Apple's new iPhone SE is perhaps the most interesting device of the year. Not because it is innovative or flashy, but it sets a new standard for & # 39; budget & # 39; phones. With just $ 400, you get the performance and longevity of Apple & # 39; s premium phones at an affordable price.
This is not to say that the new iPhone SE is a perfect product. It lacks the modern design and flashy features of similarly priced Google and Samsung devices. Battery life isn't surprising it doesn't have a Face ID and the single camera setup works well above its weight, not good in low light. But if you are an iPhone fan or tired of replacing your cheap Android phone every year then you should consider buying an SE. At least that's the consensus among reviewers who put their fancy $ 1
Before looking at reviews, here are the raw specs of the 2020 iPhone SE:
- Display: 4.7-inch Retina HD display @ 1334 × 750
- Main camera: A single 12-megapixel camera, 4K 60 FPS and 4K 30 FPS video options
- Selfie camera: 7-megapixel camera (without depth sensors)
- Processor and RAM: A13 Bionic processor and 3 GB RAM
- Storage: Configurations of 64 GB, 12 GB, and 256 GB; no expandable storage
- Charging: 18 Watt Charging via Lightning Cable and 7.5 Watt Wireless Charging
- Additional Features: An IP67 rating for water resistance; Dual SIM capabilities; Touch ID (no Face ID)
Okay, let's get into that. Here's what trusted reviewers have to say about the new iPhone SE.
Untouchable performance, 5 year life, decent battery
Unlike other phone companies, Apple produces its own mobile processors to reduce costs and performance of the improve the device. And the company is very good in processor design. Apple's A13 Bionic chip, which powers the iPhone 11, is the fastest processor in any phone on the market. Guess what? That same chip, the A13 Bionic, is also in the $ 400 iPhone SE.
I know that processor mumbo-jumbo can get a bit confusing, so I will refer to Dieter Bohn on The Verge explaining in great detail why this processor is important. In his words:
The processor is important because it ensures that the iPhone SE will receive OS updates for many years to come. I still have the original iPhone SE, released in March 2016, and Apple supported it with the latest iOS update last year. Four years later, and that iPhone has the most up-to-date software.
Dieter further explains that most Android phones "deliver peak performance after two years of updates." At this price, you won't find a phone that lasts as long as the iPhone SE. It is guaranteed to support as long as the iPhone 11 as both phones run on the A13 chip. I would also like to add that while Android phones tend to slow down with every update, new iOS updates have the advantage that speed up old phones (thank you people who hit Apple with a planned outdated suit in 2017).
The iPhone SE will last long enough to replace the old battery in 2023. Meanwhile, you experience a battery life that Lauren Goode at Wired & # 39; Mediocre & # 39; calls. As Lauren puts it, the SE has "essentially the same battery as the iPhone 8", although it lasts a little longer than the iPhone 8 "thanks to a much more efficient processor."
Most reviewers agree with Lauren – the SE's battery isn't stunning, it's not the best at this price, but it lasts all day with regular use. That's fine for most people. And even if the battery life is one of those things that you can't ignore, you can always use wireless chargers, a battery holder or a compact power bank to extend the life of the SE. The phone is only 5.44 inches long, you have to do something with that extra pocket space!
Small Retina HD screen, mostly impressive camera
From now on we are going to see a lot of comparisons between the iPhone SE and the iPhone 8. Maybe 'comparison' is' the wrong word – the new SE is the exact same size as the iPhone 8, and includes many of the same components. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
You might think that the SE's 4.7-inch Retina HD screen, the same screen as the old iPhone 8, will look a bit dated in 2020. But the old Retina HD screen was undoubtedly ahead of its time. I think Patrick Holland best describes it on CNET :
The screen on the SE is similar to that on the iPhone 11, especially in terms of quality and resolution. Text looks sharp, colors are accurate and bright in sunny conditions.
What more do you want? Bohn wishes the SE had smaller bezels and devoted a few paragraphs to discussing how the SE would "fit a bigger screen" if it didn't have that thick black outline. Other reviewers casually mention the edges, but Dieter is referring to something that can knock out a lot of people, especially Android users. The iPhone SE's retro design is still functional, but not flashy. It is not ugly, but it is not inspiring.
