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The Little iPhone That Could

It’s coming up for a year since I switched from a huge Android phone to the tiny iPhone SE. So I wanted to write a bit about why I switched and what my experience has been like.

Before getting the Android phone (a Lenovo PHAB2) I’d owned an iPhone 4S. The 4S had served me well but was now showing its age and was no longer supported by Apple. I know from experience that app support tends to tail off, and those apps that still run have a harder time operating.

I couldn’t justify the expense of the latest iPhone of the time (the 7 and 7 Plus), and the previous generation models were also somewhat pricey. Additionally, I wasn’t that keen on going to a larger phone. While I’ve largish hands, the iPhone 4S felt more comfortable, was definitely more pocketable, and I could operate it with one hand.

I did consider the iPhone SE, but plumped for buying the Lenovo PHAB2 for the simple reason that it was cheaper. But what I’d saved on the handset got counterbalanced by the hassle of adjusting to the Android way. In some ways, Android worked well for me, especially with notifications. But there’s no escaping the fact that itassumes a lot of buy-in to Google’s ecosystem. While I have a Google account, I’ve moved away from most of their services, for reasons which I’ll cover in a future post.

I was able to get the Lenovo phone set up to my liking, but over time various niggles started to emerge. Apps would disappear from my home screens, or even from the apps list altogether, while saying that they’re installed in the Google Play Store. A couple of apps I tried refused to run at all. I ended up having to install another dialer / SMS app to get caller ID and screening of spam calls and messages. More to the point, finding a case or holder for the phone proved harder than I’d thought.

Now, to be fair, the PHAB2 wasn’t a terrible phone. But it’s now clear that, both in app support and accessories, the focus is on the major Android brands. If you’ve got a different brand, well, you’ll have to cross your fingers.

A larger issue emerged about a year after I’d bought the PHAB2. It’d pretty much dropped off of Lenovo’s list of supported products. And it was most definitely going to be stuck at Android 6.0 with no prospect of any upgrade path. Ok, that wasn’t a dealbreaker, but it did give me cause for concern.

Then came the day that the phone went into a reboot loop. Thank goodness, this happened on a Saturday when I was at home, so I wasn’t needing to use the phone to make calls. But various attempts to get it to a working state failed, and I concluded that I should have a backup handset.

So I went online, and was able to track down a refurbished iPhone SE.

(In an ironic twist, shortly after I’d ordered it, the PHAB2 finally came out of its reboot loop.)

Two mobile phone handsets side by side. Lenovo PHAB2 on the left, iPhone SE on the right.
Size comparison between the Lenovo PHAB2 (left) and the iPhone SE (right).

Setting up the iPhone SE wasn’t as long-winded as that for the PHAB2, thank goodness. When it came to putting my existing SIM into it, I realised that I’d have to convert it to a nano-SIM by breaking off the extra plastic surround. It would still go back into the PHAB2, but no longer as secure in the tray.

After a couple of days using the iPhone SE, I came to the conclusion that I definitely preferred it to the PHAB2! Some of this is down to my previous experience of owning and using Apple products. But there was also no question in my mind that I was experiencing fewer niggles and annoyances. So the PHAB2 went back into the box it have arrived in, and the SE became my primary phone from then on.

Of course, ‘fewer’ niggles doesn’t mean ‘none’. The smaller form factor means a smaller on-screen keyboard. So no speed-typing for me with my large fingers. And I know that the SE will, at best, see another few years of support from Apple. Still, it’s working for me now, and that’s what matters.

I was a little concerned that I’d have troubles due to its limited capacity of 16GB. But, as it turns out, I don’t need that much stuff on it to be productive.

I should add that the camera, while not possessing the latest whizz-bangs of newer iPhones, still delivers good enough images for my needs.

I did add a case around it, so I could grip it. But I’ve not had any worries about dropping it, and its size means that I can bury it at the bottom of a pocket and it’ll stay put.

One final note on the Lenovo PHAB2. It look me ages to find a place that would accept it for recycling, as most of them weren’t even aware of its existence. This is something to bear in mind when looking at lower-cost phones. Because there will come a time when you want to dispose of it.

I’m a little sad that Apple have abandoned the SE’s form factor, although I’m heartened to hear that they may introduce a ‘new’ SE based on the iPhone 8. But I’m in no rush to upgrade, this little phone is working fine for me, and long may it continue to do so! :)

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