iPhone SE review: Apple should probably charge more than $ 399 for this phone – CNET


There are many ways to think about Apple’s new iPhone SE for $ 399. For one, it’s a cheaper option than the iPhone 11 ($ 699 at Apple)With surprisingly similar camera specs, what is it. Or that it is the continuation of 2020 Original SE from 2016what it is. Or, at 4.7 inches, it’s the smallest and cheapest iPhone you can buy right now. Or (and that’s my favorite way to think about it) It is an iPhone 8 with the mind and power of an iPhone 11. In fact, the new iPhone SE is all of these things and that’s why I’m in love with it.

To like

  • Affordable price
  • Long battery life so far
  • Great rear view camera
  • iPhone 11 pro-level performance

I do not like it

  • Old iPhone design
  • Selfie camera is mediocre

The new iPhone SE has the classic design that defined the iPhone in the first 10 years. The design, housing and camera lenses are all identical to the 2017 iPhone 8. However, Apple performed a clever brain transplant and replaced the almost 3-year-old processor with the A13 Bionic processor used in the iPhone 11. 11 Pro and 11 Pro max. This goes far beyond a simple specification by significantly improving things like the cameras and battery life. The new processor not only runs faster, but will likely make the phone future-proof for years to come iOS Update.

However, an iPhone for $ 399 ($ ​​419, $ 749) offers compromises that Apple has chosen wisely. The SE has only a single rear view camera, no face detection and no camera functions such as night mode, slofies and deep fusion processing. The selfie camera is fine, but not as impressive as that on the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.

If you look at the whole picture, the iPhone SE is the highest value for your dollar of all phones sold by Apple. It has an attractive price, a fantastic battery life, a great rear view camera, an A13 processor, water resistance and support for the wireless Load. The SE is not only a wonderful iPhone, but also one of the best budget phones you can buy right now.

iPhone SE (2020) specifications compared to iPhone 8, iPhone SE (2016), iPhone 11

iPhone SE (2020)

iPhone 8

iPhone SE (2016)

iPhone 11

Display size, resolution

4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334 x 750 pixels

4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334 x 750 pixels

4 inches; 1,136 x 640 pixels

6.1-inch LCD liquid retina; 1,792 x 828 pixels

Pixel density





Dimensions (inches)

5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches

5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

5.94 x 2.98 x 0.33 inches

Dimensions (millimeters)

138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm

138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm

123 x 58 x 7.6 mm

150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm

Weight (ounces, grams)

5.22 oz; 148 g

5.22 oz; 148 g

3.99 oz; 113 g

6.84 ounces; 194 g

Mobile software

iOS 13

iOS 11 (can be upgraded to iOS 13)

iOS 9.3

iOS 13


12 megapixels

12 megapixels

12 megapixels

12 megapixels (wide), 12 megapixels (extremely wide)

Front camera

7 megapixels

7 megapixels

1.2 megapixels

12 megapixels

Video recording






Apple A13 Bionic

Apple A11 Bionic

Apple A9

Apple A13 Bionic


64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB

64 GB, 256 GB

16 GB, 64 GB

64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB


Not revealed

2 GB

Not revealed

Not revealed

Expandable memory






Not revealed

Not revealed

Not revealed

Not revealed

Fingerprint sensor

Home “button

Home “button

Home “button







Headphone jack





Special features

Waterproof (IP67); Dual SIM functions (nano-SIM and E-SIM); Wireless charging

Waterproof (IP67), wireless charging

Apple Pay; Haptic touch

Waterproof (IP68); Dual SIM functions (nano-SIM and E-SIM); Wireless charging

Price outside the contract (USD)

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

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

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

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

Price (GBP)

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

£ 699 (64 GB), £ 849 (256 GB)

£ 359 (16 GB) £ 439 (64 GB)

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

Price (AUD)

AU $ 749 (64 GB), AU $ 829 (128 GB), AU $ 999 (256 GB)

AU $ 1,079 (64 GB), AU $ 1,329 (256 GB)

AU $ 679 (16 GB); AU $ 829 (64 GB)

AU $ 1,199 (64 GB), AU $ 1,279 (128 GB), AU $ 1,449 (256 GB)

The iPhone 8 design of the iPhone SE

The SE is physically an iPhone 8. The front and back are made of glass, the housing and the sides are made of aluminum. The only physical difference between the iPhone SE and the iPhone 8 is that the Apple logo is now centered on the back to match the latest generation iPhones.

