So why did Apple go back to its archives to resurrect a nearly 4-year old design and update it with modern internals? Well, Apple had to quell the Apple faithful that balked at the larger 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus series of smartphones and it needed a cheaper device to appeal to customers at the lower-end of the market.
While the iPhone SE definitely cribbed some iPhone 6s goodness with its A9 processor, M9 Motion Engine and 12MP camera, the smartphone is still as fragile as its 2012 origins would suggest. SquareTrade decided to pit the iPhone SE against Apple current flagships in a series of durability tests, and the results weren’t pretty.
In water immersion tests, the iPhone SE was dunked under five feet of water while powered on. The smartphone immediately lost audio and was completely dead within a minute. The iPhone 6s Plus began malfunctioning while submerged after ten minutes and then quickly perished. The champ of the water test, however, was the iPhone 6s, which managed to survive a full 30 minutes underwater. The only casualty of its extended dive: the audio stopped functioning.
Up next was the tumble test, which placed each smartphone into a box that is rotated at high-speed, causing the device to bang up against the interior walls. The iPhone SE walked away with a few scrapes on its exterior, while the iPhone 6s Plus met its match, resulting in a cracked display. The iPhone 6s again came out the big winner, exiting the box completely unscathed.
The face-down drop test proved to be a tough one for all three phones. The screens of all three smartphones cracked when dropped from six feet. However, the corner drop also proved to stymie the iPhone SE, as its screen cracked on the first test. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, however, survived 10 corner drops with only cosmetic damage to the body and no screen damage.
The iPhone SE also came up short in bending tests compared to the flagship iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.
Overall, SquareTrade gave the iPhone SE a Breakability Score of 5.5 (lower is better), representing a Medium Risk. The iPhone 6s scored better with Breakability Score of 4, also a Medium Risk. The iPhone 6s Plus actually faired the worst with a Breakability Score of 6.5, with its poor showing being chalked up to its massive size.
“In the end the iPhone SE may give you the smarts of a 6s in a 4-inch body, but you sure don’t get its durability,” SquareTrade explains. “The SE has some growing up to do.”