iPhone SE assessment: Apple’s $399 iPhone lives as much as the hype

iPhone SE assessment: Apple’s $399 iPhone lives as much as the hype

There are numerous methods to consider Apple’s new $399 iPhone SE. One is that it is a extra inexpensive choice than the iPhone 11 ($699 at Apple), with surprisingly related digital camera specs, which it’s. Or that it is the 2020 sequel to the unique SE from 2016, which it is also. Or, at 4.7 inches, that it is the smallest and least expensive iPhone you’ll be able to presently purchase. Or (and that is my favourite manner to consider it) that it is an iPhone Eight with the brains and energy of an iPhone 11. In reality, the brand new iPhone SE is all these items and that is why I am enamored with it.


  • Reasonably priced worth
  • Lengthy battery life thus far
  • Nice rear digital camera
  • iPhone 11 Professional-level efficiency

Do not Like

  • Outdated iPhone design
  • Selfie digital camera is mediocre

The brand new iPhone SE has the basic design that outlined the iPhone for its first 10 years. The design, the physique and the digital camera lenses are all the identical as 2017’s iPhone 8. However Apple carried out a intelligent mind transplant, changing the almost 3-year-old processor with the A13 Bionic processor used within the iPhone 11, 11 Professional and 11 Professional Max. This goes nicely past a easy spec bump by majorly enhancing issues just like the cameras and battery life. The brand new processor not solely runs quicker, however it’s going to possible future-proof the telephone via years of iOS updates.

However a $399 (£419, AU$749) iPhone comes with compromises, which Apple selected properly. The SE has solely a single rear digital camera, it would not have Face ID and it lacks digital camera options like Evening Mode, Slofies and Deep Fusion processing. The selfie digital camera is OK however not as wonderful because the one discovered on the iPhone 11, 11 Professional and 11 Professional Max.

Once you have a look at the whole image, the iPhone SE represents probably the most worth on your greenback of any telephone Apple sells. It has a gorgeous worth, implausible battery life, nice rear digital camera, A13 processor, water resistance and help for wi-fi charging. The SE just isn’t solely an exquisite iPhone, however top-of-the-line price range telephones you’ll be able to presently purchase.

iPhone SE (2020) specs in comparison with iPhone 8, iPhone SE (2016), iPhone 11

iPhone SE (2020) iPhone 8 iPhone SE (2016) iPhone 11
Show measurement, decision 4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334×750 pixels 4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334×750 pixels 4-inch; 1,136×640 pixels 6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina; 1,792×828 pixels
Pixel density 326ppi 326ppi 326ppi 326ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in 5.45×2.65×0.29 in 4.87×2.31×0.Three in 5.94×2.98×0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 138.Four x 67.Three x 7.Three mm 138.4×67.3×7.Three mm 123x58x7.6 mm 150.9×75.7×8.Three mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.22 oz; 148g 5.22 oz; 148 g 3.99 oz; 113 g 6.84 oz; 194g
Cell software program iOS 13 iOS 11 (can replace to iOS 13) iOS 9.3 iOS 13
Digital camera 12-megapixel 12-megapixel 12-megapixel 12-megapixel (extensive), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide)
Entrance-facing digital camera 7-megapixel 7-megapixel 1.2-megapixel 12-megapixel
Video seize 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor Apple A13 Bionic Apple A11 Bionic Apple A9 Apple A13 Bionic
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB 16GB, 64GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM Not disclosed 2GB Not disclosed Not disclosed
Expandable storage No None No No
Battery Not disclosed Not disclosed Not disclosed Not disclosed
Fingerprint sensor Dwelling button Dwelling button Dwelling button No
Connector Lightning Lightning Lightning Lightning
Headphone jack No No Sure No
Particular options Waterproof (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wi-fi charging Waterproof (IP67), wi-fi charging Apple Pay; Haptic Contact Waterproof (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wi-fi charging
Worth off-contract (USD) $399 (64GB), $449 (128GB), $549 (256GB) $699 (64GB), $849 (256GB) $399 (16GB); $499 (64GB) $699 (64GB), $749 (128GB), $849 (256GB)
Worth (GBP) £419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB) £699 (64GB), £849 (256GB) £359 (16GB) £439 (64GB) £729 (64GB), £779 (128GB), £879 (256GB)
Worth (AUD) AU$749 (64GB), AU$829 (128GB), AU$999 (256GB) AU$1,079 (64GB), AU$1,329 (256GB) AU$679 (16GB); AU$829 (64GB) AU$1,199 (64GB), AU$1,279 (128GB), AU$1,449 (256GB)

The iPhone SE’s iPhone Eight design

Bodily, the SE is an iPhone 8. The back and front are product of glass, the chassis and sides are aluminum. The one bodily distinction between the iPhone SE and iPhone Eight is that the Apple brand is now centered on the again to match current-generation iPhones.

