|----------------iPhone SE Space Grey 128GB|
The iconic iPhone SE design echos back to the days of Steve Jobs and the iPhone 5S. The 4inch form factor offering a 1 hand friendly experience that was all but abandoned by Android phones that took after the Galaxy Note phablet series. After two Samsung Note's I am about to activate an SE for long term testing :)
Early Smartphone Research
In 2010 I started researching iPhone's as potential replacements for my then LG ENV1, ENV2 & ENV3 phones. By late 2011 using rumor materials online I began to plan to acquire an iPhone 5 as my first smartphone in 2013.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 became my first smartphone, I had abandoned the idea of getting an iPhone 5 after learning what it would take to change the battery in my iPad 2, namely 26 pages of IFIXIT instructions, dedication, a replacement battery and lots of time. I was so outraged by the sealed non-user serviceable design of the iPad 2 battery that I vowed to never buy another Apple mobile product. Megs iPhone SE was the first purchase that violated that vow.
Pocket Rocket SE
iPhone 6S hardware lives inside the SE; an awesome 1624 mAh lipo 6.21 Wh battery, 12MP 4K eyesight camera & blazing fast A9 SOC performance that combine to create the best 4inc smartphone available. Anandtech did a remarkably detailed series of benchmarks comparing the iPhone SE to the Samsung S6 and iPhone 5 and other equivalent comparable devices like the LG G4. In most of the performance metrics the SE ranks as a top performer.
Good 5S Screen Again
The relatively low resolution smaller screen 4in LED IPS LCD with 640 x 1136 resolution enables the much newer A9 GPU cores to accelerate buttery smooth graphics in all aspects of the user experience. The wide color space, high color accuracy, and good brightness are balanced by mediocre contrast, reduced off angle viewing performance and generally feel like a dated technology from the iPhone 5S, which makes sense.
In one my recent posting I break down the history of how Apple was able to dominate the smartphone market with strategic integrated circuit optimization of graphic acceleration cores utilized across apps & throughout the IOS operating system environment, a forked compacted break off of Xquarts in OSX, its amazing what the Metal API enables on the iPhone & iPad models.
The iPhone SE case design shares a lot in common with iPhone 5 & 5S, namely a boxy edge that is easy to hold with one hand that makes these phones nearly 2x stronger than the iPhone 6 & 6S in terms of resistance to real world bending forces encountered in pockets, purses, bags & backpacks, cup holders and elsewhere. Look at the minor dimensional differences between the iPhone 5S & SE & the Galaxy Note 3
123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm 113grams 5S
123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm 112grams SE
151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm 168 grams GN3
|iPhone SE sitting on top of my old Galaxy Note 3|
Computational specifications of the SE shine over the 5S
SE A9 1.84 GHz dual Twister cores with 6 core PowerVR GT7600 GPU + 2GB RAM
5S A7 1.3 GHz dual Cyclone cores with 4 core Power VR G6430 + 1GB Ram
iPhone SE like 6S in 5S body!
Internals of the 6S in the iPhone 5S body, with the iPhone 5S screen, a better battery, 2x more ram, a faster CPU, a much better camera 12MP + 4K video vs 8MP 1080P, the A9 is eons better at image processing than the A7, giving the SE camera even better performance. Sadly no optical image stabilization but the camera is flush with the body.
Long Term Support
I think building phones out of aluminum & glass is a terrible idea but went with the iPhone SE anyway. My mostly plastic Galaxy Note 3 represents my personal ideals in smartphone material choices, though the aforementioned device is stuck with Android 5.0. Google promised to enable high end Android devices to receive ongoing software updates but failed to ever deliver on this promise. Apple on the other hand has almost 95% of its user base on the current IOS 10 after only few months of releasing. This gives iPhone users greater security, ongoing feature updates and better long term Support. Apple is actually the only smartphone company that provides exceptional customer service.
You can read horror stories of android phones users who get nothing but lip dismissive lip services from Samsung, LG & HTC the dominate other smartphone companies. Cheap phone makers like One Plus also have terrible customer support. It is hard to find good customer service outside of a handful of companies like REI, Nordstroms, Amazon and Apple. Many companies are only interested in selling more units of their stuff, obviously caring nothing for their customers with mediocre or terrible customer support.
Apple Betrayed the Consumer
My late 08 macbook was a gem and still works fine with its easy to change modular battery, hard-drive, ram, etc. I have written extensively about the virtues of user replaceable lithium ion batteries that predictably fade after just a few years of service.
