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12:05 PM

iPhone SE Reviews Herald A Small, Powerful Smartphone

With the early reviews of the iPhone SE in, Apple is getting credit for packaging an upgraded camera and a faster A9 processor into a form factor designed for smaller hands.

iPhone SE, Smaller iPad Pro Unveiled: Up Close Look
iPhone SE, Smaller iPad Pro Unveiled: Up Close Look
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Early reviews for Apple's latest smartphone, the 4-inch iPhone SE, are starting to trickle in, and the word is that Apple's compact model boasts great processing power and impressive battery life.

Essentially an iPhone 6s in a 5s body. The smartphone boasts the same camera, processing power, and internal components of last year's iPhone 6s, although it lacks 3D Touch. The compact design is aimed at users who want all the features of the latest smartphones without extra screen real estate.

Apple announced the new phone on March 21.

Preorders for the iPhone SE began March 24, and it ships March 31. The smartphone is available in silver, gold, space gray, and rose gold.

(Image: Apple)

(Image: Apple)

British newspaper The Telegraph was pleased to see technologies like near field communication (NFC), which enables Apple Pay contactless payments, and an upgraded camera in the smaller form factor. However, the review noted that the smaller screen takes some getting used to after years of massive displays.

The Telegraph was also impressed with the improved battery life and upgraded processing power. The iPhone SE boasts the same A9 chip as its larger brethren. The paper noted that while the base price of $399 isn't exactly bargain basement, it's "positively a bargain" by Apple standards.

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In its iPhone SE review, The Wall Street Journal welcomed Apple's acknowledgement that not everyone wants -- or needs -- a giant smartphone, and lauded Apple for reaching out to consumers "whose thumbs lack the wingspan of eagles."

The WSJ review also points out that Apple is now the only high-end smartphone manufacturer offering a cutting-edge smartphone in this form factor, even though a Piper Jaffray survey indicated 20% of Americans would prefer a 4-inch device.

Improved battery life and the A9 processor were both singled out as major improvements over the iPhone 5s, though Apple was lightly chastised for not adding any significant new features like waterproofing or expandable storage.

"I'm happy to see the iPhone SE, partly because I think that the world needs a small phone," the WSJ’s Geoffrey Fowler concluded. "A selection of them, truthfully. This is a mini, yet mighty, start."

Mashable's review found the price point to be a big draw and also appreciated a smaller form factor paired with up-to-date processing power. It called the iPhone SE "insanely powerful," and said that it's the first lower-priced iPhone that doesn't smack of a hand-me-down.

"There is something to be said about a phone that can truly be used with one hand," Mashable's Christina Warren wrote. "No need for reachability, no need for adjusting your hands."

While reviews for the handset were largely (so far) positive, an article in Forbes argues that the smartphone is doomed to fail in one of the world's largest emerging smartphone markets -- India.

The Forbes article argues that the majority of growth in the country is driven by smartphones with larger screen sizes, and says Apple's price point is still too high for the average customer.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

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