First impressions, revisited

Two years ago, I got the iPhone X from work almost as a goof, with the notion that if I didn’t get it, I would just keep using my iPhone SE for the foreseeable future. But I did get it, and the SE became the escape phone, the phone for going abroad or just getting away from the world. And other than having to replace it after crunching it in the seat of a 787 over Chile, it worked out pretty well.

But after a couple of years, it rapidly became apparent that carrying two phones was never going to be a working proposition, and the nature of modern computing with two factor authentication and everything else meant that you were expected to have one phone and one number. And so the iPhone X reluctantly became my daily driver. And then, work became something else, and I decided I’d rather have my own device even if I have their service, and my work partner damaged his iPhone X beyond repair, and and and…

So here I am, having migrated everything to the SE. A phone with a four year old chip set in a six year old body, with a 4 inch screen running an OS where around six is the norm. A phone from the other side of the 3DTouch fiasco. And fortunately, this physical sample is less than a year old with a fresh battery, so this is about as good as can be expected to test with. It took most of an evening to get all the 2FA repaired and the music downloaded, but by morning, it was time to get started.

So what are we looking at?

For starters, the camera is definitely a step back, two generations behind the X, and you’re giving away FaceID and Animoji. But MeMoji still work, and TouchID is still a superior solution for me for actual usability. Given that I don’t think we have a lot of travel on the horizon – and certainly none abroad – the camera is good enough for Insta.

Text entry is going to be a challenge, although the smaller keyboard is offset not only by years of improvement in speech recognition but with the addition of the swipe function in iOS 13. It’s less of a pain to do this post than I had anticipated, but I wouldn’t want to bang out any significant posts on a regular basis. The screen size is fine for most things. although the 4″ isn’t a Kindle substitute by any stretch and it might not be the best for movies (which I’ve never watched on the phone to any meaningful extent).

There are other things. There’s no AMOLED, which might not be as much of a power saver anyway in the grand scheme of things. There’s no NFC reader capacity, which means using the Yubikey for 2FA is off the board for now. There’s no water resistance rating, which means no trips to Drown Town for this one. And I don’t think it can take advantage of the whole 18W fast charging.

But it’s one-handed. And it’s comfortable snapping a picture hanging off the cable car. And it fits a shirt pocket nicely. And so far the performance has been entirely acceptable. So we’ll see how it holds up during the work day. If I leave in low power mode at 100% and get home at the end of the day at 25% or better without plugging in, it’ll be as capable as the X. The question is whether a smaller battery only driving a 4″ LCD can last as long as a 5.8″ AMOLED pulling on the larger one.

But for the first time in I don’t know when (probably since the coming of the Moto X), I have one phone with one number. If nothing else, my lovely bride will be over the moon.

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