Apple iPhone SE 2020 review: Great power with a limited battery
Quick verdict: Apple's upgraded iPhone SE 2020 doesn't have great battery life, but it's otherwise an excellent option, especially for those looking to upgrade from an older iPhone.
- Apple A13 processor is very powerful
- A lower cost entry point for iOS phones
- Small size is easy to carry
- Only a single lens camera feels cheap
- Low light shooting is poor
- Battery life is sub-par
1334 x 750px
64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Finder rated as Average vs similar phones
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$749|
It wasn't much of a secret that Apple was working on a successor to the iPhone SE, although in typical fashion it wasn't entirely known if it would simply update the innards of the older SE design, or opt for something we'd never seen in the iPhone world before.
Apple did something else instead, grabbing the essential design documents for 2017's Apple iPhone 8 and producing a phone with a mix of 2017 and 2020 era innards.
It's an unusual recipe that won't meet every phone user's needs, but for that core constituency of folks looking specifically to upgrade from a much older iPhone without the extreme cost of phones like the iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max, it's a very compelling prospect.
- iPhone 8 design looks dated
- Large bezels around 4.7 inch-display
- TouchID lives!
- Single lens camera
- Poor low light performance
- Portrait mode is only fair at best
- A13 Bionic is a beast at this price
- iOS upgrades assured
- 1,821mAh battery is too small for a 2020 flagship
- Wireless charging is welcome
- A mid-range phone with a bright future
Should you buy it?
The recipe for the iPhone SE 2020 is a rather contradictory one. It's running on one of the fastest processors in any smartphone, period, let alone in a mid-range phone. Apple's control over iOS makes it enjoyable to use with a huge range of available apps to pick from.
However, it's also running on a design and with camera specs that belong to an entirely different era of smartphones, and its battery life sits at the lower end of any smartphone on the market, even those much cheaper than the iPhone SE itself.
It's a conundrum, then, and its solution in value terms depends on your precise needs in the smartphone market.
If you're updating from an older iPhone and you don't want to switch to Android, then it's a very easy recommendation. It's more powerful than the iPhone XR and competes well even against the iPhone 11 series of phones, albeit with that compromised battery life. That's less true if you're using a premium iPhone model from the last two years, because the step back in camera terms will affect you more.
If you're looking at the wider smartphone market, it's more powerful than competing Android handsets at this price point, but with a much more compromised camera and battery life story to tell.
In the purely iPhone space, the next model "up" in pricing terms is the Apple iPhone XR. Like the iPhone SE 2020, that features a single rear lens camera, but it's a different and more advanced module; the flipside there is that it runs on the older Apple A12 Bionic processor.
Then there's the Apple iPhone 11, which gives you dual rear cameras and that same A13 Bionic processor, as well as a 6.1-inch display, but at a much higher price point.
If you're happy enough in the Android world there's a very wide range of choices to consider at this price point. From a pure-phone standpoint, consider the Google Pixel 3a, which runs rings around the iPhone SE 2020 in low light terms.
If you crave more camera complexity, consider phones such as the Oppo A91, or the realme XT, which also sell for much less than the Apple iPhone SE 2020.