iPhone SE (2020) Review

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So, here comes the brand new iPhone SE or we should say a rebranded iPhone that comes with the same body but a great set of specs of features. As far as we understood, the iPhone SE 2020 was built around a single goal: to launch an iPhone at the cheapest price ever! Well, the company succeeded in its plans too. For just $399 / £419 / ₹ 42,500, you can have a brand-new handset from Apple – making it one of the cheapest iPhones ever.

Although it’s now the lowest priced current-gen iPhone in Apple’s lineup, the iPhone SE (2020) is still hardly affordable by Indian standards. However, due to its price range, it became highly popular across the world. Well, you can find many other Android smartphones at this price that offers premium features and specs. So, if you are planning to this phone and want to know what’s inside it or does it really need to be considered just read on this iPhone SE 2020 review to get your answers.

Design and Display

Starting from the design of the phone, iPhone SE 2020 looks very similar to that of the iPhone 8. Well, that’s because the shell of this phone is basically an iPhone 8. The only difference between both of the phones is the logo placement at the rear panel. The Apple logo has been shifted from the top of the rear panel to the center, and the removal of the iPhone wordmark.

Apart from this, the iPhone SE 2020 has still the same IP67 aluminum chassis as the iPhone 8. The back panel of the phone has a glossy finish that shines when light strikes through it that gives it a premium look.

The newly launched iPhone SE 2020 comes in three color options – Black, White, and Red. The device is perfectly crafted to fit in your hands with the functional buttons easily accessible while using this phone with one hand. On the right side of the body, you will find a lone power button while on the left, there is a lock button followed by volume buttons. 

At the bottom of the phone, you will find a lightning port for charging placed in the middle with speaker grills at both sides of the port. Until now, everything is the same just like you have seen on iPhone 8. Now, let’s roll to the front panel. 

At the front, you will still find the same 4.7-inch screen with monster bezels is no doubt going to be a polarizing factor for a lot of people. However, if you want a smaller screen and don’t mind LCDs — the iPhone SE is the most compact option from Apple. Although it is still the same LCD display size that you have seen in the iPhone 8, there are some improvements made by Apple to match it with modern displays.

The display panel features Haptic Touch support which we have seen in the newer iPhone models. This LED is far better than any other but certainly doesn’t match the incredible contrast levels of modern OLED displays. Still, even at the minimum brightness level is still too bright.

Instead of Face ID, which is available to Apple’s iPhone 11 family, the iPhone SE sticks to the tried and true Touch ID-enabled home button. Well, looking forward to the current circumstances where we need to wear masks every time we leave home, TouchID can be more useful than the FaceID. And that fingerprint sensor is very, very good. It didn’t fail on me once during the review period. Moreover, it makes things like app sign-in and online purchases flawless and blazing fast.

Specifications and Software

While it probably seems like Apple is just rebranding the old iPhone 8 stock, the SE is packed with Apple’s latest A13 Bionic processor. This is the same processor that is powering the latest iPhone 11 series. And so, you get access to features such as AI-enabled portrait mode and 18W charging. It also means the device will be supported via software updates for several years to come.

Well, if you were hoping for high-end specs in other departments, you will be disappointed in this field. As mentioned above, it is still a copy of the iPhone 8 with 3GB of RAM, 64GB of base storage, and a small 1,821 mAh battery. 

During our review phase, we didn’t find any problem with RAM due to the excellent RAM management of iOS. However, the base storage option is still a problem for some of the users. Well, there is also option for 128GB and 256GB storage options that you can opt by spending a few more bucks.

In the connectivity phase, the new iPhone SE 2020 has rich connectivity options including 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/ A-GPS, NFC, and a Lightning port. It has a regular suite of sensors that comes with the iPhone 8.

At the software end, the iPhone SE 2020 runs on the latest iOS 13. Our unit was running iOS 13.4.1 and received the update to 13.5.1 during our review period. You don’t get some of the neat features that Android custom skins offer, such as app cloning or a secure storage area, which would have been nice to have.

