The New iPhone SE, Like Accessibility, Is All About Perspective

The new iPhone SE isn't hard to grasp and simple to review. As I wrote to conclude my prior piece on the device, it's neither groundbreaking nor especially exciting. It’s a replay of the 2016 version: Apple took a tried-and-true industrial design, which they’ve mastered after spending years manufacturing untold millions, and stuffed it with modern amenities—namely, their latest system-on-a-chip within the A13 Bionic. As I also wrote, this can be not a nasty thing; the strategy works. The new SE is an unprecedented value, as budget-conscious buyers get optimum bang for his or her buck.

The new low-cost smartphone, the progeny of an iPhone 8 and an iPhone 11, is a formidable device that in some ways maybe a better (and obviously cheaper) option than its higher-end, costlier brethren, depending upon who you're. I’ve been testing a review unit sent to me by Apple (black, with 256GB of storage) for some days on, and have greatly enjoyed fooling around with this plucky thing.

Using the iPhone SE, albeit in short spurts, affirms what I wrote about it previously. More importantly, however, is now using the device really does teach you a lesson on why perspective is so important and the way they'll so quickly and starkly change.

Sizing Up Size & Weight

The SE’s physical attributes are the foremost striking parts of the phone.
Compared to the 4-inch iPhone SE from four years ago, the cover version is big. The latter’s 4.7-inch shows appreciably more on-screen feels bigger in hand and is a smaller amount pocketable. But consider the opposite viewpoint: the new iPhone SE is literally and figuratively downright diminutive compared to the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max, the scale of which I've got preferred for some years now. boost the actual fact I've got a beefy-itself Smart Battery Case on the already-monstrous phone—bought, in context of the present global COVID-19 pandemic, during The Before Times when it absolutely was permissible to venture outside for quite groceries—and the scale difference is that way more pronounced. Put in our own way, the SE entirely fits within the screen area of my 11 Pro Max. it's that small—or, if you favor, the 11 Pro Max is that big. However you select to seem at it, it’s simultaneously amazing and amusing to contemplate what was once a “big” phone is now considered “small” by today’s standards.

In practice, the iPhone SE’s small size is delightful to carry and carry around the house within the pocket of my lounge pants. I've got small hands, so from a tactile perspective, I favor it better than my comically-large 11 Pro Max. the previous is way lighter and straightforward to carry for extended periods, additionally as being eminently easier to stuff in my aforementioned pocket. each time I develop the SE, I immediately make attention to how nice it's to use a phone that's so small and lightweight. It’s no wonder Apple proclaims the now 6-year-old 4.7-inch design is its “most popular size.” For many, the iPhone SE (and other iPhones of its class) really does capture the perfect balance of huge enough to work out yet sufficiently little to be pocketable. As for the display, I vastly prefer the larger one amongst my 11 Pro Max. It isn’t that the SE’s screen in unusable; it’s that Max’s screen is more expansive and thus ready to show more without delay. The SE’s screen is completely fine, although I did adjust the text to create it larger. I wouldn’t want to downsize to the SE’s screen after experiencing the larger displays on Apple’s most premium iPhones. because the adage goes, bigger is best.

If there’s anything I’ve learned since moving up to the Max (née Plus) models with the iPhone 6s Plus in 2015, it’s that I appreciate the larger screen not for the sheer size of it except for the actual fact I search and scroll less. By definition, being bigger means I can see more, but a byproduct of such bigness is it cuts down on how frequently my eyes and finger needs to work. If you’re someone who, like me, has both visual and physical-motor disabilities, you likely appreciate this too. after all the Faustian bargain is I need to address an unwieldy device occasionally, but such is that the price I buy a phone I can actually use without undue compromise.

A Biometric Battle

Like with the SE’s physical characteristics, it’s been a joy using Touch ID again after two-and-a-half years with Face ID. It goes to point out that, while Face ID has supplanted it on the higher-end models permanently reason, Touch ID remains not simply viable but relevant and particular. Touch ID still could be a damn good technology 7 years into its life. Better even, especially nowadays, in ways than the presumed “superior” Face ID.