Nexus 7 + Kyocera Brigadier Lithium Fade
Often times a lithium ion battery like the battery in my Google Nexus 7 tablet start to lose noticeable amounts of userful charge holding capacity after just a year or so. My rugged android Kyocera Brigadier phone sits idle underutilized because the deeply sealed hard to access non-user serviceable battery lost more than 1/2 of its capacity after just 1 year of use, making it annoying to utilize.
iPad Classic Battery Debacle
Apple was the subject of a documentary film that made Casey Neistat famous, demonstrating that Apple was ripping people off with the battery change costs for the original iPad classic back in 2003. $220 for a battery change.
iPad 2 Battery Endurance Astonishing
As it turned out, the batteries in our iPad 2 ended up holding up really well and still work with greater than 80% of their original capacity after many years. Remarkable given the recent Galaxy Note 7 battery fires, hoverboard fires and Boeing dreamliner lithium ion battery fires. Even Nasa had a nasty expensive lithium ion fire disaster with its Robosimian robotic arm.
The iPhone may have a sealed internal non-user serviceable battery, but changing the battery is actually a fairly easy procedure that can be done with easily accessible tools and parts in under 20 minutes. Meg was using an iPhone 5 that experience battery fade after about 3 years, so I changed the battery and she continued using it for about another year, eventually switching to a 64GB iPhone SE in middle 2016. I studied Meg's iPhone SE for several months in passive observational modes while also sporadically engaging in research about the SE.
Old Dreams Realized
The unrequited desire for the original iPhone 5 translated into the purchase of this latest iPhone SE. I was long ago tired of the phablet form factor. The gigantic Note 3 in its protective case look like my Orange Solar charger had a baby with a Samsung S4. (upload image of phone relative to charger) : the Note 3 will live on as a Google Cardboard VR viewer/ gaming console/ MID device, now utilizing its 3rd user replaceable battery, I am sure it will serve this role for many years to come until VR is a more polished consumer product.
Good VR Too Expensive
I am not detracting from the work that HTC and Oculus did on their respective desktop gaming computer VR accessory viewers, though high end gaming desktops are not exactly a mainstream consumer item. I reworked the numbers 4 different ways for PC builds and even the cheapest core upgrade paths were $800-900 + the VR viewer $600 for the Oculus Rift & $800 for the HTC Vive, thats $1500 for a gaming setup, far too expensive to become a mainstream consumer product. Say "Early Adopter + VR Enthusiast" : while I am excited about VR, I am not excited enough to spend thousands of dollars to jump on that train early. The Note 3 in a Google Cardboard viewer for free gives just enough fun in VR and the expensive path to a better experience does not pencil out with good experience per dollar ratio.
|The SE running "Within VR App" for Google Cardboard|
Mediocre VR using SE with Google Cardboard
iPhone SE VR inappropriate for Google Cardboard because the 4in screen & mediocre resolution will not create a good rendering for your eyes, through it will work if you install the required apps onto an iPhone. Certainly the largest newer iPhone 7 Plus would make a better Google Cardboard viewer. This is why the Note 3 will be relegated to VR workloads, its larger higher resolution screen is a better fit, a proven platform that Meg & I have both experienced to the point of "wowing" us both.
Try Google Cardboard
If you have not tried VR, I highly recommend getting a cheap OEM Google Cardboard for $15 on Amazon, downloading the Cardboard App, specifically one called "Within", sticking your phone into the viewer and holding on to the Cardboard as it blows your mind. Making sure you are standing in a free-space with room to move around, and go easy at first, the experience can be so intense that it can cause slight disorientation. User a newer faster phone with a good GPU to minimize image artifacts, frame tearing and slow frame rates while can exacerbate the disoriential potential of using a Google Cardboard viewer.
No nano-sim cards in my collection, a quick trip to the local Verizon Wireless official store had my SE online with a new sim car in just a few minutes. Special thanks to the employees Jeff & Katie for their help, they were personable, friendly, polite, helpful, professional, fast, efficient and nice! A quick trip home plugged into iTunes on the iMac and the SE was configure. I worked on this posting as it installed the latest software update 10.3.2. The update must be quite extensive as it got the SE toasty hot while taking more than 10 minutes to finish.
Logging the First Week
I turned off "Raise to Wake" in the Display & Brightness settings right after activating the phone, it kept turning on the screen when I was moving the phone in its plastic bag. This SE will mostly live in a protective case inside my lunch box.