The brand new telephone has Apple’s old-school brow and chin bezel above and under the display. This makes the SE look, nicely, outdated. That is the one of many few issues that I am not too thrilled about. It is not ugly, it is simply dated. And which may attraction to some folks, however not me.


Welcome again, massive bezels.

John Kim/CNET

Having used Face ID for the previous couple years, it is a unusual and acquainted feeling to arrange and use Contact ID. It is like going from an computerized transmission again to a stick shift. However in the correct automotive, stick shift could be a blast.

I forgot how a lot I missed the house button and the way it makes interactions and navigation much less fussy than swipes and holds. I faucet and maintain to pay for purchases as a substitute of angling my telephone to get Face ID verification. A speedy double-tap exhibits latest apps. Although Face ID has its personal advantages, the house button remains to be as satisfying to make use of because it was again within the day.

For tiny telephone lovers, the iPhone SE’s 4.7-inch LCD show is not as small as the unique SE’s 4-inch display. But it surely’s nonetheless smaller than most telephones out proper now and is sufficient to be transportable and cozy for most individuals.

The display on the SE is just like the one on the iPhone 11, particularly when it comes to high quality and backbone. Textual content seems sharp, colours are correct and it is brilliant in sunny circumstances.


The iPhone SE is rated IP67 for water and dirt resistance.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The iPhone SE is rated IP67, that means it could stand up to being submerged for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter (about Three toes). I wasn’t capable of check this declare, although I did submerge it in a liter of water for 30 minutes and all the pieces labored fantastic. This stage of water and dirt resistance is not one thing you usually discover on telephones below $400, so it is significantly noteworthy that the iPhone SE has it.

The SE is available in three colours: black, white and crimson. The iPhone Eight had its personal crimson model too, however it had white bezels and rattling if the iPhone SE would not look extra hanging in crimson with black bezels.

The iPhone SE’s battery life is longer than the iPhone 8

Apple’s web site says that the iPhone SE’s battery lasts about the identical because the iPhone 8, however my testing confirmed it lasted for much longer. I performed a looped video on Airplane mode at 50% brightness and the iPhone SE lasted 15 hours, 45 minutes. That is hours longer than what the iPhone Eight and iPhone SE lasted in the identical check after they have been new. Anecdotally, it made it via a day and a half and not using a downside, and a pair occasions it went two days straight and not using a cost.


In our early battery exams, the iPhone SE simply outlasts the iPhone Eight and unique 2016 iPhone SE.

Patrick Holland/CNET

I ought to notice that I’ve extra battery exams to run (together with streaming video exams), so verify again after I’ll replace the outcomes.

The iPhone SE has wi-fi charging, which is one other characteristic not discovered on most price range telephones. There’s additionally help for fast-charging, which replenishes the battery to 50% in 30 minutes. However the iPhone SE would not include the mandatory 18-watt charger and as a substitute contains the slower 5-watt one. Once more, that is more likely to maintain the price of the gadget low.

iPhone SE has A13 Bionic processor efficiency

The longevity of Apple’s iOS help for “older units” is a quiet however important attraction of proudly owning an iPhone. The iPhone Eight and its A11 processor are actually two-and-a-half years outdated and can possible cease receiving iOS software program updates a pair years earlier than the iPhone SE and its newer A13 Bionic processor.

In efficiency exams, the iPhone SE was persistently higher than the iPhone Eight and (no shock) the unique iPhone SE. It scored related outcomes to what we bought on the iPhone 11, 11 Professional and 11 Professional Max.

In actual life that meant app launches have been peppy, enjoying video games like Sky: Youngsters of Mild and Doomsday Vault have been a breeze. Enhancing pictures was straightforward and I may even use graphics-heavy AR apps equivalent to Wonderscope, which reworked my bed room right into a coaching floor for ghosts.

