Apple iPhone SE. The Special Edition. Even if the Smaller Edition was more appropriate. And just like the first iPhone SE, its second generation is both – Small, even if larger than the first one, and Special – as such launch happens once in four years or so.
We are sure Apple had plans for a great premiere event last March, but COVID-19 turned everything upside down and such plans were abruptly scrapped. The new iPhone was unveiled fanfare-less on the maker’s website, out of the blue, but it quickly became famous for being not only one of the cheapest iPhones ever made but also as one of the season’s hottest bang for the buck offers.
Imagine that – bang for the buck coming from Apple! Indeed, the highlight feature of the new iPhone SE is the A13 Bionic chip – that’s Apple’s latest platform – the one that’s powering the iPhone 11 trio. As for the rest, well, it’s mostly iPhone 8.
Apple did use the 2.5 years old iPhone 8 as a canvas in more than one way. The shell is the same, as is the screen (sans the 3D Touch layer), same front and rear cameras ergo photo and video capabilities, same stereo speakers, same battery capacity, same charging capabilities.
A thorough look reveals the iPhone SE (2020) is indeed small by today’s standards, and while it brings features introduced more than two years ago, those are hardly outdated – the phone is water-resistant, its single camera offers numerous features such as portraits, Smart HDR and even 4K at 60 with both OIS and EIS available, while the stereo speakers are of an excellent quality that is tough to beat even to this very day.
Apple iPhone SE (2020) key features
- Body: Aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass front with oleophobic coating, Gorilla Glass back with glossy finish, IP67 certified for water and dust resistance. Red, Black, and White color options; 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm; 148g.
- Screen: 4.7″ 16M-color LED-backlit IPS LCD screen of 750p resolution, 326ppi, True Tone adjustment via four-channel ambient light sensor.
- OS: Apple iOS 13.
- Chipset: Apple A13 Bionic (7nm+) chip – 2×2.66 GHz Lightning + 4×1.8 GHz Thunder) Apple CPU, four-core Apple GPU, 8-core Apple NPU 3-gen.
- Camera: 12MP camera with F/1.8 lens, optical image stabilization, quad-LED flash with slow sync, phase detection auto focus, Smart HDR, wide color capture.
- Video recording: 2160p@60/30fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps video recording
- Selfie: 7MP F/2.2 front-facing camera with BSI sensor and HDR mode, 1080p@30fps video
- Storage: 64GB, 128, or 256GB of built-in storage.
- Connectivity: 4G LTE Cat.12; Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 5.0; Lightning port; GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS; NFC (Apple Pay only).
- Battery: 1,821mAh battery, 18W fast charging, wireless charging (Qi compatible).
- Misc: Stereo speakers, pressure-sensitive Home key with fingerprint scanner, Taptic Engine.
The bezels are what looked old on the iPhone 8, and now they look ancient on this new SE model. They are wonderful as thumb rests for when you are using the phone in landscape orientation for gaming or videos, but they will be a target for many laughs either way. And the battery capacity could have been improved a bit, but we are yet to see the new A13 chip in action, so let’s not judge just yet.
And now, it’s time to unpack our red iPhone SE.
Unboxing the Apple iPhone SE (2020)
The iPhone retail bundle has seen few changes over the year with the most prominent being the 18W charger replacing the 5W adapter for the iPhone 11 Pro models. That is not the case with the iPhone SE, though.
The Apple iPhone SE (2020) retail box contains the prehistoric 5W charger and the usual Lightning cable. We do appreciate the EarPods that are included with every iPhone, though. Two Apple logo stickers and the SIM ejector complete the SE bundle.
The iPhone SE supports USB-PD fast charging (up to 18W), as well as wireless charging (up to 8W), so at least you are not without other options. You just have to get yourself a quick charger separately.
The new Apple iPhone SE is indeed one of the most compact smartphones not only within the iPhone ranks but among the Android phones as well. It is thin and lightweight, yet powerful and dependable, with great speakers and a high-quality screen, and impresses with camera performance even if it misses a feature or two.
iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone SE 2020
Recycling the iPhone 8 parts and design may be a letdown to some, though it’s hardly surprising – the first iPhone SE was an iPhone 5s with an iPhone 6s chip, so it was kind of obvious the next SE would be an old iPhone (8) with a new iPhone chip (11). Still, the iPhone SE (2020) does remarkably well across the board, with Apple delivering some nice improvements in camera quality thanks to the power of A13 chip and the latest software tweaks.
iPhone SE 2020 and iPhone SE
And the most important part – the price is quite attractive. The base storage has grown to 64GB (up from 16GB on the old SE), and the 64GB model costs $399 in the US or €479 in the EU. These price tags are quite cheap for such a powerful phone, let alone an iPhone.
Being the cheapest of the iPhones there really is no alternative. If you are on the budget, the iPhone SE is your only option, but it is a great one if you can live with the bezels.
Or, you can add about €220 on top of the SE and get the iPhone XR with a larger 6.1″ screen with tiny bezels and Face ID within its notch. The iPhone XR is about 1cm taller and wider than the SE, so it is not a giant. It may have the previous A12 chip, but most importantly, it offers a much better overall battery life.
For €300 on top of the iPhone SE you may as well go for the iPhone 11, which will give you the same screen as the XR, but with the new Apple A13 underneath and the iPhone 11 Pro main camera with Night Mode. You also get doubled battery life over the SE.
The first-generation SE is still available from various retailers across the globe, mostly refurbished by now, but it is still a good option if you want a decent phone with the size of a credit card.
Finally, if you aren’t chained to iOS, the yet-to-be-revealed Pixel 4a looks like what many hoped for the iPhone SE to be – an all-screen phone with an excellent camera. We know Google can deliver on camera with the Pixels, and our fingers are crossed for an issue-free screen, though the Pixel 4a won’t match the gaming performance of the iPhone with that rumored Snapdragon 730.
Apple iPhone XR • Apple iPhone 11 • Apple iPhone SE • Google Pixel 4a
The small iPhone is dead! Long live the small iPhone! That is pretty much the deal with every new iPhone, and it was about time to happen with the SE generation. The second SE is a small and powerful phone, water-resistant and beautiful, with a capable camera and great iOS support.
The new iPhone SE is the cheapest iPhone right now, but also one of the cheapest flagship-like phones on the market if we are to compare bang for the buck. The only things you must do to like it is to embrace the bezels and buy a fast charger.
- Compact and lightweight, water-resistant.
- Bright and high-contrast screen.
- Outstanding performance from the A13 chip.
- Loud stereo speakers.
- Touch ID is back and we love it.
- Excellent daylight photos and good low-light ones.
- Very good video recording capabilities with proficient stabilization.
- Future proof with the latest chipset and regular iOS updates.
- The cheapest iPhone yet.
- Bezels, bezels, bezels.
- The battery capacity is uninspiring.
- Night Mode in the camera is sorely missed.
- Slow 5W charger in the box.
- The iTunes file exchange can be frustrating for many.