Cell Phone Cancer
"I do not store a smartphone on my person most of the time to avoid tight RF coupling within 1cm of skin, some specifically warned against in the user manual of most smartphones : not that most people would ever read the documentation I am referencing. While studying HAM radio I discovered an empirical connection between cell phone microwave radiation & cancer that I can no longer ignore. Continuous wave voice calls produce the most RF exposure, using speaker phone & placing the phone at least 10cm away from your body, hands, & face will dramatically reduce the negative impacts of the RF from the phone, while also improving connectional fidelity & call audio quality."
Facetime, Night Shift screen warm auto tinting, do not disturb, the swipe from the left notifications, fast app installs, high performance Safari browsing, some of my initial impressions make intuitive sense based on the hardware improvements & software improvements over the experience I have had on my ancient 4th gen iPod Touch & iPad 2.
Formatting the Battery with 100% initial Charge
I fully charged the SE upon unboxing it in accordance with the proper lithium polymer battery formatting procedures developed by Cadex. All new rechargeable batteries should be fully charged before initial use. LiPO batteries like the one in the SE are shipped with a partial charge. When I booted the SE for the first time the battery icon indicated ~30% state of charge. Using the lightning cable that I normally use to charge my iMac keyboard & mouse, I used the charging brick that shipped with my Kyocera Brigadier as the power supply. ~1 hour later the SE was fully charged.
I removed some of the "default apps" & folderizer others that I will rarely use on the phone, freeing up space on the SSD & screens for my favorite Apps: Fitbit, Pandora, Nest & Segway. The APP layout will undergo some iterative optimization as I continue using & thinking about how I make use of the SE. I generally recommend removing Apps that you will never make use of.
The SE battery is holding up well @ 68% : unsurprising given my "light" use case. Meg & I split 2GB of mobile data per month & are generally light users of our phones. The plastic protective wrap is still on the phone, pending a screen protector & case installation.
Within VR SE Testing
The small 4in screen of the SE works in my "Star Wars" themed "Google Goggles" using the Within App, though a larger screen like the iPhone 7 Plus would work way better, with greater resolution & more screen area to create a large more immersive visual field in the headset. The individual pixels, Red Green & Blue of the SE's IPS LED LCD were visible during VR. I tried 3 minutes of this super cool "Shegeto" Within App experience! After 3 minutes of streaming the charge decline an indicated 3%, roughly 1 minutes of runtime in VR for every 1% unit of remaining battery life (estimated as a %value (settings/battery/display battery %) adjacent to the Battery Icon at the top right of the screen.
I prechilled the SE before backing it up to iTunes, just prior to launching the VR app to keep everything cold. A 14lb aluminum block at 15 deg F was placed on a large floating floor carpet, a plastic bag was placed on the block, the SE was placed onto the bag. Thermal conduction of the block chilled the SE to less than 50deg F in seconds while I was installing the Within App. Within 1 minute the LiPo became so cold that the SE shutdown, indicating 3% charge on the screen when I attempted to turn it back on. I promptly warmed the phone with my hands and waste heat from the warm aluminum base of the iMac. I plugged it into the iMac with iTunes launched to back it up and charge warm the battery. Within seconds the SE rebooted, battery indicator @ 63%, I backed it up to iTunes and charged it to 74%. Using the VR app for 3 dropped the SOC to 71% holding steady now. It seems to be a very power efficient phone compared to my Galaxy Note 3: the SE achieving greater runtime with less power using a smaller battery.
|14lb Aluminum block frozen to -3 deg F|
Plastic bag kept water off phone while chilling
VR got the SE toasty, this block quickly chilled it!
Voice Call #1
The SE had good call quality. Meg & I were out walking around suburbia when I got a call from Connie Schwarz, my well meaning kind spirited catholic mother who likes to call & check in periodically. I put the phone into speaker mode, held it out away from my body flat face up in the palm of my right hand. The speaker was nice and loud. In direct sun the relatively good brightness of the display performed well.
Upon leaving on the Segway, still connected to my home wifi, I downloaded the 9 bot App from the App store, loaded it up, logged in, and connected the SE to the Segway using bluetooth. I was taking the Segway MP out for a spin to investigate a cat rescue that Meg was performing along with a crew of 2 Russian teenage girls, one 40ish year old contractor who used his truck with a poly cable to pull the branch down, and donated the use of his 12 foot aluminum tripod ladder. A nice 50 something couple brought water and tuna in small plastic containers to lure the kitty. Our neighbor Sheri also came with a 6ft fiberglass later, carrying it almost a mile on foot to the site of the rescue. Meg was able to grab the Kitty after almost an hour of effort between 8:30 & 9:30PM.