To illustrate what proportion I appreciate Touch ID, consider this personal anecdote. I’ve lived with Face ID daily for over two years, yet therein time still cannot reliably hold my phone far enough far from my face so the TrueDepth camera system can read my face. that's to mention, I buy the playful “head shake” animation and haptic buzz on the lock screen more often than not. Access denied. The software is functioning as designed, but there’s still friction. It doesn’t matter that it’s my fault—that because I want objects near my face to work out, I innately do so with my phone the least bit times—the broader point is that this wouldn’t be a problem with my thumb.

With the SE, I put my thumb on the house button and I’m in. I don’t need to mutter an expletive or two before moving my arm just a touch further away to unlock the device. during this sense, Touch ID is convenient as hell and literally more accessible. Even the setup process for registering my thumb is nicer than doing my face. Although Apple has made an affordance for those that cannot move their head by allowing facial scans without it, I find using the Touch ID setup buddy to be far easier and more comfortable—and I can move my head just fine. I imagine I’m not the sole one who feels this manner, disability or not.

The praise for Touch ID is neither a disparagement nor an indictment of Face ID. like the ergonomic qualities, to decide on the SE for Touch ID’s presence is also a matter of familiarity and/or accessibility. For frontline medical workers who must wear masks but aren’t wearing gloves, as an example, a phone with Touch ID is that the more pragmatic choice. Likewise, the comfort of a home button can act because of the “geographic center” of the device, anchoring the hand to a central place and adding a tier of conceptual concreteness for users with certain cognitive delays. against this, Face ID could be a better, faster option for those with limited motor dexterity and who cannot use their fingers, or for whom fingerprints don’t take well like burn victims.

Notes On The ‘Classic’ iPhone UI Paradigm

It didn’t take long in my testing to adapt to the SE’s old-school program paradigms. The SE sports things that are classically iPhone: Touch ID, a home button to travel home, and gestures like swiping down from the highest to access notifications and swiping up from the underside to urge at the center. That last one is my favorite; I prefer it to the nouveau approach of swiping down from the upper right corner of the screen. I understand why it's to be that way—swiping up from the underside takes you home and invokes the app switcher—but the corner gestures feel awkward at the best.

As I alluded to within the previous section, the “old” way of doing things on an iPhone may be a reason, whether you’re disabled or not, to prefer the SE. It’s familiar and it works. If you're concerned with accessibility, however, the SE’s program conventions will feel familiar but more importantly are less abstract in nature and more streamlined. that may help not only in terms of motor skills but also in terms of cognition.

The thing I absolutely miss from my iPhone 11 Pro Max is Tap-to-Wake. For checking the time or notifications, tapping the screen to wake it's such a lot better than pressing the house button on the SE. you have got to touch the screen anyway, so Tap-to-Wake feels far more natural. It breaks my brain after I tap the SE and zip happens.

The Bottom Line

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber sums up the new iPhone SE well. He writes in his review: “Like the iPhone 5-style 2016 iPhone SE before it, the new iPhone 6-style iPhone SE sounds like the canonical ideal of the shape factor it embodies.”

I’ll go one step further and say not only is that the new SE the canonical idea of the shape it embodies, but the phone’s appeal also exemplifies the importance of perspective. Especially for an individual with disabilities, the SE could also be the “best” iPhone of Apple’s lot, for cost and ergonomic reasons. Apple knows, and people within the tech press like me know, that the iPhone SE isn't the most effective iPhone from a purely technological standpoint. But that’s the thing about perspective—for many, it should, of course, present the most effective overall package of “legacy” features they need with the smallest amount of sticker shock.

Think about that last sentence then consider Apple’s shrewd decision to place its best-of-breed silicon during a “budget” device. Such savvy will literally last users' years.

Personally, the SE isn't on behalf of me. I’ve moved on from that form: I prefer Face ID better generally, and also the iPhone X-era design language with the tiny bezels (and yes, the notch) looks cooler. That said, I've got a deep appreciation for what the SE is and what it represents. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, disabled or not.