The new phone features Apple’s old-school forehead and chin bezel above and below the screen. This makes the SE look old. It’s one of the few things I’m not too excited about. It’s not ugly, it’s just outdated. And that might appeal to some people, but not me.

Welcome back, big bezels.

John Kim / CNET

After using Face ID in the past few years, setting up and using Touch ID is a strange and familiar feeling. It’s like switching from an automatic transmission back to a gear lever. But in the right car, gear stick can be an explosion.

I forgot how much I missed the home button and how it makes interactions and navigation less fussy than swiping and holding. I type and hold to pay for purchases instead of fishing my phone to get face recognition verification. A quick double tap shows the latest apps. Although Face ID has its own advantages, using the Home button is still as satisfactory as it was then.

For small phone lovers, the 4.7-inch LCD display of the iPhone SE is not as small as the 4-inch display of the Original SE. But it’s still smaller than most of the phones currently available and is enough to be portable and comfortable for most people.

The screen of the SE is similar to that of the iPhone 11, especially in terms of quality and resolution. The text looks sharp, the colors are precise and bright in sunny conditions.


The iPhone SE has protection class IP67 for water and dust resistance.

Patrick Holland / CNET

The iPhone SE has IP67 protection, which means that it can be immersed at a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes. I was unable to test this claim, even though I immersed it in a liter of water for 30 minutes and everything worked fine. This water and dust resistance is typically not found on phones under $ 400. Therefore, it is particularly noteworthy that the iPhone SE offers them.

The SE is available in three colors: black, white and red. The iPhone 8 also had its own red version, but it had white bezels and damn if the iPhone SE in red with black bezels doesn’t look more eye-catching.

The battery life of the iPhone SE is longer than that of the iPhone 8

According to Apple’s website, the battery of the iPhone SE lasts about as long as that of the iPhone 8, but my tests have shown that it lasts much longer. I played a loop video in airplane mode with 50% brightness and the iPhone SE lasted 15 hours and 45 minutes. That’s hours longer than what the iPhone 8 and iPhone SE held in the same test when they were new. Anecdotally, it made it for a day and a half without problems, and a couple of times it went for two days without charge.


In our early battery tests, the iPhone SE easily outlasted the iPhone 8 and the original iPhone SE 2016.

Patrick Holland / CNET

I should note that I need to do additional battery tests (including streaming video tests). So check back when I update the results.

The iPhone SE has wireless charging, another feature that is not available on most budget phones. There is also support for quick charging, which charges the battery to 50% in 30 minutes. However, the iPhone SE does not come with the required 18-watt charger, but with the slower 5-watt charger. This will also likely keep the cost of the device low.

The iPhone SE has A13 Bionic processor performance

The longevity of Apple’s iOS support for “older devices” is a quiet, but significant incentive to own an iPhone. The iPhone 8 and its A11 processor are now two and a half years old and will likely no longer receive iOS software updates a few years before the iPhone SE and its newer A13 Bionic processor.

In performance tests, the iPhone SE was consistently better than the iPhone 8 and (no surprise) the original iPhone SE. It achieved results similar to the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.

In real life, this meant that app launches were lively and games like Sky: Children of Light and Doomsday Vault were a breeze. Editing photos was easy, and I could even use graphics-intensive AR apps like Wonderscope, which turned my bedroom into a practice ground for ghosts.

Geekbench v.5.0 single core


Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore


Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited


Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited


Longer bars indicate better performance

iPhone SE cameras have the portrait mode Smart HDR

The SE’s rear-view camera has the same specs as the iPhone 8, but in combination with the A13 chip and iOS 13, it turns the camera into something that can keep up with the best phone cameras and even keep up with the main camera on the iPhone 11 It has a range of features, including Smart HDR for photos, Quick Take filming, and portrait mode – impressive features and a premiere for an iPhone worth $ 399.