Made it down to 8% charge by the 3rd day, deliberately using the SE with lots of texting, shooting images & videos, browsing the web, etc. Speedy little iPhone SE!!!! This was the first full discharge after the initial full charge before use. Lasted almost 45 hours from 99% indicated to 8% indicated. The 2nd full charge was performed using my OEM Samsung 2.1amp charging brick with an official Apple USB-Lightning Cable. The SE's USB charging cube, headphones & included lightning cable are still in the box, never used. 3 full cycle charge/ discharge to low state cycles will be used to format the SE's newly activated LiPo battery cell.
Typo's Continue : Mostly My Fault
The keyboard auto-correct is not 100% accurate, giving rise to a few typos in my text stream that I did not catch before sending. I know I have agency to proofread what I write before sending or publishing; no doubt there are many writing errors of all kinds in my blog that provide ample evidence that I should probably stay away from the marketing departments writing staff :P and stick to being a technologist polymath who loves science & applied technology, especially promoting clean sustainable energy, energy intelligence, energy conservation & artificial intelligence across all sectors & throughout all organizations & institutions in our human civilization : blasing forward making history together today.
|The SE in a cheap all plastic protective case!|
The SE feels exactly like the iPhone 5S, I even got a $10 case on Amazon for it that was designed for the 5S. Its black with a bright green back accent area, entirely made of injection molded plastics of mediocre quality : a chinesium plastic design clone of a Spigen case that Meg has on her phone, complete with the same inner case pattern, though her $17 model was made with aluminum as the back accent case part.
SE Camera Intentions
One of my goals is to make better use of the SE as a camera to document memories of the life that Meg & I share, happy, healthy & optimistic about the future, deliberately choosing to focus on being positive.
In the past I was reluctant to use any of my Android phones as a camera because of how annoying it was to get photos onto my different desktop computers : real cameras have SD cards that make photo editing, video editing and the work flow of real photography more fluid. Android phones make a clunky solution as an alternative.
The best camera is the one that you always have with you: a truism about photography that I will apply to inform the motivations to make good use of the SE's 12MP 4K video camera system!
Glass Screen Protector
I installed a cheap MG glass screen protector & it ended up fitting perfectly with the new case.
On initial formatting discharge cycle 2 of 3 I was able to drive the battery down to %3 indicated with Stockfish, a chess game :) Meg & I went hiking earlier & I used the SE as a camera to shoot video, still images HDR & Panoramic images. I asked Siri for driving directions & she was able to provide them :) Upon returning from our adventure I plugged the SE in to charge it to full for the last of the 3 formating cycles, charging to 100% 3x for the initial formatting of the LiPO battery cell.
Customized Contact List from Scratch (sorta)
I am not going to import my caller list from my old phone, except in a very deliberate one off custom sort of way. This will clear out dead contacts. I have my old phone to reference people I am still in contact with. This might seem extreme, but I really do not want to out the Verizon App on my phone. Its an unlocked SE without any carrier bloatware! I also do not want to connect my android phone to my iMac or my SE for other reasons. For now I will cultivate a new contacts list based on research of my old contacts list, active communications, and adaptation.
Late night I finished the final 3 of 3 full initial formatting charge cycles. It rested from 10 pm & only lost 5% of its charge overnight (11 hours) with Wifi & Bluetooth turned on. I used it as my alarm clock to wake up this morning. Yesterday's hiking & jogging has me feeling a little tire & sore. Meg & have long aspired to become more active like we were when we were first dating many years ago. After many discussions we have chosen to deliberately become more active.
Five years of Android phones gives a slight IOS learning curve. I am mastering the accessibility on screen "home" button that lets me avoid pressing the hardware button. I have been playing chess on the go with my favorite Chess App "StockFish" on the SE. I played stockfish chess on my iPad 2 & iPod Touch 4. It is nice to have it on my phone, and because the iPhone SE shares the same App platform IOS as my iPad & iPod Touch, I now have access to a very old previously purchased App library. Not all of my old favorite Apps still work in IOS 10.3 as their developers never continued working on them. Some App projects get going and fade out after a few years in the competitive mobile App landscape.
Alarm clock function working nicely. I switch to a music based wake sound :)
I tuned the settings more, adjusting the Location services to better fit my preferences for optimization! Wake to sleep means I no longer click the sleep/wake/power button, and the on screen home button enables working the IO without clicking the home button at all :) This should make the buttons last a long time. I hope to use this phone until 2020 or deeper!
The custom contact list production is going slowly, I may go the dark path & download the Verizon App to translate my old address book.
This marks the end of this posting :)
I will work up something akin to an abbreviated review at some point, probably a long term reflection on the platform shift away from Android 5 to IOS 10