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iPhone Q&A - Updated March 28, 2017

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What are all the differences between the iPhone SE and the older iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s models? Which one is best for me?

There are sixteen different iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone SE devices and EveryiPhone.com has thoroughly documented all of them as always. This Q&A primarily addresses collective differences for the sake of simplicity.

With even detailed inspection of the front of an iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone SE (Special Edition) side-by-side, it would be easy to mistake them for one another as they are almost visually identical, but there are important differences that are not obvious.

iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, & iPhone SE - Front
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPhone 5 - Left, iPhone 5s - Middle, iPhone SE - Right)

External Differences

Perhaps the most immediately noticeable difference is that the iPhone 5 has a rounded square icon on the concave home button and the other two devices do not. Instead, the iPhone 5s and iPhone SE have an icon-less and flatter home button that both contain a first generation "Touch ID" fingerprint sensor. Consequently, the iPhone 5s and iPhone SE can be configured with biometric identification and the earlier iPhone 5 only can be configured with a passcode for security.

Although the iPhone 5 uses a different display part, the iPhone 5s and iPhone SE even share interchangeable displays, and all three have a 4" multi-touch IPS LED-backlit 1136x640 (326 ppi) "Retina" display of essentially identical quality. From a usage standpoint, each display effectively is the same.

iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone SE - Back
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPhone 5 - Left, iPhone 5s - Center, iPhone SE - Right)

All three models have a largely aluminum 0.30 of an inch thick case of the exact same dimensions and all three can use identical external cases.

All three share a "chamfered cut" band around the edge of the sides, but this edge is reflective on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s and matte on the iPhone SE.

On the backside, the iPhone SE is readily differentiated by the "SE" icon (and the lack of FCC iconography), but the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s are much more difficult to differentiate.

The color options between the three lines are a bit different, too.

Specifically, the color options for the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone SE include:

iPhone 5
iPhone 5
iPhone 5s
iPhone 5s
iPhone SE
iPhone SE
Black Front/
Black Back
Black Front/
Gray Back
Black Front/
Gray Back
White Front/
Silver Back
White Front/
Silver Back
White Front/
Silver Back
  White Front/
Gold Back
White Front/
Gold Back
    White Front/
Rose Gold Back

Camera Differences

The iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone SE all have dual cameras, but there are notable quality differences between them.

FaceTime Cameras

The front-facing "FaceTime" or "FaceTime HD" cameras have quite a bit in common, and none are particularly high-quality regardless:

  iPhone 5
iPhone 5
iPhone 5s
iPhone 5s
iPhone SE
iPhone SE
Megapixels: 1.2 MP 1.2 MP 1.2 MP
Aperture: f/2.4 f/2.4 f/2.4
Pixel Size: 1.75µm 1.9µm 1.9µm
720p Video: 30 fps 30 fps 30 fps
Auto HDR: No Photo Photo
Burst Mode: No Yes Yes
Retina Flash: No No Yes


Most notably, the front-facing camera in the iPhone 5s and iPhone SE, provide slightly better low light performance because of the 1.9µm pixels, and the "Retina Flash" option on the iPhone SE is designed to provide better selfies.

iSight Cameras

The rear-mounted "iSight" cameras have more substantial differences:

  iPhone 5
iPhone 5
iPhone 5s
iPhone 5s
iPhone SE
iPhone SE
Megapixels: 8 MP 8 MP 12 MP
Aperture: f/2.4 f/2.2 f/2.2
Pixel Size: 1.4µm 1.5µm 1.22µm
LED Flash: Single Dual Dual
Video: 1080p 1080p 4K
Slo-Mo: No Yes Yes
Focus Pixels: No No Yes
Automatic Image Stabilization: No Yes Yes
Optical Image Stabilization: No No No
Cinematic Video Stabilization: No No Yes
Continuous Autofocus Video: No No Yes
Burst Mode: No Yes Yes
Live Photos: No No Yes


The iPhone SE rear-mounted camera is better in every way than the camera in its predecessors. The iPhone SE has a larger 12 megapixel sensor for larger images, smaller 1.22µm pixels for more detail and clarity, and support to for filming 4K video rather than just 1080p. The iPhone SE also includes more minor feature additions like "Live Photos" which takes a few seconds of video before and after a still shot.

Identification Differences

At the moment, it is possible to visually distinguish the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s and iPhone SE when all are side-by-side, but it's not easy as the designs are so similar. The iPhone 5 is the only one without the "Touch ID" home button, the iPhone 5s has the Touch ID home button and a shiny chromed "chamfered cut" edge, and the iPhone SE has the Touch ID button and the same edge as the other models, but its edge has a matte finish.

However, visual identification may be more challenging in the future, and particularly when the devices are not next to one another. Furthermore, it is not possible to visually identify the sixteen specific models.

