iPhone SE review: Apple’s $399 iPhone lives up to the hype

    There are quite a lot of 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 most cost-effective iPhone you possibly can at the moment purchase. Or (and that is my favourite manner to consider it) that it is an iPhone 8 with the brains and energy of an iPhone 11. In reality, the brand new iPhone SE is all this stuff and that is why I’m enamored with it.

    LikeAffordable priceLong battery life so farGreat rear cameraiPhone 11 Pro-level efficiency

    Don’t LikeOld iPhone designSelfie digital camera is mediocre

    The new iPhone SE has the traditional 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. But Apple carried out a intelligent mind transplant, changing the practically 3-year-old processor with the A13 Bionic processor used within the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. This goes properly past a easy spec bump by majorly bettering issues just like the cameras and battery life. The new processor not solely runs quicker, however it’ll seemingly future-proof the cellphone by years of iOS updates.But a $399 (£419, AU$749) iPhone comes with compromises, which Apple selected properly. The SE has solely a single rear digital camera, it does not have Face ID and it lacks digital camera options like Night 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 Pro and 11 Pro Max.

    When you have a look at the whole image, the iPhone SE represents probably the most worth to your greenback of any cellphone Apple sells. It has a pretty value, improbable battery life, nice rear digital camera, A13 processor, water resistance and help for wi-fi charging. The SE shouldn’t be solely an exquisite iPhone, however among the best price range telephones you possibly can at the moment 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

    Display 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





    Dimensions (Inches)

    5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in

    5.45×2.65×0.29 in

    4.87×2.31×0.3 in

    5.94×2.98×0.33 in

    Dimensions (Millimeters)

    138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm

    138.4×67.3×7.3 mm

    123x58x7.6 mm

    150.9×75.7×8.3 mm

    Weight (Ounces, Grams)

    5.22 oz; 148g

    5.22 oz; 148 g

    3.99 oz; 113 g

    6.84 oz; 194g

    Mobile software program

    iOS 13

    iOS 11 (can replace to iOS 13)

    iOS 9.3

    iOS 13





    12-megapixel (vast), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide)

    Front-facing digital camera





    Video seize






    Apple A13 Bionic

    Apple A11 Bionic

    Apple A9

    Apple A13 Bionic


    64GB, 128GB, 256GB

    64GB, 256GB

    16GB, 64GB

    64GB, 128GB, 256GB


    Not disclosed


    Not disclosed

    Not disclosed

    Expandable storage






    Not disclosed

    Not disclosed

    Not disclosed

    Not disclosed

    Fingerprint sensor

    Home button

    Home button

    Home button







    Headphone jack





    Special options

    Water resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wi-fi charging

    Water resistant (IP67), wi-fi charging

    Apple Pay; Haptic Touch

    Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wi-fi charging

    Price off-contract (USD)

    $399 (64GB), $449 (128GB), $549 (256GB)

    $699 (64GB), $849 (256GB)

    $399 (16GB); $499 (64GB)

    $699 (64GB), $749 (128GB), $849 (256GB)

    Price (GBP)

    £419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB)

    £699 (64GB), £849 (256GB)

    £359 (16GB) £439 (64GB)

    £729 (64GB), £779 (128GB), £879 (256GB)

    Price (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 8 design Physically, the SE is an iPhone 8. The back and front are product of glass, the chassis and sides are aluminum. The solely bodily distinction between the iPhone SE and iPhone 8 is that the Apple emblem is now centered on the again to match current-generation iPhones. The new cellphone has Apple’s old-school brow and chin bezel above and beneath the display. This makes the SE look, properly, outdated. This is the one of many few issues that I’m not too thrilled about. It’s not ugly, it is simply dated. And that may attraction to some individuals, however not me.

