iPhone SE 2020 review: Buy or skip?

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

The 2020 iPhone SE is light-weight, affordable and future-proofed

The iPhone SE 2020 is constructed around one goal: to launch a new iPhone for less money, and it achieves that well. It’s one of the best iPhone ever created and you can now get your hands on one.

The design of the phone is going to be familiar to anyone that’s used an iPhone recently – unless you haven't held a handset from Apple since 2013 then you’ll have seen this 4.7-inch frame before, complete with bezels top and bottom and a home button with fingerprint scanner built in.

It’s currently seen as the ‘smaller’ iPhone form factor given the all-screen designs of the more recent models, and it’s both more lightweight and pocket-able than anything from the iPhone 11 range.

It’s pleasingly water resistant, however it does have some drawbacks because of the older design: it lacks a headphone jack at the bottom, and because the display technology is slightly dated (as it comes from the iPhone 8) it can suffer in bright light when you’re trying to watch videos.

Apple might've stuck with a similar design as the iPhone 8, but the innards are much improved – notably the new A13 Bionic chipset inside, which adds speed nearly everywhere and really does improve the performance over the older 4.7-inch models. It’s not quite at the level of the iPhones launched last year, but it’s not far off.

That A13 chipset has improved the camera performance, despite no discernible change to the specs of the sensor since the iPhone 8.

It takes good, bright photos that may please most people, though it doesn’t quite offer the same color reproduction or clarity as the iPhone 11 Pro Max, for instance.

The portrait mode doesn’t work as well as on phones that pack a second, depth-sensing sensor for precise bokeh effects , and as a result you'll be left with some odd-looking fringing around the edges of subjects. But overall the camera – and especially for the value – takes impressive photos in most scenarios.

Battery life is probably one of the biggest issues we found with the iPhone SE 2020 – it’s not going to easily last you a day unless you’re a light and sedate user.

Given the quantity of power-hungry apps available that will make the most of all that power provided by the A13 chipset, we would've liked to have seen at least an all-day battery in there, even for the cheaper price.

However, don’t let that take away from the fact that the iPhone SE 2020 follows on from its predecessor by bringing you a new iPhone, with not a lot of compromise, for less money than you might expect.

While it doesn’t hit several heights in terms of power or performance, it more than offsets that by being the most cost effective iPhone Apple has ever launched while still packing refined and useful hardware, making the new iPhone SE a splendid option for those either on a budget or just wanting to find an easy route into the Apple ecosystem.

The iPhone SE is available now around the world including the US, UK and Australia. The release date was April 24, 2020, with pre-orders going live the week before.

Although it was rumored to be called the iPhone SE 2, the iPhone SE is the official name that Apple opted for for its 2020 device. You won't see it referred to as the iPhone SE 2020 on Apple's website - that's just our way of distinguishing it from the 2016 device.

The base model comes with 64GB of storage, with 128GB and 256GB models also available for a higher price.

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