Many of the devices can be identified by Model Number, which is listed on the back of each phone in tiny type, but not all can be individually identified in this way, either.

Nevertheless, for the purpose of this Q&A, it is sufficient to note that the following model numbers refer to these devices:

iPhone Model Model Numbers
iPhone 5 A1428, A1429, A1442
iPhone 5s A1453, A1457, A1518, A1528, A1530, A1533
iPhone SE A1662, A1723, A1724


However, also note that multiple models in the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s lines share model numbers, so it is not always possible to uniquely identify a specific iPhone by model number alone.

If you need to uniquely identify one of the iPhone models that share an external model number, they can be spotted by other identifiers.

Specifically, EveryiPhone.com's Ultimate iLookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app for iOS 5 or later, Android, and Kindle Fire -- can precisely identify these iPhone models by Order Number (referred to as "Model" within the iOS "Settings" app under General > About), and their Serial Numbers, as well.

Battery Life Differences

The battery life for the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone SE is similar, but it still is superior for the newer iPhone SE:

  iPhone 5
iPhone 5
iPhone 5s
iPhone 5s
iPhone SE
iPhone SE
Talk Time (3G): 8 Hours 10 Hours 14 Hours
Internet (3G): 8 Hours 8 Hours 12 Hours
Internet (4G/LTE): 8 Hours 10 Hours 13 Hours
Internet (Wi-Fi): 10 Hours 10 Hours 13 Hours
Video Playback: 10 Hours 10 Hours 13 Hours
Audio Playback: 40 Hours 40 Hours 50 Hours
Standby Time: 225 Hours 250 Hours 240 Hours


As the iPhone SE uses the same size housing, the improvement in battery life is particularly welcomed.

Wireless Connectivity & Data Differences

All of these iPhone models support GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) and at least 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 (the iPhone SE supports better 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 as well as NFC for Apple Pay), but connectivity otherwise varies considerably between the sixteen different models in these lines.

Officially, different models support the following cellular connectivity:

iPhone Model Model
Number
UMTS/HSPA+
DC-HSDPA
CDMA
EV-DO
LTE Bands
(4G)
5 (GSM/N. America) A1428 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz None 4, 17
5 (CDMA) A1429 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz 800, 1900, 2100 MHz 1, 3, 5, 13, 25
5 (GSM/Intl) A1429 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz None 1, 3, 5
5 (China) A1442 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz 800, 1900 MHz None
5 (GSM/AWS) A1428 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz None 4, 17
5s (GSM/N. America) A1533 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz None 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25
5s (CDMA/VZ) A1533 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25
5s (CDMA/China) A1533 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz None
5s (CDMA/US/JP) A1453 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26
5s (UK/Europe) A1457 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz None 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20
5s (China Unicom) A1528 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz None None
5s (Asia Pacific) A1530 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz None FDD-LTE (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20); TD-LTE (38, 39, 40)
5s (China Mobile) A1518 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz None TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A); TD-LTE (38, 39, 40)
SE (US - AT&T/T-Mobile/Verizon) A1662 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 29
SE (Global/Sprint) A1723 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz 800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A); LTE (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28); TD-LTE (38, 39, 40, 41)
SE (China Mobile) A1724 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz None TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A); LTE (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28); TD-LTE (38, 39, 40, 41)


For specific details on 4G/LTE support, it also will be necessary to check with carriers in a particular location.

Internal Differences

The iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone SE have significant internal technical differences:

  iPhone 5
iPhone 5
iPhone 5s
iPhone 5s
iPhone SE
iPhone SE
Clockspeed: 1.3 GHz 1.3 GHz 1.8 GHz
Processor: Apple A6 Apple A7 Apple A9
RAM: 1 GB 1 GB 2 GB
Architecture: 32-Bit 64-Bit 64-Bit
Coprocessor: None M7 Motion M9 Motion
Storage (GB): 16/32/64 16/32/64 16/64 (32/128*)
Apple Pay (NFC): No No Yes
Barometer: No No No


* On March 21, 2017, Apple upgraded the 16 GB and 64 GB storage options for the iPhone SE with 32 GB and 128 GB storage options.

The iPhone SE also has numerous faster components, but most notably it has twice the RAM of these earlier models.

iOS Support Differences

The iPhone 5 supports iOS 6, iOS 7, iOS 8, iOS 9 and iOS 10; the iPhone 5s supports iOS 7, iOS 8, iOS 9, and iOS 10; and the iPhone SE supports iOS 9.3 and later. It is not possible to install a version of the iOS earlier than the one that was pre-installed, and it is difficult even to "downgrade" to an earlier version after upgrading a compatible iPhone to a later version of the iOS.

