For people who prefer smaller phones, Apple released the iPhone SE on March 21, 2016. The new iPhone SE uses the same 64-bit A9 chip as the iPhone 6s, and offers most of the same features and capabilities of Apple's flagship phone in a smaller size.

Notable differences between the iPhone 6s and the iPhone SE are lack of 3D Touch and optical image stabilization features in the iPhone SE. The iPhone 6s also has a better front-facing "selfie" or "FaceTime" camera — 5 megapixels with ƒ/2.2 aperture and HDR for both photos and videos. In contrast, the iPhone SE has a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera with ƒ/2.4 aperture and HDR only for photos but not for videos.

Comparison chart

iPhone 6s versus iPhone SE comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartiPhone 6siPhone SE
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Rear camera 12 MP, Optical Image Stabilization, Live Photos, True Tone Flash, autofocus, IR filter, Burst mode, 4K HD video recording (30 fps), Slow-motion video (1080p 120 fps or 720p 240 fps), Timelapse, Panorama (up to 63 megapixels), Facial recognition 12 MP, Live Photos, True Tone Flash, autofocus, IR filter, Burst mode, 4K HD video recording (30 fps), Slow-motion video (1080p 120 fps or 720p 240 fps), Timelapse, Panorama (up to 63 megapixels), Facial recognition. No Optical Image Stabilization.
CPU 64-Bit Apple A9 With Apple's 3rd Gen 64-Bit Architecture (1.60 GHz Tri-Core Assumed) 64-Bit Apple A9 With Apple's 3rd Gen 64-Bit Architecture (1.60 GHz Tri-Core Assumed)
Website www.apple.com/iphone-6s www.apple.com/iphone-se
Removable Storage Not available Not available
Price $650 (16GB), $750 (64GB), $850 (128GB) $399 (16GB), $499 (64GB)
Display 4.7 in (120 mm) Retina HD, LED-backlit IPS LCD, ion-strengthened glass. 3D Touch. 4 in Retina HD, LED-backlit IPS LCD, ion-strengthened glass. No 3D Touch
Weight 143 g (5.0 oz) 113 g (3.99 oz)
System on chip Apple A9 Apple A9
Fingerprint reader Yes Yes
Dimensions 138.3 mm (5.44 in) H, 67.1 mm (2.64 in) W, 7.1 mm (0.28 in) D 123.8 mm (4.87 in) H, 58.6 mm (2.31 in) W, 7.6 mm (0.30 in) D
Colors available Gold, silver, space gray, rose gold Gold, silver, space gray, rose gold
Memory card slot No No
Front camera 5 MP, Exposure control, Face detection, Auto-HDR. ƒ/2.2 aperture 1.2 MP; ƒ/2.4 aperture
Operating system iOS 9 iOS 9
Virtual Assistant Siri Siri
Storage capacity 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB 16 GB, 64 GB
Memory 2 GB LPDDR4 2 GB LPDDR4
Headphone Jack (3.5mm) Yes Yes
Removable Battery No No
Camera Rear: 12 MP; 4K video caputre + Front Facing: 5 MP Rear: 12 MP; 4K video caputre + Front Facing: 5 MP
3D Touch Yes No
Sensors 3-axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, barometer 3-axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
Screen Resolution 1334 x 750 pixels 1136 x 640 pixels
Battery Capacity 1715 mAh Li-Po. Talk time: 14 hours on 3G. Standby time: 10 days. HD video playback: 11 hours. Audio playback: 50 hours. Talk time: 14 hours on 3G. Standby time: 10 days. HD video playback: 13 hours. Audio playback: 50 hours.
Screen Resolution Density 326 ppi (pixels per inch) 326 ppi (pixels per inch)

Price

The iPhone 6s is available in 3 models: 16GB ($649), 64GB ($749) and 128GB ($849). The iPhone SE only has 2 models: 16GB ($399) and 64GB ($499).

Display

The biggest difference in the two models of iPhone is the size. The iPhone SE has a smaller 4-inch display with a resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels compared with the iPhone 6s' 4.7-inch 1334x750 pixel display.

The other difference in the displays for the two phones is the taptic engine, which detects the force with which a user pushes on the display. This is used for the 3D Touch feature which was first introduced in the iPhone 6s. The taptic engine and 3D Touch are both missing in the iPhone SE.

