The latest iPhone goes on sale this week. As the reviews start rolling in, here are a big handful of things you might not have seen.
1. Camera hardware is the same as the latest iPhone SE
There had been a guess that the rear camera was different this time, based on the fact that so many new features like Deep Fusion and Photographic Styles are available on the iPhone SE.
Apple’s view is that a camera system is made up of all its parts, from lens and sensor to processor and software.
In fact, all the upgrades come from the processing power running with iOS 15, and the sensor and lens are the same as on the iPhone SE 2020.
Which means, and you’re ahead of me here, the lens and sensor are the ones we first saw on the iPhone 8, released in 2017.
Should it matter? Maybe not. Images on the new iPhone SE are remarkably good, much better than those I’ve seen on comparably priced Android phones. Computational photography is Apple’s solution, and it seems to be working well. Actually, there’s another hardware change that helped here too…
2. There are hardware updates beyond A15 Bionic
Of course, we know about the new processor, but the received wisdom is that Apple changes the processor and nothing else. Well, now it looks like the RAM has also been updated, going from 3GB on the 2020 model to 4GB today. Presumably, this is to work effectively with the A15 Bionic.
A 33% increase in RAM is nothing to complain about and while many Android phones have a lot more RAM, remember that Apple is fiendishly efficient in its memory management. There’s another hardware change…
3. Increased battery life depends on hardware as well as software
One of the headline updates this time around is the arrival of 5G. It’s still something relatively rare on mid-range phones, let’s remember. And that puts the new SE ahead of the more expensive iPhone 11 in that regard.
So we know that the antennas and associated elements for 5G connectivity are all new.
But putting 5G in a chassis and enclosure designed for 4G is something of a technical feat. Lower battery life would have likely been due to the new power-hungry 5G components. Instead, Apple claimed longer battery life of around two hours compared to the latest SE, which is impressive and confirmed by my testing.
We know that iOS 15 is power efficient, but it’s also true that there’s a bigger battery in this phone. Apple hasn’t announced the size increase and we’ll have to wait for a teardown for that, but it did say the SE has longer battery life than any of its previous phones with screens. 4.7 inches.
4. The photos don’t do the new colors justice.
I tested the iPhone SE in the color Apple calls Midnight for my Forbes review. It’s anything but black and makes the latest version’s Space Gray look unremarkable in comparison.
Most of the time it’s almost black, but catch it in the right light and it’s suddenly a brilliantly attractive indigo. The blue accent shines and it’s an eye-catching yet still understated finish.
I’m also a big fan of Starlight on Apple phones. The iPhone 13’s finish is stunning, looking almost white or pale silver in most lights but, again in the right light, sparkling with a touch of head-turning gold.
Incidentally, the photos don’t do justice to the appeal of the new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro colors. Although you can see pictures (I tried my best) of the new green and the alpine green here.
5. The new iPhone SE is blazingly fast
We knew the A15 Bionic was no slouch, but on this phone it seems to be super charged. That may be due to the lower demands of a smaller, lower-resolution LCD screen, among other features, but regardless, it’s lightning-fast.
Oh, and one more for luck: the new wallpapers look cool too.
There are three new wallpapers exclusive to the iPhone SE, as well as dynamic and fixed options also available on other iPhones. They are all in the same style, vibrant light seen as though through laminated glass. One has a blue-green feel, the other is yellow-pink, and the third is red and green. The central part of the wallpaper is light in color during the day, dominated by darker shades at night.