It also is worth noting that iOS 8 and iOS 9 are of equivalent speed on the iPhone 5s, but iOS 8 is noticeably faster than iOS 9 on the iPhone 5.

If you value performance over compatibility with the latest apps, you likely would prefer to run iOS 8 on the iPhone 5.

Likewise, when running iOS 10, the iPhone 5 does not support Rich Notifications or Raise to Wake, whereas the iPhone 5s supports Rich Notifications (but not Raise to Wake), and the iPhone SE supports all iOS 10 features.

iPhone 5, iPhone 5s & iPhone SE Comparison Chart

These differences -- design, biometrics, displays, cameras, identifiers, connectivity, processor, and storage -- along with US pricing information is summarized below:

  iPhone 5
iPhone 5
iPhone 5s
iPhone 5s
iPhone SE
iPhone SE
Introduced: Sep 2012 Sep 2013 Mar 2016
Discontinued: Sep 2013 Mar 2016 Current
Clockspeed: 1.3 GHz 1.3 GHz 1.8 GHz
Processor: Apple A6 Apple A7 Apple A9
Architecture: 32-Bit 64-Bit 64-Bit
Coprocessor: None M7 Motion M9 Motion
RAM: 1 GB 1 GB 2 GB
Storage (GB): 16/32/64 16/32/64 16/32/64/128
Battery Life (Hours): 8-40 8-40 14-50
3G Internet: Yes Yes Yes
4G/LTE Internet: Some More Most
Wi-Fi (802.11): a/b/g/n a/b/g/n a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth: 4.0 4.0 4.2
Rear Megapixels: 8 MP 8 MP 12 MP
Rear Video: 1080p 1080p 4K
Rear Aperture: f/2.4 f/2.2 f/2.2
Rear Pixel Size: 1.4µm 1.5µm 1.22µm
Rear LED Flash: Single Dual Dual
Water Gasket: No No Yes
Touch ID: No Yes Yes
Apple Pay (NFC): No No Yes
Barometer: No No No
Facedown: No Yes Yes
SIM Card: Nano Nano Nano
Original iOS: iOS 6 iOS 7 iOS 9
Fastest iOS: iOS 8 iOS 9/10 iOS 10
Maximum iOS: iOS 10 iOS 10 iOS 10
Weight: 3.95 oz. 3.95 oz. 3.99 oz.
Orig. Price* (US): US$199
US$299
US$399
US$199
US$299
US$399
US$399
US$499


* Note that the original prices for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s were subsidized by a two year contract whereas the original price for the iPhone SE unlocked and paid in full upfront. The iPhone SE originally was US$399 with 16 GB of storage or US$499 with 64 GB of storage. On September 7, 2016, Apple lowered the price of the 64 GB option to US$449. On March 21, 2017, Apple upgraded the capacity options to 32 GB and 128 GB while re-establishing the original US$399 and US$499 price points.

For pricing in dozens of countries, see the "Global Prices" on the specs page for each iPhone as well as the "By Global Original Prices" section of EveryiPhone.com.

So, should I buy an older iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s? Or should I buy a new iPhone SE?

For the vast majority of users, the iPhone SE is the best choice by far. The three models share effectively the same easy-to-hold design and have essentially the same display, but the iPhone SE represents a largely internal upgrade to put it closer in performance and functionality to the more capable iPhone 6s.

The iPhone SE is faster, has twice the RAM, a substantially better rear camera, longer battery life, better and faster connectivity, Apple Pay support, and more. Twice the RAM means that it likely will provide current iOS support for longer, as well, which means more years of use for someone who takes good care of their mobile and doesn't damage it. Starting on March 21, 2017, the iPhone SE has the option of 128 GB of storage

The only real reason to still consider an older iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s are lower prices on the used market. For those with reasonable expectations, and a tight budget, the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s remain well worth consideration, accordingly.

iPhone Purchase & Sale Options

There are no shortage of places to buy a new or used iPhone. However, buying your iPhone from a quality company with a stellar track record will provide the best experience and save you money and time, too.

In the US, site sponsor PowerMax has a good selection of used iPhones available for sale free of sales tax. PowerMax also accepts trade-ins on older iPhones toward the purchase of a newer iPhone or anything else they sell. If you just want money for your old iPhone, site sponsor BuyBackWorld will buy your older iPhone directly for fast cash or sell you a used iPhone from their extensive selection.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore-based site sponsor PCPRO provides quick money for used iPhone models as well as all other Apple hardware.

Please also see EveryiPhone.com's Ultimate iComparison feature to dynamically compare any iPhone model to any other iPod, iPhone, or iPad.

Also see:

  • What are all the differences between the iPhone 5 models?
  • What are all the differences between the iPhone 5s models?
  • What are all the differences between the iPhone SE models?
  • What are all the differences between the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5s? Are there major differences?


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