Apple regularly promotes its security and privacy policies as being tighter than Android’s and promises not to scoop up personally-identifying information for profiling and advertising purposes. Also, iOS is free of third-party bloatware and spam, which some expensive Android phones still lack. 

Performance, Camera, and Battery Life

Since the new iPhone SE is running on the latest A13 Bionic processor, you can expect an excellent performance from the phone. AnTuTu for iOS gave us a score of 370,086 while an iPhone 11 Pro managed 432,358. However, comparing it to iPhone XR that managed to get 366,781 points, it is still remarkable. 

Geekbench 5 showed a single-core and multi-core score of 1,326 and 2,894 respectively. As for graphics, GFXBench ran on a solid 60fps across all scenes, including the high-end Aztec Ruins scene.

Apart from this, we also played some heavy games like PUBG: Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends. Both ran very smoothly at High graphics settings. Although the display is quite small, the overall body gave us a good grip on the phone that helps while intense gaming.

Coming to the camera department, the new iPhone SE 2020 comes with only one 12-megapixel f/1.8 rear camera and a 7-megapixel f/2.2 front camera. Well, that might get some people away from buying the phone as most of the phones now comes with a wide-angle camera and telephoto lens, but the single camera came out to be surprisingly good.

The cameras of the iPhone SE (2020) combine old hardware with new software. You get exactly the same sensor and lens specifications as on the iPhone 8, but the A13 Bionic SoC allows for some surprising new features and capabilities. You get a portrait mode with manually variable depth and studio lighting effects using software, smart HDR, extended dynamic range in the video, and selfie video stabilization.

Coming to the quality of the pictures taken from the phone. Photos taken during the daylight were crisp with well-balanced colors and exposures. We love the detailing in the photos and also the fine texture was excellent. Portrait mode works best when the phone detects a face.

Well, the quality of images taken during the night didn’t come as expected. Stabilization during the night time wasn’t quite good to be considered. Some of the photos showed motion blur due to a handshake or taking the phone away soon after triggering the capture button. Also, there was a lack of detailing in the night shots.

Video recording goes up to 4K at 60fps, though the default is a more useful 1080p at 30fps. We found the video quality to be excellent, with smooth stabilization even when we were walking, and punchy colors with good balancing. Video quality was great even during the night. 

The front camera is good, but not great. You get portrait lighting and variable aperture effects, and thankfully no beautification. Depth sensing is quick, and the saved results are more accurate in terms of edge detection than what you see in the viewfinder. 

At last, the battery in the new iPhone Se 2020. Well, you will not be pleased with the battery of the phone as it still comes with the same 1,821mAh battery. Honestly, the battery life isn’t great. We could comfortably get through a full day of use with a little bit of video recording and lots of audio and video streaming. However, we need to refuel it the very next day to use the phone.

However, it is quite good to see wireless charging. Apple still ships only a 5W charger in the box and you’ll have to use your own if you want to benefit from 18W fast charging. Apple claims that you can get a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes with an 18W power source.

Verdict

Overall, Apple seems to have done a very good job with the iPhone SE 2020. There are many things in the new iPhone SE that might be striking for buyers, however, that doesn’t fully excuse its high price and an odd combination of current-day features on smartphones.

So, the real question is, does the new iPhone SE worth the bucks you are going to give? Well, especially for the price point in India, we would say, “No”. A price closer to Rs. 30,000 would have worked much better in India just like it is available in the US as people have many other alternatives to go with starting 40K range. 

If you’re even considering buying this phone though and want your next phone to be iPhone, specifically. The SE (2020) will fulfill that purpose, but it won’t be totally satisfying. If you aren’t tight on budget and are ready to spend a few more bucks, we would suggest you go with iPhone XR.

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iPhone SE (2020) Review

If you are looking for an iPhone with excellent performance under a great price range, the SE (2020) will fulfill that purpose, but it won't be totally satisfying. If you aren’t tight on budget and are ready to spend a few more bucks, we would suggest you go with iPhone XR.

  • Design
  • Display
  • Camera
  • Performance
  • Battery

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