Apple’s latest iPhone SE is being released today, and it’s certainly going to make a big impact on the market, for the simple reason that this is a $399 iPhone. We’ve had the new phone for a mere 24 hours, but we've been able to quickly put the device through its paces, showcasing the biggest differentiating factors for the phone – a device that can be essentially described as an iPhone 8 but with the brains of an iPhone 11.

In that sense, the second-generation iPhone SE is an extremely straightforward device. Externally, there’s very little that exposes it as a 2020 phone, with only the most minute design changes present. Powered by Apple's latest-generation A13 chip however, it’s hiding the strongest internal components in the market right now, easily beating any other device from the competition – at any price point. What’s left to be tested is how the new iPhone SE’s camera holds up, and if there’s any other noticeable differences between it, the iPhone 8, and the iPhone 11 series phones.

Apple 2019-2020 iPhone Specifications
  iPhone 11 Pro iPhone 11 Pro Max iPhone 11

iPhone SE
(2020)

SoC Apple A13 Bionic

2 × Lightning Performance @ 2.66GHz
8MB L2

4 × Thunder Efficiency @ 1.73GHz
4MB L2
GPU Apple, 4 Cores
DRAM 4GB LPDDR4X 3GB LPDDR4X
Display 5.8-inch OLED
2436×1125
DCI-P3/True Tone
800 cd/m² brightness
2M:1 contrast ratio
3D Touch
6.5-inch OLED
2688×1242
DCI-P3/True Tone
800 cd/m² brightness
2M:1 contrast ratio
3D Touch
6.1-inch LCD
1792×828
DCI-P3/True Tone
625 cd/m² brightness
1400:1 contrast ratio
-
4.7-inch LCD
1334×750
DCI-P3/True Tone
625 cd/m² brightness
1400:1 contrast ratio
-
Size Height 144.0 mm 158.0 mm 150.9 mm 138.4 mm
Width 71.4 m 77.8 mm 75.7 mm 67.3 mm
Depth 8.1 mm 8.1 mm 8.3 mm 7.3 mm
Weight 188 grams 226 grams 194 grams 148 grams
Battery Life 3046mAh

+14.5% capacity
"+4H vs XS"
3969mAh

+25% capacity
"+5H vs XS Max"
3110mAh

+5.7% capacity
"+1H vs XR"
1810mAh

+0% capacity
vs iPhone 8
Wireless Charging Qi
Rear Cameras Main 12 MP 1.4µm Dual Pixel PD

f/1.8, OIS

Wide Color Gamut
Quad LED True Tone Flash
12 MP 1.4µm

f/1.8, OIS

Wide Color Gamut
Quad LED True Tone Flash
Tele-
Photo
12 MP f/2.0 Telephoto, OIS
2x Optical Zoom
- -
Wide 12MP f/2.4
120° Ultra-wide Angle
-
Front Camera 12MP f/2.2 Wide Angle 7MP f/2.2
Storage 64 GB
256 GB
512 GB
64 GB
256 GB
512 GB
64 GB
128 GB
256 GB
64 GB
128 GB
256 GB
I/O Apple Lightning
Wireless (local) 802.11ax Wi-Fi with MIMO + Bluetooth 5.0 + NFC
Cellular Gigabit-class LTE-A
4x4 MIMO and LAA
Gigabit-class
LTE-A
2x2 MIMO and LAA
Gigabit-class
LTE-A
Splash, Water, Dust Resistance IP68
up to 2 meters (Pro models = 4 meters), up to 30 minutes
IP67
up to 1 meters, up to 30 minutes
Dual-SIM nano-SIM + eSIM
Launch Price 64 GB:
$999 / £1049 / 1149€

256 GB:
$1149 / £1199 / 1319€

512 GB:
$1349 / £1399 / 1549€
64 GB:
$1099 / £1149 / 1249€

256 GB:
$1249 / £1299 / 1419€

512 GB:
$1449 / £1499 / 1649€
64 GB:
$699 / £729 / 799€

128 GB:
$749 / £779 / 849€

256 GB:
$849 / £879 / 969€
64 GB:
$399 / £419 / €479

128 GB:
$449 / £469 / €529

256 GB:
$549 / £569 / €649
 

Hardware-wise, the iPhone SE is anything but a budget or middle-range phone. Being powered by Apple’s A13 SoC, the company didn't spare any expense by going for a previous generation chipset, and rather used the latest and greatest they had available. What this means is that performance-wise, the new iPhone SE essentially should be on par with the iPhone 11 series – which in turn means that alongside its siblings, the new SE will be the most powerful mobile phone on the market right now.

