It’s been a while since the launch of the iPhone SE 2020 version and I did get my hands on a unit just to see how well it fares against my iPhone 11 Pro. Having switched from Android to iPhone late last year (in tandem with the launch of the iPhone 11 Pro) proved to be quite a refreshing decision as the overall smartphone experience through iOS has been rather fluid – for the lack of a better word. But why so? Well, in general apps seemed to function better, notifications are faster and the camera experience is just spot on. While Android devices have their pros over the iPhone for sure, the iPhone is clearly the winner in creating a very straightforward smartphone experience that many people would appreciate.
But how does all that translate into the latest smartphone from Apple that is sold at almost half the price of their 11 series?
The iPhone SE’s design is like a carbon copy of the iPhone 8. Well, remember how the first generation iPhone SE looks just like the iPhone 5s? Perhaps the trend of the SE series is an exterior recycling of an older generation design that is “time-tested” with iPhone consumers. Hence, if you’re expecting the SE’s design to be any different and updated given its status as a 2020 smartphone, you might be disappointed. However, if you know the iPhone 7 or the 8 (not the Plus variants), then the SE is just exactly like that, including having the thick top and bottom bezels (more below). But a plus point to this is that iPhone 7 or 8 covers will fit like a glove. And there won’t be a 3.5mm jack, which Apple has proudly departed from years ago so in its place, Apple includes a pair of Apple EarPods in the box.
The one I got is the Product Red version as it is the only vibrant one out of the three colour options to choose from (the other two being black and white). It could just be me that the red glass panel on the rear felt slightly “cherry” or “rose red” this time round and I love it. So it isn’t a particularly bright red – it really depends on the user. The frame is made of red-coloured aluminium while the front glass display panel is black. I’ve never used a red smartphone in my life and this felt like a great start.
Also, Product Red iPhone SEs sold will contribute to fighting Covid-19, just as how the previous Product Red iPhones contribute to the HIV/AIDS cause.
If you surf the net for the iPhone SE’s official display specs, you might notice that it’s practically the same thing with the iPhone 8 (and somewhat the iPhone 7 too). It’s the same 16Mil colours Retina IPS LCD screen at 4.7 inches with a resolution of 750 x 1334 pixels and 326 ppi density. The top and bottom bezels are also the same, they remain as thick bars that sandwich the screen. Therefore, the SE’s display is technically almost two generations behind the concurrent smartphones. Is it a step down? No. But does it disappoint without a significant upgrade? Well, yes and no.
Remember that the iPhone SE is meant to be Apple’s mid-range device and I believe that while some specifications remain stagnant from older generation renditions, it’s all meant to keep the cost much more affordable compared to the iPhone 11 series.
And perhaps Apple’s strategy with the iPhone SE is to release a device that retains the maximum familiarity and DNA of an Apple smartphone so the non-upgrades on the display is just a way of keeping it as affordable as possible – and also making it accessible to completely new users of the iPhone.
Anyway, when it comes to display quality, I personally could tell a difference between the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone SE having used both at the same time. But the display works nonetheless. It’s still a retina display and still pushes visuals at 60Hz. So if you’re not particularly fussy about it, then the iPhone SE’s visuals are not as bad as what netizens are crying out loud about.
But keep in mind that it is a 4.7-inch display, which in today’s display size standards is considered quite small. So it’s all a matter of preference. I don’t find any issues as I myself prefer small, handy devices and it’s not much of a difference when compared to my Google Pixel 2 that I still use for work and it has a 5-inch display.
One thing that is significant about the iPhone 11 series is their battery life, which has received positive praises from users. I for one don’t carry a powerbank anymore thanks to the 11 Pro’s battery life. But when the iPhone SE was announced, I got slightly worried that it might not boast the same battery performance as the 11 Pro as it is officially spec-ed at only 1821 mAh.
But it was rather surprising to me that the iPhone SE can actually last up to three days without charging with my usual usage, which is moderate to heavy internet surfing, text messaging and Spotify. Comparatively to the iPhone 11 Pro, it has almost the same battery life despite having a smaller capacity battery. For that, I am quite impressed.
It can also be charged wirelessly, a feature that MANY Android smartphones of the price point don’t even have. This really makes the iPhone SE feel like a full-featured device despite its shortcomings.
iPhones have always sustained reputable camera performance from the beginning and the SE’s camera is commendable to me for its price. While many smartphone users are enthralled with the idea and practicality of having at least three lenses (in today’s standards), the iPhone SE won’t satisfy that lofty demand with its single 12MP rear shooter and single 7MP selfie camera.
But whatever it is, having a single lens on the SE calls back to the fact of keeping the price in check. Apple could’ve included an ultrawide angle or telephoto lens but that would require an overhaul of its rear panel to fit in another lens and would’ve definitely increased its cost. And so, the camera setup on the iPhone SE is really no different than the iPhone 8.
