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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  • cha0z_ - Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - link

    My secondary iphone 6s is as fast and smoother on ios 14 beta 3 vs my exynos note 9. So I guess what happened with 4s will stay there and you all can stop using that argument without knowing nothing how things works nowdays. Same for ios "limiting" roflmao, there are literally tons of settings that you can change and tweak without jailbreak and jailbreak is insanely customizable with high quality stuff. Not to mention that the last few things missing are added in ios14 - app drawer, widgets on the screen, caller notification while you are using the phone, picture in picture for videos.

    Apple not only FULLY supports for 6+ years with day one major/minor/beta the same way as their most expensive current iphone, but they also still release security updates for iphones as old as 4s from 2011. Now let's take a look at my note 9 - they wanted to abandon the phone at ONE YEAR AND A HALF MARK! Only backslash make them reconsider and release oneui 2.1 for that phone. What GREAT support by samsung for my 1k euro phone! Android manufacturers was quick to bump prices to apple's and beyond apple's level, but don't want to provide the same benefits. Noo, they provide 2 vs 6 years support that is "region based" and on top of that the biggest android representative - samsung - sells 2 years behind exynos cr*p in Europe and most of the world for profits! Enough is enough.
    Reply
  • blackcrayon - Friday, April 24, 2020 - link

    "best performance when you just look at benchmarks"
    Or, you know, actually running software which these benchmarks represent, year after year. "Optimised benchmark OS" is also pretty hilarious, considering what Apple's competitors have been proven to be guilty of, but not them for some reason...
    Reply
  • michael2k - Friday, April 24, 2020 - link

    You do realize that Apple has something like 45% market share here in the US, right? Calling half the target audience 'dummies' doesn't win you friends.

    In any case, I don't see why you're so angry about a phone you won't use? It sounds like all this is irrelevant to you.
    Reply
  • Retycint - Friday, April 24, 2020 - link

    To be fair, about 46% of people voted for Trump in 2016, so I'd wager there are at least 46% of the US population who are idiots Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    note that some had reasonable reasons to vote for him:
    - think he would become reasonable once in office and as long time republican bought into all the conspiracy nonsense about hilary
    - believed he was a successful business man, would not be corrupt as he didn't need money and might run the country differently from politicians (yes he was a bad business man and a con man just looking to earn but most ppl figured that out after the elections)
    - don't care for anyone else but themselves and betting he would lower taxes (he did so win for them)

    That's about it but covers a lot of people in a country where collaborating
    and caring for others is discouraged (individualism ftw), where CEO's and the rich are worshipped, government feared and education is bad while fake news and election interference (mostly through making it harder to vote) is rampant.
    Reply
  • Deicidium369 - Sunday, April 26, 2020 - link

    - He was always a jackass
    - He was never successful in business - he amassed a small fortune by starting with a large one
    - Every president since Reagan has give me and my kind a massive tax cut after massive taxcut. I have never abd will never vote for a republican.

    I am sure I am not worshipped by my over 1000 employees - 900 or so have been idled since 3rd week in March - and are and will continue to draw full pay (based on 40 hours, some were getting 50+ while working - pay 25% above national average for those positions at $22/hr) and don't need the federal bailout - since I am a Liberal, and actually understand what so many so called "job creators" don't - how to run a business, and understanding that having at least a year worth of full Opex in the bank. Also have spent $3-4M this year to make sure the kids who only got 1 meal a day - while they were in school are getting something to eat. Also funding various foodbanks in my area.

    So don't lump us all together - I doubt you are doing 1% of what this 1%er is doing.
    Reply
  • sonny73n - Saturday, April 25, 2020 - link

    I don’t need dummies for friends. I’m using an iPhone too. Not because I want to but my wife likes to use FaceTime. It’s a 4 years old 6s and it would be the last iPhone I ever bought. Reply
  • Deicidium369 - Sunday, April 26, 2020 - link

    Don't need friends - and I could do without 55% of the population - starting with the people who live in the Red welfare states (ALL red states are welfare states) Reply
  • Sharma_Ji - Friday, April 24, 2020 - link

    1/3rd price of android flagships, so your market is limited to USA only, i see.
    Cause where i live, people with average hands can easily buy and use a flagship android for the price this SE2 sells here.
    Reply
  • euskalzabe - Friday, April 24, 2020 - link

    Well, yeah, AT is based on the USA, so of course they're more focused on that market. I wish we could buy Xiaomi or Huawei devices like my friends do in Europe: great phones for bargain prices. Then you look at the LTE bands they support, and bam, they don't work in the USA. So this SE is an incredible deal in a $400 territory where we don't have a lot of options. Reply

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