iPhone SE vs. iPhone XR Buyer's Guide

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After nearly a year of rumors, Apple has finally introduced the 2020 edition of the iPhone SE. The device shares the same design as the iPhone 8, including a 4.7-inch display and a Touch ID home button, but it has a faster A13 Bionic chip and an extra GB of RAM. Most importantly, the new iPhone SE starts at just $399 in the United States.

2020 iphone se vs iphone xr
With the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus now discontinued, the lower end of Apple's smartphone lineup now includes the new iPhone SE and the iPhone XR, released in October 2018. Thinking about upgrading? Read our comparison of the devices below.

Differences

Smaller vs. Larger Display

The new iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch display, while the iPhone XR has a 6.1-inch display.

Both displays are LCDs with 326 pixels per inch, True Tone, 625 nits max brightness, a 1400:1 contrast ratio, and support for the P3 wide color gamut.

A13 Bionic vs. A12 Bionic

The new iPhone SE is powered by the A13 Bionic, which is the same latest-and-greatest chip inside the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. By comparison, the iPhone XR is equipped with the previous-generation A12 Bionic chip.

a13 vs a12 icons
Apple advertises the A13 chip as up to 20 percent faster and up to 30 percent more power efficient than the A12 chip.

Bezels vs. Notch

The new iPhone SE has the same design as the iPhone 8, with thicker bezels above and below the display for the front camera and Touch ID home button. By comparison, the iPhone XR drops the home button and instead has a nearly edge to edge display with a notch at the top for the front camera and Face ID sensors.

Touch ID vs. Face ID

The iPhone SE has a Touch ID home button for fingerprint authentication, while the iPhone XR uses Apple's more advanced Face ID system for facial authentication.

Face ID debuted on the ‌iPhone‌ X in 2017. At the time, Apple said the probability that a random person could unlock someone else's ‌iPhone‌ X was approximately one in 1,000,000, versus one in 50,000 for ‌Touch ID‌. However, both forms of authentication are quite safe, so it really comes down to personal preference.

face id vs touch id icons
Face ID does not work well with masks, while Touch ID does not work well with wet or sweaty fingers, so neither system is perfect.

Since the new iPhone SE lacks Face ID, it does not support Animoji or Memoji.

Rear Camera

While both the new iPhone SE and the iPhone XR are equipped with a single 12-megapixel wide-angle rear camera with an f/1.8 aperture, the iPhone XR has a newer sensor with 1.4µm pixels and larger Focus Pixels, whereas the iPhone SE has the same sensor as the iPhone 8. However, the new iPhone SE benefits from the A13 chip's improved image signal processor, so the gap between the cameras is likely minimal.

Battery Life

As a physically larger device, the iPhone XR has longer battery life than the new iPhone SE.

Apple says the new iPhone SE can last up to 13 hours for non-streaming video playback and up to 40 hours for audio playback, which is about the same as the iPhone 8. By comparison, Apple says the iPhone XR lasts up to 16 hours for non-streamed video playback and up to 65 hours for audio playback.

Wi-Fi

The new iPhone SE supports Wi-Fi 6, aka 802.11ax, while the iPhone XR supports Wi-Fi 5 or 802.11ac.

Wi-Fi 6 delivers faster speeds, greater network capacity, improved power efficiency, lower latency, and connectivity improvements in areas with several Wi-Fi devices. Wi-Fi 6 devices are also required to support WPA3, the latest Wi-Fi security protocol with improved cryptographic strength.

LTE

The new iPhone SE supports Gigabit-class LTE, potentially allowing for slightly faster LTE speeds compared to the iPhone XR.

Thickness and Weight

The new iPhone SE is 7.3mm thick and weighs 0.3 pounds, while the iPhone XR is slightly thicker and heavier at 8.3mm and 0.4 pounds.

Pricing

The new iPhone SE starts at $399, while the iPhone XR starts at $599, both with 64GB of storage. Both devices are also available with 128GB of storage, but only the iPhone SE has a 256GB option as of now.

For perspective, the iPhone SE with 256GB of storage for $549 is still cheaper than the iPhone XR with 64GB of storage for $599.

Colors

Both the new iPhone SE and iPhone XR come in Black, White, and (RED), and the iPhone XR is also available in Blue, Coral, and Yellow.