As to why Apple chose to do this, I think it’s just a simple matter of projected longevity of the phone. Apple might not be producing previous generation A-series chipsets for much longer whereas the iPhone SE is a new product that will need to be supported (and likely to be produced) for several years into the future. Choosing the A13 here might not be the cheapest option at the very beginning of the phone’s lifetime, but it’s certainly going to pay off long-term when it comes to production as well as support.

Apple gives the iPhone SE 3GB of LPDDR4X RAM – one less GB than the iPhone 11 series, but still significantly more than past iterations of iPhones. Other internal component upgrades are the new cellular modem which is on par with the iPhone 11 series, and the new WiFi 6 combo chip that now also provides Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.

While I generally prefer black front bezels on smartphones, it’s a so-so choice for the iPhone SE. On one hand it focuses you more on the screen content, however the black is also a lot more a finger-print magnet, and I did think the white iPhone 8 looked quite nice as it was. Holding both phones side-by-side, the back front does feel “older” and less modern than the white variant. I guess it’s a matter of preference.

As for the display, the only difference between the 4.7-inch iPhone SE and the iPhone 8’s own 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 resolution IPS LCD is the fact that the new screen lacks 3D Touch. Instead, Apple is favoring the new long-press haptics that were introduced in the iPhone 11 series.

From the back, there’s also some very slight design changes. First of all, the new logo is centered, and the “iPhone” marking is gone, compared to the iPhone 8’s back glass design.

Interestingly, the new white design is actually significantly whiter than the iPhone 8’s white on the back glass, it now matches the brighter tone that was previously found on the front bezels. It does allow the white to pop out a lot more and I do prefer this shade.

The only other minuscule difference between the two phones is the fact that the back microphone and bottom speaker’s black mesh has been replaced with a silver one, more closely matching the white theme of the phone.

Size-wise, compared to contemporary phones, the iPhone SE has an outright diminutive stature. Compared to the iPhone X/XS/11 Pro body, which for the last two years has been Apple’s smallest form-factor device, the iPhone SE feels tiny, not only in its dimensions, but also in terms of weight.

The weight difference however does come with one big caveat: the iPhone SE shares the same battery as the iPhone 8, meaning it comes in at a tiny 1810mAh. That’s a huge disadvantage compared to the bigger capacities of the new iPhone 11 series phones, but the iPhone SE is also sporting a very small and very efficient display panel. Apple claims battery life is in line with the iPhone 8 – a claim we’ll verify later in the mini-review.

Overall, it’s been refreshing to use a smaller form-factor phone these days. I have no doubts that a very large part of the potential buyers of the iPhone SE will be those that just aren’t willing to switch to the bigger and heftier devices that have become the norm in the last few years. It’s a dying breed of phones, and the iPhone SE here no doubt is catering both for nostalgia and smaller-form-factor market.

Camera-wise, that’s where we’ll be seeing some quite larger differences between the new iPhone SE and its contemporary siblings. Whilst the A13 and its new ISP will be no doubt upgrading the image processing abilities of the phone, its hardware is still only similar to that of the iPhone 8. Apple here uses the same generation sensor, which means it’s significantly smaller than what’s found on the iPhone 11’s – and of course there’s only one module. We did some quick camera testing and found some differences to the iPhone 8’s capturing ability – some positive but also some negatives, read more in the later section.

Overall, the iPhone SE is taking the physical formula that should be well tested and proven by almost 500 million users out there. It’s certainly not a modern-looking phone, but it remains unique in the market today due to its size and light weight.

