Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design in 2014 that still stands

Earlier this week, Apple announced the iPhone SE (2022) – the third generation model in the 7-year series. We’ve already talked at length about the original iPhone SE from 2016, but really, the new model isn’t really a sequel to that one. No, both the second and third SE models are based on the design of the phone that we are going to talk about today.

And this is the Apple iPhone 6, which is (ironically) older than the original SE – the 6 series arrived in 2014. Of course, the SE itself was based on the iPhone 5 from 2012, a game-changing phone in its day. If you look at the iPhone 5 and iPhone SE (2016) side by side, you won’t be able to notice any differences.


iPhone 6 on the left and iPhone SE (2022) on the right

The same goes for the iPhone 6 and iPhone SE (2022). It has almost the same rounded silhouette and exact dimensions – differences are less than a millimeter. The phone still has a 4.7-inch screen, with a resolution of 750 x 1,334 pixels (and a density of 326 pixels per inch to make it a Retina display, something that 4).

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

The chunky bezels are still above the bottom screen, the bottom of which houses the only remaining Touch ID fingerprint reader on the iPhone. iPads have front or side readers too, but Apple phones have long since moved to Face ID. Since the iPhone X (from 2017), in fact, a hated but impactful design decision. One that Apple may never back down from as analysts expect the company will turn the notch into a hole and then push the Face ID module under the display. The fingerprint reader below the display does not appear to be present.

Fingerprint readers have their uses. For example, you can’t confuse one by wearing a mask and that’s something Face ID has been struggling with. Also, if you’re smart enough, you can put your thumb on the FP reader while you pull the phone out of your pocket and it will be unlocked by the time it’s in front of your eyes. This works especially well when it’s a physical reader that you can feel by touch rather than hiding something under the glass screen.

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

To be fair, a few things have changed since the iPhone 6. The change actually happened on the iPhone 8 – did you notice the antenna lines on the back of the 6? Those are there because the iPhone 6 has an aluminum back, which prevents signals. Modern phone models (since the eighth and tenth generation) have a glass back, which simplifies the placement of the antenna.

Other things have changed too, SE phones now have an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance (it can last for half an hour under one meter of water). The new SE also gains a Ceramic Shield glass for the front, which is more durable than regular glass (even more durable than Gorilla Glass, if you believe Apple’s marketing). The iPhone 6 had “ion-strengthened glass” instead.

The iPhone 6 didn’t arrive on its own — in fact, 2014 was the first time Apple offered two different sizes. The iPhone 6 Plus had a larger 5.5-inch screen and a larger battery (2915 mAh vs. 1.810 mAh) and that was almost the only difference.

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

There was one camera on the back (it was the iPhone 7 Plus that added the second camera), but the 6 Plus was the first iPhone to offer optical image stabilization (OIS). This was the only camera advantage over the vanilla 6. However, both the 6 and 6 Plus can shoot 1080p video at 60 fps, while the five cameras from the previous year could only shoot 30 fps. Phase-detection AF was another 5-second upgrade, which only had contrast-detection AF.

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

Some may have hoped for a second camera on the iPhone SE (2022), but Apple hasn’t strayed too far from the iPhone 6 design. The new SE has a much better camera, of course. It has a higher resolution sensor (12MP vs. 8MP), a brighter aperture (f/1.8 vs. f/2.2) and OIS, not to mention the Apple A15 chipset with more image processing power. .

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

Also, the selfie camera bumped into Apple’s old 7-megapixel unit. That’s better than the 1.2MP camera the 6 had, which was only good enough for FaceTime video calls. Newer iPhones (since Series 11) have 12MP front cameras and wider lenses. But even the latest models don’t have Center Stage, an intelligent system from Apple that uses the wide-angle lens to keep you always center stage even when you’re on the go.

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

After mentioning the Apple A15, we should note another major change – the SE model now offers 5G connectivity. 4G was a relatively new feature for Apple when 6 was released, and it was introduced with the iPhone 5 in 2012. As mentioned before, metals and antennas don’t work well with each other, something Apple discovered the hard way 4 and the whole “antennagate” scandal. The proper design was decided before the iPhone 6.

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

The iPhone 6 series introduced NFC to the Apple lineup. It was still quite closed compared to the functionality offered by Android devices – which are exclusively for Apple Pay.

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

The iPhone 6 generation had its own “portal” scandal. The way the all-aluminum chassis was designed created weak points around the buttons, making it easier to bend phones if you sat on them or otherwise put pressure on them. A related issue was that the touch screen could detach from the motherboard. There were other problems, too, those related to flash storage and a frustrating “Error 53” that plagued the Touch ID fingerprint reader.

Going back to the chipset for a moment, the Apple A8 was the company’s second chip with a 64-bit CPU (the A7 inside the iPhone 5s was the first). However, even these chips can’t run the latest iOS version (it ended with iOS 12 support). Newer models (such as the original iPhone 6s, SE) are currently running the latest iOS 15 version.

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

Before we wrap up, we wanted to note a few things about sound. The iPhone 6 had a 3.5mm headphone jack, something the iPhone 7 series took away two years later. However, it also had only one speaker, while newer models (including the SE) have stereo speakers.

It wasn’t perfect, but the iPhone 6 series hit a record 10 million sales over the post-launch weekend. A week later, the number had risen to 13 million units. This was before the chain reached some key markets (eg China).

It’s safe to say that the design of the iPhone SE (2022) is ostensibly almost identical to that of the iPhone 6, which will soon be eight years old. Appearances can be deceiving, a lot has changed since the best iPhone of 2014. Most importantly, flaws in the original design have been fixed and many improvements have been implemented. The outdated look isn’t something that can be fixed without moving forward a few years to iPhone X-derived designs.

Flashback: iPhone 6 introduced a new design language in 2014 and it's still alive

Note. We got past the iPhone 6 Plus pretty quickly. We want to spend more time looking at the history of iPhone sizes in another part. We will only mention here that the iPhone 6 Plus pedigree ends with the iPhone 8 Plus from 2017.