I personally don't mind the outdated exterior of the iPhone SE. I miss a phone with physical buttons and thick edges make it easier to hold a phone without accidentally touching the screen. The only thing that worried me about the design of the SE is the single rear camera which looks eerily similar to the iPhone 8's camera and has a small 12-megapixel sensor.
But after reviewing MKBHD's review of the SE, my fears (usually) don't exist. Let's give him a quick quote:
[The iPhone SE uses] a single camera system, and it's pretty good. Photos definitely look like well-known iPhone photos. And if you give it enough light, it will sit there with the best.
Even if the SE uses the same camera as the iPhone 8 (Apple hasn't clarified it, but this is unlikely), the phone processes its photos with Apple's state-of-the-art software and the end result is impressive. But as MKBHD points out, lighting is a problem. He says that "if you get less favorable lighting, it gets a little grainy." And since the SE doesn't have a night mode, you can probably imagine what photos look like in the dark. The SE also lacks ultra-wide features and lacks depth sensors for the 7-megapixel front camera, which hinders your ability to shoot artfully wide-angle shots or influencer-level selfies.
 Still, the SE's camera offers you many great shooting options. iJustine is one of the few people to mention it, but the SE features cinematic image stabilization, which allows you to record stable video from the main camera or selfie camera. There are also options for slow-mo, time-lapse and portrait mode. You can see a few real world examples in her SE review.
Oh, and one last note about the camera: it can record 4K video at 60 or 30 fps. The 30 FPS option extends the dynamic range and MKBHD describes it as "the best on any phone at this price, without a doubt." Those are pretty strong words, and the iPhone SE video samples in his review look fantastic.
iPhone 8 format, iPhone 8 style, iPhone 8 Touch ID
We've covered the main features of the iPhone SE, but I want to go back to our conversation about the SE's "outdated" design, you already know that the SE is the same size as the iPhone 8, it has thick edges and relies on a single rear camera, but how does aesthetics neglect, how does an old design affect actual functionality?
The iPhone SE has a Home button, and unlike newer iPhones, it can scan and unlock fingerprints with Touch ID. But the front camera has no depth sensors, so Face ID is gone. Most reviewers don't seem to care about the lack of Face ID, but instinctively drop out because of the absence. iJustine has a more nuanced view of how this change affects actual usage, especially now:
[The iPhone SE] also has touch ID, which is something I never thought I would really want back until I started wearing face masks every time I go out. Do you know what doesn't work when you wear a face mask? Face ID.
She makes a great point. iJustine also praises the SE's Touch ID for using haptic feedback, something we probably took for granted on older devices. Overall, Touch ID works well, it feels great and is an example of how the "outdated" design of the iPhone SE is a strong point for some people.
Another advantage of the SE's design is its compatibility with iPhone 8 accessories. The buttons, front camera, and rear camera are in the same place as the iPhone 8, so you can use iPhone 8 cases and screen protectors without affecting the functionality of the SE.
And, to make it clear, the SE does not have a headphone jack either. Neither the iPhone 8. I wouldn't normally bring this up when talking about the iPhone, but since Google's "budget" phones and Samsung have headphone jacks, I thought it was necessary.
The Gist: It's a Brand New iPhone for $ 400
Overall, the iPhone SE offers premium performance at an incredibly low price. It's an obvious choice for Apple fans who don't want to drop $ 1,000 on an iPhone X series or 11, and an attractive option for Android users who are tired of replacing their phone every 2 years.
But I want to make one final comment about the SE that has not appeared in any review. The design, which is almost identical to that of the iPhone 8, is already outdated. In the next 4 or 5 years, the SE may start to look and feel like a dinosaur, especially as foldable phones become the mainstream. If you get a kick out of using new flashy technology then the relatively shorter lifespan of a cheap Android phone might be a small price for modern design.
Of course, there is a chance that Android manufacturers will follow Apple's example. . When that happens, the outdated design will merge with modern designs and style will leave performance behind. If you're interested in the SE but concerned about style, I recommend waiting a few months to see how it works. Even worse, the worst part is buying SE later this year, perhaps at an even lower price.
Reviews Quoted: CNET, iJustine, MKBHD The Verge, Wired