System Performance

Performance-wise, the inclusion of the new A13 chip should essentially blow the iPhone 8 out of the water given it’s two generations newer than the A11. For more details about the A13, please read our in-depth coverage of the chip in our review of the iPhone 11 series.

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView JetStream 2 - OS Webview

In the steady-state Javascript web benchmarks, the iPhone SE unsurprisingly matches the newer iPhone 11. In JetStream, the phone even gets a boost here, which might be due to the newer iOS version. I haven’t had the chance to re-test the older iPhones, but I’m certain the scores will level out across the A13 generation devices.

WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

On WebXPRT 3, the iPhone SE did score quite a bit worse than the iPhone 11 phones. This test is more interactive in its workloads and more impacted by DVFS responsiveness, rather than just being a continuous stead-state load. It’s very much possible that Apple has tuned down the DVFS of the chip in order to remain at the more power efficient frequency states for more workloads. I haven’t had the time to update Xcode to run our workload ramp test yet – but it’s something that can be easily verified in a follow-up update on the topic.

Update April 29th: 

I was also able to verify the CPU frequencies of the A13 in the iPhone SE, and the phone tracks identical peak frequencies as on the iPhone 11. This means that we're seeing 2.66GHz peak clocks on the Lightning cores when a single core is on, and up to around 2.59GHz when both cores are enabled. The Thunder cores clock in at up to 1.73GHz as well, just as on the iPhone 11’s.

The DVFS of the two phones is also identical – with the same ramp-up times between the SE and the iPhone 11. In general, any performance differences between the new SE and the flagship phones should simply be due to thermal characteristics of the smaller phone, possibly throttling things faster when under more strenuous workloads.

Overall Performance

Whilst I haven’t had too much time on the SE, the first impressions of the device are very much that this is just an as good experience as the iPhone 11 series. Much like on the iPhone 11 series, I actually feel that the raw performance of the hardware is actually hampered by the software, for example animations could be much shorter or even disabled in order to improve the user’s experience of speed and responsiveness. In either case, the iPhone SE’s performance is fantastic, and that’s due to the A13 chipset’s raw power.

Introduction & Design GPU Performance
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  • ingwe - Friday, April 24, 2020 - link

    Very impressed overall. Glad Apple finally released something at this price range again. Time to upgrade from my SE. Reply
  • haukionkannel - Friday, April 24, 2020 - link

    I agree, very impressive indeed! This makes most other middle range phones look really bad in comparison! Reply
  • linuxgeex - Friday, April 24, 2020 - link

    Hopefully Sandcastle will get to a point where we can install Android 11 on this and end up with a phone we can actually customise and install the software of our choice on vs the limited Apple ecosystem. And I'd love to see whether the Geekbench numbers hold up when running on Android, so we can see whether/how much Apple has been cheating on that benchmark ;-) Reply
  • mrochester - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    Why would you want to ruin an iPhone by putting android on it? The whole reason the iPhone is so popular is because it’s NOT android! Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    The last time I tried Android it was so bad I returned the phone.

    But, iOS is seriously annoying in some ways — like how it spams you with random pop-ups telling you that you can turn on location tracking.

    Well, if you choose "Ok" to dismiss the pop-up it turns on location tracking. The only other option you're given is "Open Settings". How many conventions does the pop-up violate?

    1) Totally modal? Check.
    2) No way to close the window without choosing from bad options? Check.
    3) Comes up without any prompting/relevance? Check.
    4) Behaves in a way that's user-hostile? Check
    5) Behaves in multiple ways that are user-hostile? Check.
    6) Violates expected UI conventions ("Ok" to dismiss)? Check.

    Of course, one should expect that location tracking is still enabled even if it's "off".

    One of the things I always find amusing is how my car always knows I have an iPhone because it's broadcasting Bluetooth even when Bluetooth is "turned off".
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    7) Gives you two laborious options instead of a simple/efficient option? Check.
    8) Makes it seem like one option is laborious but the other is simple (deception)? Check.
    Reply
  • yeeeeman - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    Last time you probably tried android was version 2.0. Now we're at version 10. Try it again. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, April 26, 2020 - link

    "Last time you probably tried android was version 2.0. Now we're at version 10. Try it again."

    I tried it before I purchased an iPhone 8.

