It’s time to upgrade: iPhone SE vs. iPhone 5S spec showdown

So you’ve got this old iPhone 5S burning a hole in your pocket, huh? Perhaps you’ve held on to it because you prefer smaller phones or you’re nostalgic, or, maybe, you have yet to be swayed by any of the latest iPhones. Perhaps you might be interested in the iPhone SE — or, as Apple calls it, “the most powerful 4-inch smartphone.”

To help you decide if you finally want to upgrade, we’ve pitted the now-discontinued iPhone 5S against the new iPhone SE. The following is a detailed breakdown of the specs for each device. Additionally, we’ve given our thoughts on how the two stack up in terms of design, power, camera functionality, and more.

Apple iPhone SEiphone_se_thumb_480

Apple iPhone 5Siphone5s-2-350x210

Size 4.87 x 2.31 x .30 inches 4.87 x 2.31 x .30 inches
Weight 3.99 ounces 3.95 ounces
Display size 4 inches 4 inches
Resolution 1136 x 640 pixels 1136 x 640 pixels
OS iOS 9.3 iOS 7, upgradable to 9.3
Capacity 16, 64GB 16, 32, 64GB
Chipset A9 chip with 64 bit architecture, Embedded M9 motion coprocessor Apple A7, M7 motion coprocessor
RAM 2GB 1GB
Connectivity 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, hotspot 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, hotspot
Camera 12 MP primary, 1.2 MP secondary 8 MP primary, 1.2 MP secondary
Video 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 30, 60, 0r 120fps, 720p at 240fps 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 120fps
Bluetooth 4.2 4.0
Sensors Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Apple Pay Yes No
Battery Non-removable Li-Po 1642 mAh battery Non-removable Li-Po 1560 mAh battery
Charger Lightning Lightning
Marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Avg. Price $400  No longer on sale
Availability AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
Colors Space Gray, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold Space Gray, Silver, Gold
DT Review 4/5 4.5/5

Design and Display

Apple is marketing the iPhone SE as the replacement for the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S. As such, the company is looking to win over those who prefer the smaller form factor of the two phones and design of the 5S.

There’s not much separating the two devices in terms of size or design. They both measure in at 4.87 inches tall, 2.31 inches wide, and 0.30 inches thick. The iPhone SE is a mere .04 ounces heavier, true, but we doubt anyone will notice such a minor increase in weight while using the SE. They even look identical, with chamfered metal edges, that somewhat chubby aluminum body, and those two glass sections on the back for reception.

The 4-inch screens are also exactly the same, with identical 1,136 x 640-pixel resolutions. The button layout, body design, charger port, and mic/speaker location on both smartphones is also identical, meaning there aren’t any drastic visual changes between the two. Bearing this in mind, we feel it’s appropriate to call this category a draw.

Winner: Tie

Power

apple-iphone-se-press-7

Apple’s assertion that the iPhone SE is the most powerful 4-inch phone looks to be true, based on the specs, meaning it outpaces the iPhone 5S by a mile.

First off, let’s look at their chipsets. The 5S uses the Apple A7 chipset with 64-bit architecture, and includes an embedded M7 motion coprocessor. These chips are not one but two generations behind the iPhone SE’s A9 chipset and M9 coprocessor. Not only that, but the iPhone SE runs double the RAM at 2GB, versus the 5S’s 1GB.

Obviously, the iPhone SE is much faster and more powerful than the iPhone 5S. Users will likely notice an appreciable difference in response time, app loading and installation, and stability between the two. Furthermore, while the 5S is upgradeable to iOS 9.3 — the device ships with iOS 7.1 — it won’t run as well on the device’s outdated hardware. The iPhone SE, on the other hand, is packed with the same chipset as the iPhone 6S, and ships with iOS 9.3. As time goes on, the 5S will have a harder time running the latest version of iOS, which is why it isn’t particularly surprising that Apple no longer offers the device online or through any of its retail outlets.

The iPhone SE also has the edge in terms of battery life, especially when you consider how the 1,642mAh battery on the SE compares with the 1,560mAh battery on the 5S. It’s not as big of a difference as you’ll find between the SE and, say, the Samsung’s Galaxy S7, but it’s still worth noting.

On all power-related fronts, the iPhone SE defeats the iPhone 5S.

Winner: iPhone SE

Camera

Much like the difference in power, there is a marked difference in camera quality between the iPhone SE and iPhone 5S.

The iPhone SE’s 12-megapixel, rear-facing camera is a considerable upgrade from the 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 5S, though both still feature a 1.2-megapixel on the front. The pixel size on the SE is smaller, at 1.22 µm, versus the 5S’s 1.5 µm. That increase in megapixel count and decrease in pixel size translates to higher picture quality on the iPhone SE.

The video capabilities are also stronger with the SE, given the device is capable of capturing video at numerous resolutions and speeds (4K at 30 fps, 1080p at 60 fps, slow-motion, etc.). The SE provides a wide range of speeds and resolutions to work with, but the 5S can only record in 1080p at 30 fps, and 720p at 120fps for slo-mo capture.

The iPhone SE is a healthy upgrade camera-wise, as it offers expanded video and camera capabilities that completely overshadow the 5S. The 5S is more than three years old at this point, so it makes sense that the iPhone SE features better camera components.

Winner: iPhone SE

Conclusion

For $400, the iPhone SE packs a surprising level of processing power for its size and price. The iPhone 5S, on the other hand, has been routinely overtaken over the past several years by Apple’s various iPhone iterations. Apple wants the iPhone SE to be the best possible 4-inch iPhone, and an attractive option for users who prefer smaller phones, or who have yet to upgrade from the 5S for whatever reason. We have absolutely no doubt that the iPhone SE is a worthy upgrade from the iPhone 5S.

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