In the market for a 'small but mighty' iPhone? We pit the 4-inch iPhone SE against the 5s, let's see who wins the battle ...


Unveiled in March at an Apple event in Cupertino, California, the iPhone SE (special edition), was heralded as both the ‘most powerful 4-inch iPhone ever’ and the cheapest iPhone at launch. However, looking at the SE next to the iPhone 5s – which was launched in 2013 – you would be none the wiser as to its capabilities.

Holding the SE and the 5s, turned off in your hands, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference. Both phones have the same dimensions (123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm) and rounded edges; both offer a 4-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 640 x 1136 pixels; and both have the same fingerprint sensor. In fact, in terms of design changes the only thing you may notice is the different range of colours – the rose gold variant is only available for the SE – and the weight: the SE is 1g heavier than the 5s, however you would need to be using a high-performance scales to notice the weight difference, it’s so minimal. 
iPhone SE vs 5s design


Of course the key market for the SE are those who have a 4-inch iPhone, like the iPhone 5s or 5c, and want to upgrade to a phone that is the same size but offers an improved performance, and luckily, the iPhone SE offers just that.

Starting with platform and memory, and iPhone 5s users should notice an improvement in terms of speed and quality, with the Apple A9 chip in the SE. Users will also benefit from the dual-core 1.84 GHz Twister and an additional 1GB of RAM, compared to the 5s; in fact the SE has the same amount of RAM as the 6s.

In terms of battery life, the SE’s 1,624 mAh battery outranks the 5s’s 1,560 version and while it’s smaller than the one you’ll find in the 6s and new iPhone 7, you should get the same amount of juice out of it – 240 hours of standby time or 14 hours or talk time – due to its smaller size. 


Next up is camera capabilities, and while you'll find little difference in the selfie camera between the SE and 5s – in fact it's the exact same 1.2MP FaceTime camera on both – there are some improvements in the rear camera; 4MP of improvements in fact. The 12MP iSight camera with Focus Pixel on the iPhone SE is the exact same as the camera on its older brother, the iPhone 6s.

You'll also be able to shoot 4K video on the SE and avail of Live Photos as standard, which is a nice little add on for anyone that wants the features of the 6s but not the hefty price tag. Check out how Live Photos work in the video below. 

The verdict

This is our closest comparison yet, and really it will come down to your budget which iPhone you choose.

The iPhone SE does have a number of new features, including Live Photos, but there’s very little that’s specifically new to this device; it’s essentially an iPhone 6s wrapped up in a smaller package.

If you’re not particularly bothered about these new features, the 5s still has plenty to offer, and you can still avail of any updates as part of iOS 9.3, including the handy Night Shift feature

Save €100 and get the iPhone SE  for no upfront cost when you switch to Vodafone bill pay now at Carphone Warehouse. Or choose the iPhone 5s for free on Three's Mini Flex Max, €25.41 a month, plan.