The iPhone SE has a single rear view camera with SmartHDR and portrait modes for photos.

John Kim / CNET

The rear view camera of the SE has a 28 mm 1: 8 lens, while the iPhone 11 has two rear cameras: a main wide angle camera with a 26 mm 1: 8 lens and an ultra wide angle camera with a 13 mm 1: 2.4 lens. I like the ultra wide angle on the iPhone 11, but I haven’t missed it during my time with the iPhone SE.

When I compare photos taken with each phone, it’s difficult to distinguish between them unless you bring them to a bigger screen, and even then the differences are subtle.

In good light, everyone’s photos are similar in image quality. Look at the pictures below of a tree I took in my garden. Can you tell the difference? You see my point. The most obvious difference is that the iPhone SE photo is framed more closely than the iPhone 11.

Here are a few other photos from the iPhone SE.


The iPhone SE is ideal for capturing precise colors.

Patrick Holland / CNET


Smart HDR is impressive to prevent the sky from blowing out and the shadows being relatively free from noise.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Telephone Se Wood Slate Texture

In this photo of wooden slats, take a look at the level of detail and texture that the iPhone SE captured.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Breakfast photos I took in front of the camera 3-1

A nice excerpt from my breakfast with medium lighting.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Both phones have portrait mode and get great results. The 11 can take photos of people and pets in portrait mode. The iPhone SE, like the iPhone XR ($ 599 at Apple)can only make people. Only when you look closely at the photos below can you see that the portrait mode of the iPhone 11 captures just a little more detail and less noise.

In the picture below from my shoulder you will notice that the quality of the drop from blurred to blurred areas looks more natural on the iPhone 11 than on the iPhone SE.

Below are photos of my bike trainer taken indoors with medium lighting. The most obvious difference is that the iPhone SE frame is narrower. However, iPhone 11 has captured more details that you can see on the wall outlet. If you look at the lower right side of the trainer, you will find that the iPhone SE suffers from shadow noises. Still, there is no big difference between the photos. The 11 has a thin edge for photos with indoor and medium light.

Both phones are similar for videos. The iPhone SE and 11 can record 4K video at 60 frames per second, but only the 11 uses the expanded dynamic range at this resolution and frame rate. The SE has expanded the dynamic range for videos, but only up to 4K 30fps. Look at mine iPhone SE test video to see examples of videos shot on iPhone SE.

The only place where there is a big difference between the two phones is the selfie cameras. The iPhone 11 has a wider front camera and can record 4K and slow motion videos. The iPhone SE only records 1080p videos and no slofies. Both have portrait mode for selfies, but photos from iPhone 11 show more details in my skin.

Currently running:
Look at that:

The iPhone SE reminds us of how much we missed the home button


Compare current iPhone models and prices

Model and storage

US price

UK price

Australia price

iPhone SE 64 GB

$ 399

£ 419

AU $ 749

iPhone SE 128 GB

$ 449

£ 469

AU $ 829

iPhone SE 256 GB

$ 549

£ 569

AU $ 999

iPhone XR 64GB

$ 599

£ 629

AU $ 1,049

iPhone XR 128 GB

$ 649

£ 679

AU $ 1,129

iPhone 11 64 GB

$ 699

£ 729

AU $ 1,199

iPhone 11 128 GB

$ 749

£ 779

AU $ 1,279

iPhone 11 256 GB

$ 849

£ 879

AU $ 1,449

iPhone 11 Pro 64 GB

$ 999

£ 1,049

AU $ 1,749

iPhone 11 Pro 256 GB

$ 1,149

£ 1,199

AU $ 1,999

iPhone 11 Pro 512 GB

$ 1,349

£ 1,399

AU $ 2,349

iPhone 11 Pro Max 64 GB

$ 1,099

£ 1,149

AU $ 1,899

iPhone 11 Pro Max 256 GB

$ 1,249

£ 1,299

AU $ 2,149

iPhone 11 Pro Max 512 GB

$ 1,449

£ 1.1499

AU $ 2,499


Left to right: iPhone SE (2016), iPhone 8, iPhone SE (2020).

Patrick Holland / CNET

First published on April 22nd.