System Performance
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  • sonny73n - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    Sure you’ll get the best performance compared to other phones at the same price point ON PAPER, not real life experience. For $400, There are many battery phones - Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi, Oneplus, Vivo... to choose from. Unless you want to be on iOS which can be good also bad. Reply
  • sonny73n - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    ***many better phones Reply
  • mandirabl - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    Any example of which phone *performs* better, zippier and faster without lag?
    Any example of which phone gets updates for the next 4 years, including security updates?
    Any example of which phone is as secure and provacy-focused?
    ...Thought as much.
    Reply
  • Retycint - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    Most android phones at the $400 price point perform just as smoothly. We aren't talking about the $100 bargain basement phones here. The last two points are your own personal priorities, and people with different priorities e.g. battery life, high refresh rate etc will not necessarily see the iPhone SE as a clear winner. Reply
  • sonny73n - Sunday, April 26, 2020 - link

    You sound like a close-minded person who never likes to read. There’s a thing called internet, you know. Get on gsmarena, you’ll find many 2019-2020 flagship phones for under $600. Here’s a couple of midrange phones came to mind - Xiaomi Mi 9T $270, Vivo V15 Pro $300. They have full displays Super AMOLED, 6-8GB RAM, 128GB internal storage among many other things that I’d prefer them over this garbage.

    You’re one of those Apple sheeps who would believe everything Apple says. Watch the OLD Apple keynotes again and check those old iPhones which Apple touted about - “the fastest iPhone yet” LMAO. You don’t even know that iOS is a closed system, optimized to run on iPhones. Zipper, faster without lags my ass. Play Plants vs Zombies at high level on an iPhone, see how many fps it’ll give you. Operating system update? Haven’t you noticed every time an iDevice got updated to a new version of iOS, it got slower? Many people including me don’t want system updates for our iPhones but Apple always harass you if you don’t, right? They even trick you to enter password to update AFTER you CANCEL update. Security updates you say? Who gives a fk except for idiots. There’s many service online that bypass iCloud activation on stolen iPhones. Jailbreaks are out all the way to iOS 13. Security updates Apple push to your iPhones are for themselves, mostly patching the jailbreak exploits and install some more spywares. There’s not a phone that is secured. If you don’t know that iPhones and Android phones are the worst with spywares, you should not use any.

    I said this somewhere but I’ll tell the readers here again about my experience with these so called smartphones. My wife FaceTimed me while I was away from home, showing my 2 years old boy taking his first step. I told her please record everything about our baby. Fast forward to about one year later, she called me and told me that our then 3 years old boy singing in the shower and he’s taking the shower by himself and she’s recording it to send to me after. I stopped everything I was doing and told her not to do that because those MFs at Apple may think that you’re trafficking child porn or something. She said that’s our baby and that’s what I asked her to do, why tell her to delete this precious recording now. We had a argument over that until I explained clearly and showed her the iCloud storage of the message app later that night. I know that every keystroke I make or any file I have on the phone will go to the server and it will stay there forever, until someone dig it up. Luckily I stopped her in time or I would have been living in fear until now. Welcome to the police State where you have Apple and Google always there with you. Only sheeple like you would live in peace.

    You have thought as much? Still too fking little to me. Think some more. You have a long way to go.
    Reply
  • Deicidium369 - Sunday, April 26, 2020 - link

    I have heard of this thing called the Internet - I hear they have that on computers now - apparently 25% porn, 25% cat videos, 25% propaganda, and 25% long winded messages that are tl;dr Reply
  • mandirabl - Tuesday, April 28, 2020 - link

    That moment when Android Police agrees... https://www.androidpolice.com/2020/04/28/iphone-se... Reply
  • trparky - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    Xiaomi and Vivo? Really? I wouldn't let those damn devices with all of the Chinese backdoors into my house at all. Bad enough Google spies on you with Android as it is but to add China to the mix makes it even more of a toxic hellstew of spyware. Reply
  • Irish910 - Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - link

    Wow. Salty much?? Did Apple shit in your Cheerios? Reply
  • Deicidium369 - Sunday, April 26, 2020 - link

    I replace my laptop/convertible every 2 years, replace my desktop every 2 years, why on earth would I keep a phone for 4 years - more like a year MAX

    What is provacy?
    Reply

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