iPhone SE vs. iPhone 5s – Comparison & Buyer’s Guide

Around a third of all iPhone users are still equipped with a 4-inch device, which certainly has its benefits. The major point of criticism with respect to the larger models is that they cannot be easily operated with a single hand and are simply too large for the taste of a portion of the users. Some also prefer the chamfered edge design of the iPhone 5 and 5s, which has now seen a technological revival in the iPhone SE. As opposed to releasing something akin to the iPhone 5c, Apple decided to give the 4-inch connoisseurs something far better: The bleeding-edge technology of the iPhone 6s packed into a smaller form factor. If you are evaluating your next upgrade options, this iPhone SE vs. iPhone 5s comparison & buyer’s guide might be just what you need for orientation.

iPhone SE vs iPhone 5s: Specifications

The iPhone 5s was the first model including the Touch ID sensor for fingerprint recognition, which is also present in the iPhone SE. Both devices have a 4-inch Retina Display, two cameras and a very similar all-metal casing. But that is where the similarities stop.

The performance gap between the two devices is huge. The iPhone SE boasts the latest Apple A9 chip, while the iPhone 5s dates back two generations with the A7 chip, albeit both have a 64-bit architecture.

With the iPhone SE, you get a 12 MP back-facing camera with up to 4K video resolution, whereas the iPhone 5s provides only 8 MP and Full HD video, which is essentially a quarter of the resolution. The front-facing FaceTime camera is identical with 1.2 MP of resolution and 720p video. The iPhone SE also includes the M9 motion coprocessor for fitness tracking and other applications, which is entirely absent in the iPhone 5s. Both are available in 16 GB and 64 GB, while the iPhone 5s can also be bought with 32 GB of internal storage.

iPhone SE Apple A9 Chip

iPhone SE vs iPhone 5s: Design

You can get the iPhone SE in Gold, Silver, Rose Gold and Space Gray. The iPhone 5s is available in all of these color options as well, with the exemption of Rose Gold. The design is extremely similar, while you’ll notice a slight difference in the curvature of the display glass edge, which is slightly more rounded on the iPhone SE.


iPhone se colors

iPhone SE vs iPhone 5s: Pricing

  • iPhone 5s in 16 GB – $252.00 (factory unlocked – Amazon)
  • iPhone 6 in 64 GB – $339.00 (factory unlocked – Amazon)
  • iPhone SE in 16 GB – $399.00
  • iPhone SE in 64 GB – $499.00

The iPhone 5s is considerably older, as its release dates back to September 2013. Due to this fact and the huge performance gap between the two phones, it comes at no surprise that it is also considerably cheaper. You can save up to $150 by buying a new iPhone 5s but run the risk of having to upgrade again in the coming years. The iPhone SE might be a better investment.

iPhone SE vs iPhone 5s: Hardware

The difference you’ll immediately notice between the two devices, when seen in operation, is that the iPhone SE is twice as fast as the iPhone 5s, due to the updated Apple A9 chip. The iPhone 5s is no match for the newer hardware and you get double the RAM with the iPhone SE, which comes in at 2 GB of memory as opposed to a mere 1 GB. Apps will launch faster, you can run far more intense games and 3D apps on the iPhone SE and it should be future-proof for the next couple of years. The iPhone 5s might not be supported by especially demanding apps and games in the near future. Even today, you’ll notice a quality and performance difference.


As explained above, the photo and video quality of the iPhone SE easily trumps its predecessor. Battery life is also notably better in the iPhone SE, according to this chart by Apple you’ll get up to 3 more hours of web browsing out of the new device:


The latest Bluetooth 4.2 is supported by the newer device, whereas the older model still runs on Bluetooth 4.0 – which shouldn’t be a problem in practice, but it is good to know regardless. More important is however this tidbit: If you plan to use Apple Pay, go for the iPhone SE. It includes an NFC chip and is therefore well equipped for contactless payments.


There is really only one reason to pick the iPhone 5s: A limited budget coupled with low requirements for performance. The iPhone SE boasts a better camera, faster hardware, more battery life and overall a better user experience. It will be supported for the coming years, whereas the aging iPhone 5s will have (at some point) trouble catching up with the hardware requirements of modern software. If you only need your iPhone for rudimentary usage, such as web browsing or texting, the iPhone 5s is certainly fine. But the SE delivers a far more compelling package. Check out our iPhone SE vs. iPhone 6s and iPhone SE vs. iPhone 6 buyer’s guides for more comparisons.