Hands-On With the New Low-Cost 2020 iPhone SE
The iPhone SE had its official launch day today, with the first orders arriving to customers this morning. We picked up one of the new (PRODUCT)RED iPhone SE models and checked out the design and features in our latest YouTube video, which is worth watching if you're thinking of making an upgrade from an older iPhone.
Despite the "iPhone SE" name that hails back to the original iPhone SE that was released in 2016, the new iPhone SE looks identical to an iPhone 8, which means it has a larger 4.7-inch display than the 4-inch display included with the original SE.
At 4.7 inches, the iPhone SE is now Apple's smallest iPhone, which may be a disappointment to some users who preferred the 4-inch form factor. The iPhone SE's design is one that Apple first introduced in 2014 with the iPhone 6, so this is a six-year-old form factor, and compared to newer iPhones, it's dated, but Apple has added some design tweaks to make it seem fresher.
Like the iPhone 8, the iPhone SE is made from two panes of glass sandwiching an aluminum frame. The all-glass design allows for wireless charging, but it does make the phone more vulnerable to drops than earlier iPhones that had aluminum backs.
Design wise, the iPhone SE has thick top and bottom bezels, with all models featuring a black face plate that minimizes the bezel design better than the white face of some prior models. There's a Touch ID Home button, and along with being Apple's smallest iPhone, the iPhone SE is also the only iPhone with Touch ID in the current lineup.
Like its successors, the iPhone SE has no headphone jack and it does away with 3D Touch, adopting the Haptic Touch used in the newer iPhone models. With the loss of these features, though, it gains Qi-based wireless charging capabilities and fast charging, allowing it to charge from 0 to 50 percent in 30 minutes with an 18W+ power adapter and a USB-C to Lightning cable.
The new iPhone SE also has one of the best features from Apple's flagship devices - the A13 Bionic chip. It's the fastest chip ever in an iPhone, and it puts the iPhone's CPU and GPU power on par with Apple's much more expensive iPhones. There's 3GB RAM in the iPhone SE, and the base model starts at 64GB, way up from the 16GB starting storage of some of Apple's older devices. For an extra $50, 128GB of storage is available, and there's also a 256GB storage tier for those who have a lot of photos or music.
When it comes to the camera, it's a little confusing. Apple isn't using hardware from the iPhone 11, and the SE appears to have the same single-lens camera as the iPhone 8, but with software improvements and computational photography techniques added by the A13 along with hardware tweaks, the iPhone SE takes better pictures than the iPhone 8 (and all of the older iPhones).
It has Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting capabilities for both the front and rear-facing cameras despite the lack of multiple lenses, plus it has Smart HDR, optical image stabilization, and other built-in software features that put out some crisp, vivid images that are close to on par with the flagship iPhones.
Photos aren't as good as the photos you get with an iPhone 11 or 11 Pro because there's not as much versatility in focal length and there is no support for Night Mode. The iPhone SE struggles more in low and ultra-low lighting conditions compared to Apple's pricier iPhones.
When it comes to video, the iPhone SE can record 4K video at 60 fps, which is a killer feature in a smartphone at this price point. Videos recorded with the iPhone SE look great. We'll be doing an in-depth comparison between the cameras of the iPhone SE, iPhone 8, and iPhone 11, so make sure to stay tuned to MacRumors for that video.
The iPhone SE sports Gigabit LTE (on par with iPhone 11) and WiFi 6 support, and with the A13 chip, this is a phone that Apple has designed to work well for several years to come. It will get software updates right alongside the 2019 flagship models, and for those who have held on to an iPhone 6 or 6s for years, the iPhone SE is positioned to last just as long.
There are no bells and whistles with the iPhone SE, and it has an outdated design with Touch ID, thick bezels, and single-lens camera, but it is a super fast meat-and-potatoes smartphone that's an incredible deal at $399. Have you picked up an iPhone SE? Let us know in the comments.