    (Given JCheng's comment, Apple may have changed the behavior of the pop-up between iOS 12 and the most recent, which I believe is 13. I am still using 12 for the moment, despite Apple's harassment over that which is another topic.)
    Reply
  • RSAUser - Sunday, April 26, 2020 - link

    Android 7? That's quite a while ago, missing a lot of newer things, I'm on 10 currently.
    Android 8 introduced:
    - Project Treble (updates are way faster now due to modularization, I get an update every month)
    - Adaptive icons (theming, circle, square, rounded, etc.)
    - Notification improvements (channels (grouping), badges, snooze, multi-colors)
    - System-wide autofill
    - Can limit app background activity and location checks
    - Color management for display
    - 8.1 onward: Neural networks API, sahred memory API, Bluetooth battery level for connected devices, auto light and dark themes

    Android 9:
    - Screenshot option to lock menu
    - Lockdown mode
    - Notifications are "rich", can include images, smart replies, etc.
    - Volume slider change (the two bars, that can also pop out to be all media controls without having to go to all the settings)
    - Pill gesture system (I kind of still prefer this to the Android 10 gestures, a bit torn)
    - "Shush", mute standard notifications if phone is face down
    - Adaptive battery (way better hibernation, my phone lasts me two days easy with 7/8 hours screen on)
    - Auto brightness based on habits (I think I adjust brightness maybe once a month or so, usually if watching a super dark video)

    Android 10:
    - New permissions system for once off only, only if shown, etc
    - Background apps can't jump to foreground
    - AV1 codec support (Netflix uses way less data and space.)
    - System-wide dark theme
    - New gesture navigation
    - Project Mainline: Core OS components updated via google play store, no more restart for those updates or reliant on manufacturer and carrier to approve.

    I'm still wondering what Android 11 will bring, since Android 10 is really well fleshed out now, the next couple of updates will be minor things, same for iOS. Only recently used iOS again since ~10, 13 is actually pretty nice, just a little annoyed by how difficult it is to easily connect to specific BT devices, Android still has better pop-up imho, though really happy iOS finally introduced it.

    Best thing would have been if iOS left both old and new gestures in, with toggle options for which you want, ah well.
    Reply
  • flyingpants265 - Friday, May 8, 2020 - link

    I mean.. almost everything in that list is crap.

    -Keyboard still lags when popping up, when it should be the fastest feature on the entire phone. It's about 5x slower than it should be (I measured against other UI movements)
    -App-switching is laggy on every phone.
    -App-switcher (Recents) is still UNORDERED EVERY SINGLE TIME, no options to configure this. Each iteration of Recent apps is worse.
    -Most of the software takes up way more memory/CPU than it should.
    -Most of the apps have very bad UI, lots of clicking through menus and going "back" with the wonky back button, it's truly an adventure.
    -Multi-window is useless. We've had widgets for 10+ years (also useless), but nobody thought to put widgets inside multi-window so you can do multiple things from the same screen.
    -Can't do basic things like switch between different multi-window panes that are already set up (app1+app2 to app3+app4). Think "multi desktop".
    -Can't do basic things like configure swiping left/right between different apps, i.e, I'm in Discord, I swipe left to go to WhatsApp. I swipe right to go to Skype. When I first heard about/saw Android, I saw the "swiping screens around" thing and I was blown away. Turns out, all you can do is swipe between your fucking multiple home screens.
    -The battery usage window has EVEN FEWER details, it's actually gotten worse over time, so I can't even really see where 8AM is in the graph.
    -Still no way to manually re-order/sticky your notifications in the list, therefore, you'll never develop muscle memory for the notification list.

    Doing a simple task like finding an image online, downloading it, cropping it, uploading it to imgur, getting the link, and sharing it to a friend.. takes a full minute, when using Gyazo on a PC takes 6 seconds. I have timed it. On the Android phone, most of the time, you are waiting for lag.. apps to switch, features to load.. then clicking through awful UIs. Somehow, nobody ever thought to just make the software work properly? What happened? Everything worked fine on my Pentium 3. Even Atom can do multi-window, multi-tasking, with full windows apps (not crippled Android apps). Seriously, what happened? Did we all just forget how to write computer programs?

    I am usually refuted by saying "Oh yeah, well MY device isn't bad.. MY device isn't slow..." That's because you are not using it properly. Try doing multiple things very quickly, and you will be slowed down by the bad UI/apps/OS, even on the latest flagship phones.

    I know what the problem is. People are just content to use what they've got, instead of thinking carefully, and creating a vision of how an ideal phone OS "should" work. It's a form of collective brainwashing, and lack of initiative/creativity. It's really that simple. Fix all these problems first, and make the phones unbreakable/easily repairable, and finally THEN, maybe we can talk about paying $999 for a phone.

    iOS is even worse.
    Reply

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