In terms of performance, users won’t be able to take ultrawide angle or zoomed photos for the lack of the required lens but if those aren’t a necessity then the single camera on the SE technically suffices.
Here are some unedited shots taken using the iPhone SE so you can be the judge yourself.
Personally, I love how the photos turn out with adequate natural lighting.
While it has a lot of physical similarities with the iPhone 8, the internals of the iPhone SE sets it apart completely.. It comes equipped with an Apple A13 Bionic (7 nm+) chipset with a Hexa-core CPU and 4-core Apple GPU graphics. On paper, the chipset and its configurations are practically identical to even the iPhone 11 Pro save for the difference in RAM (SE has 3GB while 11Pro has 4GB).
I’ve thrown some games at it and the iPhone SE didn’t disappoint at all. At maximum graphics settings, visuals don’t stutter. I am quite pleased that this “traditionalist-looking” iPhone is taking on contemporary mobile games with just one slight issue.
Considering its adaptation of the iPhone 7 and 8’s physicality, the iPhone SE heats up a bit under heavy graphics processing. It’s probably due to the thinness of the body, much to the point that you could tell where the CPU and GPU units are situated based on the amount of heat in the particular area. Then again, its slim profile is something that many lay users would love but it doesn’t buffer the heat output. Which is why, I would recommend putting on a casing that is made of good heat buffering material to make activities like gaming a tad more comfortable to the hands.
Additionally, we ran both AnTuTu Benchmark and 3DMark tests to show you how it scores in both CPU and GPU performance. Here are the screenshots.
You can refer to this link to find out about how the iPhone SE fare against other iOS devices in terms of AnTuTu Benchmark scores.
It’s worth noting that at this point in time, Touch ID is a real winner. There were far too many complaints that Apple’s Face ID feature is a pain to use on the iPhones post 8 series – because everyone is practically wearing face masks outdoors. No thanks to Covid-19.
So Touch ID has coincidentally (or miraculously) become relevant again in terms of securing the iPhone with the convenience of unlocking it via fingerprint. The iPhone SE makes using an iPhone intuitive again in 2020 despite looking a lot like a 2017 one – so it’s not a bad thing at all if I do say so myself.
Reasons To Buy
The iPhone SE lives and breaths more closely to the likes of iPhone 8 (and iPhone 7 to a certain degree) and it’s all attributed to them sharing the same body, the same display and you can’t really tell the difference unless you really use the SE full time. So why would anyone purchase this?
On the surface, the iPhone SE is meant to be the latest Apple smartphone for those who want to kickstart their iOS adventures without the premium price tag that the company’s recent 11 series proudly hangs – which is a fortune to depart with for many, many people.
Personally with some scenarios in mind, I think the iPhone SE is perfect as a gift for your kids (hopefully responsible enough to use a smartphone) and you want to rope them into the Apple ecosystem and to provide them a device that is future-proofed for a couple of years to come – thanks to the SE’s updated internals. It’s also great for the someone whose obsolete iPhone model has been rendered completely unusable and the SE can serve as a highly accessible replacement that doesn’t really push the user into adopting the latest and greatest of Apple’s smartphone features but maintains all the relevant stuff that makes it contemporarily viable.
At the end of it all, it boils down to the price tag and I always judge a device by how much it costs and how much value it returns to the buyer. So it’s true that you won’t get the latest triple camera configuration, the latest Super Retina display, the 80+% screen-to-body ratio, but it is still a complete iPhone experience and one that many can afford.
If you do consider all the better stuff like wireless charging, the A13 chipset, long battery life, and the coincidentally convenient Touch ID, the SE is a very powerful and yet simple iPhone to own and to last a couple of years down the road.
As Apple’s latest mid-range smartphone, the iPhone SE will not satisfy a lot of hardcore techies who are always on the hunt for better specs, but it suffices as a great representation of an iPhone that is rendered to its most baseline state amongst Apple’s latest smartphone offerings. It is still a perfectly functional iPhone that can run all contemporary applications, shoot great photos and do all the things you’d expect out of a 2020 iPhone.
For its price, the iPhone SE is expected to be what it is and you can’t really complain about it. It may look like the iPhone 8, but it’s better. It might not be like the iPhone 11 or 11 Pro but it’s not bad either.
Personally, I love how it’s built to be “classic”. And can’t wait to get my hands on some old funky iPhone 8 cases to have fun with it.
|Official water resistance rating||Little updates in terms of display quality from the iPhone 8|
|Snappy performance with A13 Bionic chipset||No ultrawide angle lens|
|Touch ID convenience||No telephoto lens|
|Long-lasting battery life|
|Good quality rear and selfie cameras|
|Qi standard wireless charging compatibility|