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On paper, Apple’s new iPhone SE looks like a fantastic bargain. It takes the tried and true design of the iPhone 8 and upgrades it with the processor and advanced camera features from the iPhone 11. It not only packs a punch but does so at a very competitive starting price tag of just $399.
Does this budget phone provide better-than-budget performance? We combed through all of the latest reviews to find out whether the iPhone SE is worth your hard-earned cash.
An Impressive Display
The iPhone SE 2nd generation ships with a 4.7-inch retina display, which is nearly identical to that of the iPhone 8. Though smaller, it also compares favorably with the iPhone 11.
“The screen on the SE is similar to the one on the iPhone 11, especially in terms of quality and resolution. Text looks sharp, colors are accurate and it’s bright in sunny conditions,” says CNET reviewer Patrick Holland.Patrick Holland, CNET
The Camera Is More Than Good Enough
The camera is not as good as the triple-lens of the iPhone 11 Pro, but the single lens of the SE is better than the iPhone 8. It also holds its own against the iPhone XR thanks to the A13 processor. Reviewers praised both the new Portrait Modes and Smart HDR, but most noted the lack of a Night Mode as a major oversight.
“If you are pretty comfortable with ‘whatever’ pictures the iPhone takes, the SE is going to deliver with flying colors,” writes TechCrunch Editor-in-Chief Matthew Panzarino.Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch
“It’s quite remarkable that the $400 iPhone SE significantly outperformsâ€‰â€”â€‰and to a lesser but still noticeable degree, out-photographsâ€‰â€”â€‰the $600 iPhone XR,” says John Gruber of Daring Fireball.John Gruber, Daring Fireball
Performance without a High Price Tag
The iPhone SE is powered by Apple’s A13 bionic processor, which debuted in the iPhone 11 series. It delivers equally excellent performance in most everyday tasks as Apple’s iPhone 11 series.
“For example, the iPhone SE delivered silky smooth gameplay while I sped along in Sayonara Wild Hearts and tried to stay on the track in Super Impossible Road. The graphics were not as crisp due to the iPhone SE’s lower-res display, but the overall action was just as swift and enjoyable. Loading apps and switching between apps was also lag-free,” writes Mark Spoonauer for Tom’s Guide.Mark Spoonauer, Tom’s Guide
iPhone SE Design
Across the board, most reviewers did not like the design of the iPhone SE. Instead of adopting the full-front display of the iPhone 11, the iPhone SE has a larger bezel at the top of the phone. There’s also another bezel at the bottom where the Touch ID home button resides. It’s a dated look that may be a turn off for some people.
“The new phone has Apple’s old-school forehead and chin bezel above and below the screen. This makes the SE look, well, old. This is the one of the few things that I’m not too thrilled about. It’s not ugly, it’s just dated,” writes CNET’s Patrick Holland.Patrick Holland, CNET
“The iPhone SE looks dated. This design hasn’t changed in three years. Since then, we’ve seen mid-range Android smartphones adopt edge-to-edge displays and sprout multiple rear cameras â€” the SE can’t help but look basic by comparison,” explains Chris Velazco for Engadget.Chris Velazco, Engadget
Battery life is better than the iPhone 8 thanks to the power-saving features of Apple’s A13 Bionic processor. Because it is a smaller phone, the iPhone SE 2nd generation won’t last as long as the bigger iPhone 11 Pro or Pro Max.
“Speaking of longevity, the battery life on the iPhone SE is all right but not stellar. I’m getting through a full day, averaging between four and five hours of screen-on time. I was hoping the A13 Bionic processor would unlock the longer battery life we got with the iPhone 11, but it seems that was mostly about battery size, and the SE has the same size battery as the iPhone 8,” says Dieter Bohn for The Verge.Dieter Bohn, The Verge
Other iPhone SE Benefits
Two added features are the phone’s IP67 water resistance, which means it can be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. It also has support for wireless charging.
iPhone SE Criticisms
- Bland design with thick bezels.
- It does not have a Night Mode even though it has the A13 processor.
- The fast charger is an optional accessory and not included with the phone.
Should You Buy the iPhone SE?
The iPhone SE is perfect for someone who owns an older iPhone and wants to upgrade. It also is a great deal for an Android owner who wants to check out, or maybe even switch to, an iPhone. It balances cost with performance and is one the best budget phones on the market right now. Get one here.