    Welcome again, giant bezels.
    John Kim/CNET
    Having used Face ID for the previous couple years, it is a unusual and acquainted feeling to arrange and use Touch ID. It’s like going from an automated transmission again to a stick shift. But in the proper automobile, 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 an alternative of angling my cellphone to get Face ID verification. A speedy double-tap reveals current apps. Though 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 cellphone lovers, the iPhone SE’s 4.7-inch LCD show is not as small as the unique SE’s 4-inch display. But it is nonetheless smaller than most telephones out proper now and is sufficient to be moveable and cozy for most individuals. The display on the SE is much like the one on the iPhone 11, particularly by way of high quality and determination. Text seems to be sharp, colours are correct and it is shiny in sunny circumstances. The iPhone SE is rated IP67 for water and mud resistance.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    The iPhone SE is rated IP67, which means it could actually face up to being submerged for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter (about 3 ft). I wasn’t capable of take a look at this declare, although I did submerge it in a liter of water for 30 minutes and the whole lot labored fantastic. This stage of water and mud resistance is not one thing you usually discover on telephones beneath $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 8 had its personal crimson model too, but it surely had white bezels and rattling if the iPhone SE does not look extra placing in crimson with black bezels. The iPhone SE’s battery life is longer than the iPhone 8Apple’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’s hours longer than what the iPhone 8 and iPhone SE lasted in the identical take a look at once they had been new. Anecdotally, it made it by a day and a half with out a downside, and a pair instances it went two days straight with out a cost. In our early battery assessments, the iPhone SE simply outlasts the iPhone 8 and authentic 2016 iPhone SE.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    I ought to observe that I’ve extra battery assessments to run (together with streaming video assessments), so test again when I’ll replace the outcomes. The iPhone SE has wi-fi charging, which is one other function not discovered on most price range telephones. There can be help for fast-charging, which replenishes the battery to 50% in 30 minutes. But the iPhone SE does not include the required 18-watt charger and as an alternative contains the slower 5-watt one. Again, that is more likely to maintain the price of the system low.
    iPhone SE has A13 Bionic processor efficiency The longevity of Apple’s iOS help for “older devices” is a quiet however vital attraction of proudly owning an iPhone. The iPhone 8 and its A11 processor are actually two-and-a-half years outdated and can seemingly cease receiving iOS software program updates a pair years earlier than the iPhone SE and its newer A13 Bionic processor. In efficiency assessments, the iPhone SE was persistently higher than the iPhone 8 and (no shock) the unique iPhone SE. It scored related outcomes to what we bought on the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. In actual life that meant app launches had been peppy, enjoying video games like Sky: Children of Light and Doomsday Vault had been a breeze. Editing images was straightforward and I might even use graphics-heavy AR apps corresponding to Wonderscope, which remodeled my bed room right into a coaching floor for ghosts. Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    iPhone SE cameras have Portrait Mode, Smart 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 very best cellphone 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 Smart HDR for images, Quick 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 images.
    John Kim/CNET
    The rear digital camera on the SE has a 28mm f1.8 lens whereas the iPhone 11 has two rear cameras: a fundamental wide-angle digital camera with a 26-mm f1.8 lens and an ultrawide-angle digital camera with a 13mm f/2.4 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. When I evaluate images taken with every cellphone, it is exhausting to tell apart between them except you deliver them onto a bigger display and even then the variations are delicate. In good mild, images from every are related by way of picture high quality. Look on the footage beneath of a tree I took in my yard. Can you inform the distinction? You see my level. The most evident distinction is that the iPhone SE picture is framed tighter than the iPhone 11. Here are just a few different images from the iPhone SE. The iPhone SE is nice at capturing correct colours.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    Smart HDR is spectacular in retaining the sky from blowing out and the shadows comparatively freed from picture noise.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    In 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 beneath medium lighting.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    Both telephones have portrait mode and produce wonderful outcomes. The 11 can seize portrait mode images of each individuals and pets. The iPhone SE, just like the iPhone XR ($599 at Apple), can solely do individuals. It’s not till you look very intently on the images beneath that you could see that the iPhone 11’s portrait mode captures only a bit extra element and fewer noise. In the image beneath of my shoulder, you will discover the standard of the falloff from in-focus to out-of-focus areas seems to be extra pure on the iPhone 11 than on the iPhone SE. Below are images of my bike coach taken indoors in medium lighting. The most evident distinction right here is the framing is tighter on the iPhone SE. But the iPhone 11 captured extra element, which you’ll see on the wall outlet. And should you 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 images. For indoor and medium mild images, 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 fee. The SE has prolonged dynamic vary for video, however solely as much as 4K 30fps. Take a have a look at my iPhone SE evaluation video to see samples of movies captured with the iPhone SE. The one place the place there is a massive distinction between the 2 telephones are the selfie cameras. The iPhone 11 has a wider front-facing digital camera, and it is able to taking pictures 4K and slow-mo movies. The iPhone SE solely shoots 1080p video and no Slofies. Both have Portrait mode for selfies, however images from the iPhone 11 present extra element in my pores and skin.

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    iPhone SE reminds us how a lot we missed the house button


    Current iPhone fashions and costs in contrast

    Model and storage

    US value

    UK value

    Australia value

    iPhone SE 64GB




    iPhone SE 128GB




    iPhone SE 256GB




    iPhone XR 64GB




    iPhone XR 128GB




    iPhone 11 64GB




    iPhone 11 128GB




    iPhone 11 256GB




    iPhone 11 Pro 64GB




    iPhone 11 Pro 256GB




    iPhone 11 Pro 512GB




    iPhone 11 Pro Max 64GB




    iPhone 11 Pro Max 256GB




    iPhone 11 Pro Max 512GB




    From left to proper: iPhone SE (2016), iPhone 8, iPhone SE (2020).
    Patrick Holland/CNET

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