Geekbench v.5.Zero single-core


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Geekbench v.5.Zero multicore


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

3DMark Slingshot Limitless


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

3DMark Ice Storm Limitless


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

iPhone SE cameras have Portrait Mode, Sensible HDR

The rear digital camera on the SE has the identical specs because the iPhone 8, however when mixed with the A13 chip and iOS 13 it transforms the digital camera into one thing that may compete with the finest telephone cameras, and even go toe-to-toe with the primary rear digital camera on the iPhone 11. It has a slew of options, together with Sensible HDR for pictures, Fast Take filming and Portrait Mode — these are spectacular options and a primary for a $399 iPhone.


The iPhone SE has a single rear digital camera that has SmartHDR and Portrait Mode for pictures.

John Kim/CNET

The rear digital camera on the SE has a 28mm f1.Eight lens whereas the iPhone 11 has two rear cameras: a foremost wide-angle digital camera with a 26-mm f1.Eight lens and an ultrawide-angle digital camera with a 13mm f/2.Four lens. I do benefit from the ultrawide-angle on the iPhone 11 however I did not miss it throughout my time with the iPhone SE.

Once I examine pictures taken with every telephone, it is onerous to tell apart between them until you convey them onto a bigger display and even then the variations are delicate.

In good gentle, pictures from every are related when it comes to picture high quality. Take a look at the photographs under of a tree I took in my yard. Are you able to inform the distinction? You see my level. The obvious distinction is that the iPhone SE picture is framed tighter than the iPhone 11.

Listed here are a couple of different pictures from the iPhone SE.


The iPhone SE is nice at capturing correct colours.

Patrick Holland/CNET


Sensible HDR is spectacular in preserving the sky from blowing out and the shadows comparatively freed from picture noise.

Patrick Holland/CNET


On this picture of wooden slats, have a look at the quantity of element and texture the iPhone SE captured.

Patrick Holland/CNET


A pleasant snap of my breakfast taken below medium lighting.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Each telephones have portrait mode and produce wonderful outcomes. The 11 can seize portrait mode pictures of each folks and pets. The iPhone SE, just like the iPhone XR ($599 at Apple), can solely do folks. It is not till you look very intently on the pictures under that you may see that the iPhone 11’s portrait mode captures only a bit extra element and fewer noise.

Within the image under of my shoulder, you will discover the standard of the falloff from in-focus to out-of-focus areas seems extra pure on the iPhone 11 than on the iPhone SE.

Under are pictures of my bike coach taken indoors in medium lighting. The obvious distinction right here is the framing is tighter on the iPhone SE. However the iPhone 11 captured extra element, which you’ll be able to see on the wall outlet. And for those who have a look at the underside proper facet of the coach, you will discover the iPhone SE suffers from noise within the shadows. That mentioned, there is not an enormous distinction between the pictures. For indoor and medium gentle pictures, the 11 has a skinny edge.

As for video, each telephones are related. The iPhone SE and 11 can shoot 4K 60fps video, however solely the 11 takes benefit of the prolonged dynamic vary at that decision and body charge. The SE has prolonged dynamic vary for video, however solely as much as 4K 30fps. Check out my iPhone SE assessment video to see samples of movies captured with the iPhone SE.

The one place the place there is a huge distinction between the 2 telephones are the selfie cameras. The iPhone 11 has a wider front-facing digital camera, and it is able to capturing 4K and slow-mo movies. The iPhone SE solely shoots 1080p video and no Slofies. Each have Portrait mode for selfies, however pictures from the iPhone 11 present extra element in my pores and skin.

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Present iPhone fashions and costs in contrast

Mannequin and storage US worth UK worth Australia worth
iPhone SE 64GB $399 £419 AU$749
iPhone SE 128GB $449 £469 AU$829
iPhone SE 256GB $549 £569 AU$999
iPhone XR 64GB $599 £629 AU$1,049
iPhone XR 128GB $649 £679 AU$1,129
iPhone 11 64GB $699 £729 AU$1,199
iPhone 11 128GB $749 £779 AU$1,279
iPhone 11 256GB $849 £879 AU$1,449
iPhone 11 Professional 64GB $999 £1,049 AU$1,749
iPhone 11 Professional 256GB $1,149 £1,199 AU$1,999
iPhone 11 Professional 512GB $1,349 £1,399 AU$2,349
iPhone 11 Professional Max 64GB $1,099 £1,149 AU$1,899
iPhone 11 Professional Max 256GB $1,249 £1,299 AU$2,149
iPhone 11 Professional Max 512GB $1,449 £1,1499 AU$2,499

From left to proper: iPhone SE (2016), iPhone 8, iPhone SE (2020).

Patrick Holland/CNET

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