “Offering the app store, quality build, and easy to use software, this is perfect.” – Anonymous
  • Design: “Everything about it feels classy and a quality build.” – UrbanJam
  • Specs: “I bought this a week ago wished I switched to Apple long before. Very quick phone.” – Pudd
  • Battery: “It’s usual high end quality from Apple all at a very competitive price in comparison to other iPhone models. Buy one because you will not be disappointed.” – AppleFan

iPhone SE user experienceSlick designNo budget handset will be for you if you have to have the very latest gadget. But if you’re more into your quality at a fair price, like any iPhone, the SE has a sleek build that most people would feel proud to carry around.Fast processor and fitness trackerThe A9 processor really is fast and you’ll definitely feel the gear change if you’re upgrading from an iPhone 5s or 5c. The iPhone SE is nice and responsive when flicking through webpages and apps.Then there’s always the option of joining today’s fitness craze thanks to the M9 motion coprocessor which will be busy measuring your steps and distance each day, just in case you’re curious to see how you’re doing.
iPhone SE tech specsiPhone SE features explainedCrisp screenOn paper, the screen specs of the flagship Apple and Samsung smartphones will be more impressive, but in the flesh, it’s hard to spot the difference.This 4-inch screen looks sharp and bright enough to making reading from it a pleasant enough experience. It’s got a console-class graphics card, making all your games and apps rich and immersive.Pretty good batteryAs with most iPhones, all that power takes a toll on the battery life. The iPhone SE battery is still fine, with a single charge getting you between seven hours of heavy use or 13 hours’ normal use.You can fully charge the SE in just over two hours, and 15 minutes will bump you up to one to two hours, which isn’t bad for a budget smartphone.Stellar cameraiPhones are known for taking a detailed, sharp pictures and the iPhone SE is no different. This 12 Mp iSight rear camera is the same quality one you’ll find in the iPhone 6s, and the FaceTime HD camera with Retina Flash could be your best bet at selfies you want to share.Very low lighting shots will lose a bit of their edge, but then again you already know this isn’t the iPhone X.

apple iphone se camera

The rear iSight camera takes an impressive picture.

4K video and Live PhotosAnd if you like keeping with the times, you may look forward to taking (and editing) some ultra-smooth 4K videos – or even the ‘live photos’ feature which shoots extra frames to produce Harry Potter-style moving photos. Apple always have something up their sleeve.Decent storageAs with all iPhones, you won’t be able to pop in a micro-SD card to boost your storage, but with a generous 32 GB (and all the storage in the world with the iCloud Photo Library), we also think it’s pretty unlikely you’ll ever need to.Anything else?We liked the swanky addition of the fingerprint reader. It really makes the phone feel more high-end and gives you safe and extra speedy access to your phone. Plus, with Apple Pay, you can save time when you shop.And if you like the idea of having your very own PA at your beck and call, you can get help quick from Siri just by saying the magic words to your phone: “hey, Siri”.
VerdictThe best value iPhoneThe iPhone SE really is the best budget iPhone out there. It’s essentially the iPhone 6s (complete with the slick metal casing, the speedy A9 processor), but much more affordable in this 4-inch mold.If you like your quality Apple products, but still like taking home a good saving, we couldn’t recommend the iPhone SE more.
iPhone SE best deals todayWe’ve found the best iPhone SE deals available today for our readers:Best pay monthly deals

From £12.99 / month £29.99 phone Carphone Warehouse
From £10.73 / month £34.90 phone
£222.99 TobyDeals UK
£222.99 eGlobal Central UK
OS iOS 11.0.3
Internal memory 32 GB
Screen size 4″
Weight 113g
Screen resolution 640 x 1136
Rear camera 12 Mp
From £12.99 / month £29.99 phone Carphone Warehouse
From £10.73 / month £34.90 phone

Best SIM free deals (unlocked iPhone SE)RRP £379The best SIM free deals will give you an unlocked phone, so you can pick whatever type SIM or contract you’d like. Right now, TobyDeals UK and eGlobal Central UK are both selling the cheapest iPhone SE around for just £222.99.

£222.99 TobyDeals UK
£222.99 eGlobal Central UK
£239.00 Carphone Warehouse
£249.00 Argos
£349.00 Apple

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Bryn Glover
Bryn Glover


As Editor of Startups, Bryn runs content strategy and our annual campaigns. A lover of small business, you can find him writing about exciting entrepreneurs and UK industry trends.

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