Review of iPhone SE (August 2018)

Aug 26, 2018
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Review of iPhone SE (August 2018)

This is a review of a 128GB iPhone SE, bought new in Hong Kong in May 2018.

I bought the SE in May 2018, even though I knew that it was an older design with older hardware specifications. I never did like the design of the iPhone after they changed the design to that of the 6 onwards, and even the design of the iPhone X didn't appeal to me, much less the terrible notch design.

I have always liked the industrial design of the iPhones from the 4 onwards, and always wanted to have the classic SE design in my hands.
I bought the Space Grey version (not a fan of white-coloured phones) and have been using it since.

Having used the now-usual gargantuan-sized Android phones (my previous Android was a Xiaomi Mi Max, a 6.4" screen), it was a refreshing change to switch to a 4" screen phone. The ability to use it one-handed is something I had forgotten that I had missed doing after so many years of using larger phones. In my opinion, although larger phones provided more screen real estate for content, they come at a cost of not being easy to handle with one or two hands, and being rather large and unwieldy, are a little more prone to slippage and drops.

iOS vs Android
The perennial question of which OS to choose really boils down to design aesthetics today. Android has matured, arguably, to be a fully-featured mobile operating system. iOS, while appearing to be a little simpler and more restricted (access to the file system and file transfers still remain a pain), offers more or less a similar user experience.

I am one person who has used Palm OS, WebOS, BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry
10, Windows Phone OS, Windows 10 Mobile, Android and of course, iOS. There really isn't any superior OS - it all boils down to user preference.

Having said that, whenever I use the iPhone, I do miss the added flexibility of accessing SD-cards and easy/more convenient PC connectivity that Android offers.

Use case
Here’s what I use a smartphone for (this applies to both the iPhone and an Android device):

(I’ll list down the apps I use for Android and iOS)

1. Listening to music (MP3, FLAC)
App: FooBar2000 (Android), VOX (iOS)
2. Reading e-books (ePub, Mobi)
App: FBReader (Android), iBooks (iOS - ePub only)
3. Taking notes
App: SimpleNote, Microsoft OneNote (Android & iOS)
4. Writing and replying to emails
App: BlackBerry Hub (Android), Mail & Outlook (iOS)
5. Photo editing
App: Snapseed (Android & iOS)
6. Instant Messaging
App: WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Google Allo (Android & iOS)
7. Work-related
App: Slack, GoogleDoc suite, Google Drive, Dropbox (Android & iOS)
8. Video
App: VLC (Android & iOS)

Text Input
I must admit that I suck at using software keyboards (Virtual Keyboards or VKB). For that reason, I’ve been using physical keyboards (PKB) for a very long time (Palm Treo, Centro, Pixi Plus, BlackBerry Curve, Bold, Torch, Q10, Passport, Classic, KEYone). I never did get used to VKB on Android and now this iPhone SE.

Enter the Typo PKB
I managed to come across a new Typo keyboard for the iPhone 5 at a retail shop recently, and I snapped it up immediately.

The Typo PKB makes text input on the iPhone SE a splendid affair. I no longer have to fumble with Autocorrect, and tapping on the wrong keys, which happen to me a lot. I also spend less time trying not to make mistakes. My thumbs can rest on the physical keyboard, whilst I ponder on creating my textual content. It works really well for me and I’m so happy that I have it.

The camera on the iPhone SE is good enough for me. I do take lots of photos, and whilst I could do with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) on the camera, I find that I can get by with the SE’s camera quality. Nothing to shout about, but not too shabby either.

Battery life
Being a bit on the small side, I do find the battery performance a little lacking. With 4G switched on, I can go from 100% to 20% in about 10 hours, under light usage.

I do find that browsing the web on both wifi and data significantly eats up battery power. So it’s important to have a power bank with me when I’m out and about. A minor inconvenience for the gains that are derived from the added portability of using a small phone.

Audio quality
The audio quality of the iPhone SE, when using a pair of in-ear earphones is actually pretty good. I’m no audiophile, but I have been impressed with the audio quality. FLAC audio (16 bit & 24 bit) sounds really good here. I don’t have a high-end headphone to test, but over at, there are several posts by users who have. Worth a read if you’re into musical fidelity.

Overall, the SE is an excellent phone. If one is willing to work around the limitations of iOS, it is quite a capable little phone. I hope to keep using it for at least a further 3 years.

This article was written in SimpleNote, using an iPhone SE with a Typo keyboard attachment.


Well-known member
Feb 20, 2016
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It's refreshing to read a review for the SE recently. Glad that you are enjoying it! I hope that it will continue to work well for you.

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