Picture Quality

Both phones have a Retina display with a pixel density of 326 ppi (pixels per inch). The iPhone 6s has a significantly better contrast ratio of 1400:1 compared with the iPhone SE's 800:1. Theoretically this means a better picture quality for the iPhone 6s but in practice — for most people and for most pictures — the picture quality will be indistinguishable.

Viewing Angle

Another subtle difference in the displays for the iPhone SE and the iPhone 6s is dual domain pixels. The iPhone 6s display uses dual-domain pixels, which provides a wider viewing angle for the screen. In practice, this means an iPhone 6s user can view the contents of her phone at a sharper (wider) angle away from the device than an iPhone SE user would.

Performance

The iPhone SE offers great performance because it sports the newest Apple A9 chip, 2GB of RAM and several internal upgrades. The following scores on Geekbench benchmarks confirm this. More information about performance parity with the iPhone 6s can be found in this article.

Geekbench benchmarks compared for various iPhone models. The iPhone SE offers stellar performance — on par with the flagship iPhone 6s. Image courtesy Ars Technica.
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Geekbench benchmarks compared for various iPhone models. The iPhone SE offers stellar performance — on par with the flagship iPhone 6s. Image courtesy Ars Technica.


Size and Weight

Fans of the smaller phone form factor rejoiced when Apple released the iPhone SE. Apple was lat to the party with larger phones. The iPhone 6 was Apple's first 4.7-inch phone and the iPhone 6 Plus was the company's first 5.5-inch phone. Both were released in the fall of 2014, at a time when Android rivals were doing pretty well in the market and demonstrated the need for larger phones. Apple resisted the idea that people wanted large phones but eventually succumbed to market forces.

The relative size of the iPhone SE (top) compared with the 6s (bottom).
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The relative size of the iPhone SE (top) compared with the 6s (bottom).

There remains a significant market for smaller phones, however. In 2015, Apple sold 30 million iPhone 5s phones, which have 4-inch displays. The iPhone SE targets this market.

With a weight of just under 4 ounces and dimensions of 4.87x2.31 inches, the iPhone SE is definitely more pocket- and small-hands-friendly than the 5.04-ounce iPhone 6s, which measures 5.44x2.64 inches. Curiously, the iPhone SE is slightly thicker (7.6 mm) compared with the slimmer iPhone 6s (7.1 mm).

Battery life

One advantage of a larger phone is a larger battery, which translates to a longer battery life. With the iPhone SE Apple reduced the size of the battery but was able to maintain battery life, mostly because the display is the most important consumer of energy; a smaller display requires less power and can therefore support a longer battery life.

In fact, a Wall Street Journal review found that in their lab stress test, the iPhone SE battery lasted 2 hours more than the iPhone 6s and 3 hours more than the Galaxy S7.

A comparison of the battery life of various iPhone models reveals that the iPhone SE has the best battery life. Image courtesy Ars Technica.
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A comparison of the battery life of various iPhone models reveals that the iPhone SE has the best battery life. Image courtesy Ars Technica.

Wireless Connectivity

4G LTE

The iPhone 6s supports LTE Advanced while iPhone SE does not. In practice, this means that iPhone SE does not support certain LTE bands — specifically, iPhone SE Model A1723 does not support LTE bands 13, 27 and 29, and Model A1662 does not support LTE bands 7, 27 and 28.

Both phones support LTE band 12, which is used by T-mobile and is a significant factor for T-mobile customers to consider, given the carriers very spotty LTE coverage when a device does not support band 12.

Wi-Fi

The flagship iPhone 6s also offers better Wi-Fi connectivity than the iPhone SE. While both phones support 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, the 6s uses MIMO for better throughput. The iPhone SE does not support MIMO.

Sensors

Missing Barometer

The iPhone SE has all the sensors that the 6s has — fingerprint reader, 3‑axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor and ambient light sensor— except the barometer. While the barometer is not widely used in apps, it is useful for calculating altitude. When an emergency call is placed to 911 using a smartphone, the Enhanced 911 protocol may be used. Smartphones send all sensor data — including barometer/altitude data — to the emergency dispatch.[1]

The barometer is also used by some apps for other use cases e.g. to figure out how many flights of stairs climbed, for indoor mapping, and crowdsourced weather forecasting.

TouchID

Just like the iPhone 6s, the iPhone SE supprts TouchID and Apple Pay. However, the iPhone SE uses a slower, first-generation TouchID sensor.

References

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