Similarities

  • Glass and aluminum design
  • Wireless charging
  • Fast charging with USB-C: up to 50% battery life in 30 minutes
  • IP67-rated water resistance to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes
  • 4K video recording at up to 60 FPS
  • Lightning connector
  • No headphone jack
  • Dual SIM (nano-SIM and eSIM)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • VoLTE
  • Dolby Vision and HDR10 support
  • EarPods with Lightning connector in box

Tech Specs Compared

iPhone SE

  • 4.7-inch LCD display
  • 1334×750 resolution and 326 PPI
  • True Tone display
  • Single 12-megapixel rear camera (wide lens)
  • Single 7-megapixel front camera
  • Portrait Mode with Depth Control: humans only
  • Six Portrait Lighting effects
  • Next-gen Smart HDR
  • A13 Bionic chip with third-gen Neural Engine
  • Touch ID
  • Haptic Touch
  • Lightning connector
  • Fast charging capable: up to 50% charge in 30 minutes
  • Qi-based wireless charging
  • IP67-rated water resistance to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes
  • 64/128/256GB
  • Dual SIM (Nano-SIM and eSIM)
  • Gigabit-class LTE
  • VoLTE
  • 802.11ax Wi‑Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 3GB RAM
  • Similar battery life as iPhone 8

iPhone XR

  • 6.1-inch LCD display
  • 1792×828 resolution and 326 PPI
  • True Tone display
  • Single 12-megapixel rear camera (wide lens)
  • Single 7-megapixel front camera
  • Portrait Mode with Depth Control: humans only
  • Three Portrait Lighting effects
  • Smart HDR
  • A12 Bionic chip with second-gen Neural Engine
  • Face ID
  • Haptic Touch
  • Lightning connector
  • Fast charging capable: up to 50% charge in 30 minutes
  • Qi-based wireless charging
  • IP67-rated water resistance to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes
  • 64/128GB (256GB discontinued)
  • Dual SIM (Nano-SIM and eSIM)
  • LTE Advanced
  • VoLTE
  • 802.11ac Wi‑Fi 5
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 3GB RAM
  • 1.5 hours longer battery life than iPhone 8 Plus

Bottom Line

If price is the key factor in your upgrade decision, then the new iPhone SE is a very compelling device considering that it has the same A13 Bionic chip as the iPhone 11 Pro despite starting at just $399.

If you are upgrading from an older device like an iPhone 6 or iPhone 7, you will already be familiar with the home button experience on the new iPhone SE, whereas Face ID and gestures on the iPhone X and newer take some time to get used to. And with a 4.7-inch display, the new iPhone SE is also the same size as the iPhone 6, iPhone 7, and iPhone 8.

The new iPhone SE might also receive at least one additional year of iOS updates compared to the iPhone XR given its newer A13 Bionic chip.

Two reasons to choose the iPhone XR over the new iPhone SE would be its larger 6.1-inch display and its modern design with slim bezels, a notch, and Face ID. The new iPhone SE could quite possibly end up being the last iPhone that Apple sells with a home button, so those who choose the new iPhone SE will be settling for an older design.

Related Roundups: iPhone SE 2020, iPhone XR
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

Baff Avatar
10 months ago


This article would have been more apropos if you had waited until the new SE was released, and did actual hands on comparison between the two phones. As such, making any recommendation involving a phone that hasn’t been released is illogical.

It would be even more logical to wait 5 years so that they know which one is more reliable in the long run.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JosephAW Avatar
10 months ago
I'm wondering when the tear down is revealed will we find it is using the same LCD display panel as the iPhone 8 that includes the hardware built into the screen for 3D Touch and that is disabled in software for the SE.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ouimetnick Avatar
10 months ago


Obviously a false comparison. This is designed for people who had an iPhone 8, 7, 6s, etc. People who already bought an XR would be looking for an iPhone 11.

Folks with a iPhone 8, 7, 6s may be looking to upgrade and might end up going with the XR even though it’s been out for a while. This is a great post for those wanting to know.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MattMJB0188 Avatar
10 months ago
Original iPhone user here who has the 8 plus and refuses to upgrade to the iPhone X/11 design. This will be my next phone. I just wish it had 3D Touch
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Westside guy Avatar
10 months ago
The $399 pricepoint is certainly a relevant feature of the SE.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Westside guy Avatar
10 months ago

Since the new iPhone SE lacks Face ID, it does not support Animoji or Memoji.

Oh - there’s yet another advantage of the SE. :p
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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