There are a lot of ways to think of Apple’s new iPhone SE for $399. One thing is, it’s a cheaper option than the iPhone 11 (which costs $699), which has surprisingly similar camera specifications. Or is it a 2020 sequel to the original 2016 SE? Or at 4.7 inches, it’s the smallest and cheapest iPhone you can buy right now. Or (and it is my favorite way of thinking), it is the iPhone 8. Literally, It has the brain and power of the iPhone 11. In fact, the new iPhone SE is all of these things, and therefore I am in love with it.
The new iPhone SE has a classic design that defined the iPhone for the first 10 years. The design, body, and lenses of the camera are the same as in the 2017’s iPhone 8. However, Apple performed a great job by replacing the nearly 3-year-old processor with the A13 Bionic processor used in the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro max. This goes far beyond a simple specification, greatly improving the life of cameras and batteries. Not only will the new processor run faster, but it will likely make the future of the phone sustainable with years of iOS updates.
However, the iPhone for $399 (£419) has trade-offs that Apple has wisely chosen. The SE has only one background camera, no face detection and no camera features like night mode, selfies, and deep fusion processing. The selfie camera is great but not as impressive as the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max cameras.
If we look at the whole picture, iPhone SE is the highest value for your money of all the phones sold by Apple in your dollar. It has an attractive price, great battery life, a great rear camera, an A13 processor, water-resistance and support for wireless charging. SE is not only a great iPhone but also one of the best budget phones you can buy now.
- Good battery life.
- Easy to use with a single hand.
- iPhone 11 Pro-level performance
- Old iPhone design
- Selfie camera is average
iPhone SE SPECS
CPU: A13 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Display: 4.7 inches (1334 x 750)
Rear camera: 12MP (f/1.8)
Front camera: 7MP (f/2.2)
Video recording: 4K video up to 60 fps
Water resistance: IP67
Battery life: Up to 13 hours video playback
Wireless charging: Yes (Qi)
Fast charging: Yes via optional 18W adapter
Size: 5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches
Weight: 5.22 ounces
Apple iPhone SE 2020 Review: Design and Display
Physically, the SE is an iPhone 8. The front and back are made of glass, the chassis and the sides are made of aluminum. The only physical difference between the iPhone SE and the iPhone 8 is that the Apple logo is now centered on the back to match the current generation of iPhone.
The new phone has the old-school Apple front and chin frame above and below the screen. This makes SE look very old. This is one of the few things that I’m not very excited about. It’s not ugly, it’s just outdated. And it might attract some people, but not me.
After using Face ID in the past few years, setting up and using Touch ID is a strange and familiar feeling. It’s like switching from automatic shift to manual shift. But in the right car, a manual shift can be a blast.
I’ve forgotten how much I missed the home button and how it makes interaction and navigation less hassle than swiping and holding. I tap ad hold to pay instead of angling my phone for confirmation of face ID recognition. The recent applications are displayed by tapping twice. While Face ID has its own advantages, using the Home button is still as satisfying as it was in the past.
For lovers of small phones, the 4.7-inch LCD screen of the iPhone SE isn’t as small as the original 4-inch screen of the SE. But it’s still smaller than most phones and portable and comfortable for most people.
The screen of the SE is similar to that of the iPhone 11, especially in terms of quality and resolution. The text looks sharp, the colors are accurate and bright in sunny conditions.
The iPhone SE has a rating of IP67, which means that it can be immersed in the water at a depth of one meter for 30 minutes. I could not prove this claim, even though I had soaked it in a liter of water for 30 minutes and everything worked fine. This resistance to water and dust is usually not found on phones with prices under $400. Therefore, it is particularly noteworthy that the iPhone SE does have it.
SE is available in three colors: black, white, and red. The iPhone 8 also had its own red version, but it has white bezels and if the iPhone SE doesn’t look more striking in red with black bezel.
Apple iPhone SE 2020 Review: Performance
The longevity of support for “older devices” on Apple’s iOS devices is a quiet but significant incentive for owning an iPhone. The iPhone 8 and its A11 processor are now two and a half years old and are unlikely to receive iOS software updates a few years earlier than the iPhone SE and its new A13 Bionic processor.
In performance tests, the iPhone SE was consistently better than the iPhone 8 and (not surprisingly) the original iPhone SE. It achieved similar results as the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.
In real life, this meant that app launches were faster, and games like Sky: Light of Children and Doomsday Vault were smooth. Editing photos was easy, and I was even able to use graphics-intensive AR apps like Wonderscope, which made my room a training ground for ghosts.
Apple iPhone SE 2020 Review: Camera
The camera behind the SE has the same lens as the iPhone 8, but in combination with the A13 chip and iOS 13 turns the camera into something that can keep up with the phone’s best cameras and even keep a decent fight against iPhone 11’s the main camera. It has a variety of features like Smart HDR for photos, snapshot, and portrait mode – these are fantastic features and the first one for iPhone that costs $399.
The rearview camera of the SE has a 28 mm f/1.8 lens, while the iPhone 11 has two rearview cameras: a main wide-angle camera with a 26 mm f/1.8 lens and an ultra-wide-angle camera with a 13 mm f/2.4 lens. I enjoyed the ultra-wide-angle on the iPhone 11, but I didn’t miss it when I spent time with the iPhone SE.
When comparing photos taken on any phone, it’s difficult to tell them apart unless you lift them up to a larger screen. Even then, the differences are small.
In good light, the photos are similar in terms of image quality. See the pictures below. Can you tell the difference? You understand my point. The most obvious difference is that the iPhone SE photo is framed more closely than the iPhone 11.
Both phones have a portrait mode and achieve excellent results. 11 can take portraits of people and pets. The iPhone SE, like the iPhone XR ($ 599 at Apple), can only be made by humans. Only if you take a closer look at the photos below, you can see that the format mode of the iPhone 11 captures just a little more detail and less noise.
In the picture under my shoulder, you will notice that the quality of the drop from blurred areas to blurred areas looks more natural on the iPhone 11 than on the iPhone SE.
In terms of video, both phones are similar. The iPhone SE and 11 can record 4K video at 60 frames per second, but only 11 use the expanded dynamic range at this resolution and frame rate. The SE has an extended dynamic range for videos, but only up to 4K 30 frames per second. Check out Cnet’s iPhone SE test video to see examples of videos shot on iPhone SE.
The only place where there’s a big difference between the two phones is selfie cameras. The iPhone 11 has a wider front camera and can record 4K and slow-motion videos. iPhone SE only captures 1080p videos and no waypoints. Both have a portrait mode for selfie apps, but the photos on iPhone 11 show my skin in more detail.
Should You Buy it?
Buy it if…
1. you want an iPhone that has a great value
2. want to hold on to that phone for a few years
3. want a light smarphone
If those criteria are meet then, we highly recommend the iPhone SE 2020.