Apple has decided to tackle the mid-range segment of the smartphone market with its iPhone SE 2020. In an iPhone 8 body, we find the power of the 11 Pro, but is that enough? Answer in this test of the iPhone SE.
The iPhone SE version 2020 is an exciting choice on the part of Apple, which offers a smartphone for less than € 500. While prices have soared in recent years for the high-end, the apple brand offers an iOS alternative to all mid-range smartphones running Android. And, even if it is far from perfect, the iPhone SE is well on its way to being a retail box.
Design, screen, and hardware
Few surprises in terms of the design of this smartphone, Apple is new with (very) old. We find on this iPhone SE the same chassis as on the iPhone 8, and that on previous models. On the one hand, I liked finding this compact format, but the 4.7-inch screen is just too small for the use I have of a smartphone.
What is unfortunate is that with contours in tune with the times, Apple could have offered a much broader panel, as Samsung had done with its Galaxy S10e. This screen is also the same as on the iPhone 8, namely a Retina LCD panel, the primary defect of which is the lack of brightness in direct sunlight (which is not a problem at the moment ).
The iPhone SE is available in three colors – white, black, and red – and all the contours are black, unlike the red models of the past. In terms of storage, you have the choice between 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB, with a public price set at € 489 for the smallest model.
The specificity of this iPhone SE, the return of the Touch ID sensor that Apple had decided to abandon several months ago. It’s quite funny to go from an iPhone 11 (or a recent Android model) to this iPhone SE, as I’m used to more contemporary gestures (swipe…). Pressing the button is no longer a reflex at all; it took me a good day of adaptation to find my bearings. That said, someone who migrates from an old smartphone with a button to the iPhone SE 2020 will have no trouble adapting.
If the front part of the phone is quite disappointing, this iPhone SE still offers beautiful finishes – and we recognize the expertise of Apple. If you had an iPhone XR, the red model of the iPhone SE has a different tint that turns slightly pink. The Lightning port is still around, and Apple provides Lightning Earpods in the box but no lightning/jack adapters – that’s a shame.
A powerful chip
Very positive point, this iPhone SE is Wi-Fi 6 compatible, which allows it to access much faster networks, which are starting to be deployed in ISPs and router manufacturers. The iPhone SE is also a dual SIM with the Nano-SIM / eSIM combination.
I end up with the greatest strength of this iPhone SE in terms of hardware: the integration of the A13 chip, which makes it an overpowered smartphone. You have access to a smartphone whose performance has nothing to envy to the latest iPhone 11, which outperforms competitors in terms of SoC. Finally, only a 5G version is missing to be sure to leave over 4 years with a smartphone that will always be in the era of time at the technical level.
A simple summary of this iPhone SE, it’s an iPhone 8 with the raw power of an iPhone 11 Pro, but you already knew that.
iOS 13, a joy for its users
I will not redo a full presentation of iOS 13 that I had already mentioned in length in the test of the iPhone 11 Pro. I found in this test of the iPhone SE all the ecosystem benefits and the fluidity of iOS 13. There are, however, slight differences in the OS with that of the iPhone 11 (and the X range, Xr, Xs). The presence of Touch ID logically signifies an absence of facial recognition with the Face ID sensor. The presence of the physical Home button also takes the place of gestures to which users of recent smartphones are accustomed.
For example, on an iPhone 11, a swipe from bottom to top closes the applications (or it opens the list of recent apps). On the iPhone SE 2020, this swipe opens the control center. It is, therefore, necessary to take the double-click reflex to navigate in recent applications. I find it a bit of a shame that Apple did not leave the choice on this point. The sideswipe gestures to switch from app to app being very practical.
For everything else, this iPhone SE can do everything that the iPhone 11 does in software, and this is one of the main advantages of this model.
Photo: an old sensor (and better shots)
The photo part has evolved enormously at the software level since the arrival of Pixel 3 from Google, then iPhone XR. The manufacturers have shown that it is not enough to multiply the sensors and the megapixels to be able to capture snapshots of excellent quality. On this iPhone SE, Apple reuses the sensor of the iPhone 8, which was already reused of previous models. Thanks to the A13 chip, the shots in the right conditions are much better, and you will manage to capture photos that have nothing to envy to the high-end. It is also an asset of iOS, and the trigger speed is a real pleasure.
But software doesn’t do everything either, and as soon as conditions get worse, so does quality. If the front very well manages the portrait mode and rear sensors, the other characteristics (night mode, zoom, ultra-wide-angle) are absent. In low light conditions, the pictures are not good and do not think you can use night mode, which is merely absent, so you will have to rely on the flash.
On the video part, Apple hits hard, with very good quality, stabilization, and the possibility of going up to a 4K definition at 60 frames per second. I found only one defect in the video, and it is the bad management of the white balance.
The iPhone SE is, therefore, much better than the iPhone 8 on the photo/video part, and its sensor does not disappoint. On the rest, it is still far from the iPhone 11 Pro, and some models at the same price on Android, such as the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, and especially the Pixel 3a.
Autonomy: the weak point
For two years, Apple has been making real efforts to improve the autonomy of its devices. The difference between iPhone X and iPhone XS was noticeable, and the iPhone 11/11 Pro is even better. On this iPhone SE 2020, the low capacity (estimated at 1,821 mAh) is felt during use. It is certainly more enduring than the iPhone 8 (probable thanks to the optimization brought by the A13 chip), but you will never last more than a day in standard use. So keep your charger on you “just in case,” the old fashioned way.
Positive point of our test, this iPhone SE 2020 is compatible with 18W fast charging and with wireless charging. This is a perfect thing, but it would have been even more interesting if Apple had not been content to deliver its aging block… 5W in the box. It will, therefore, be necessary to go back to the cashier to buy a combo charger-cable from Apple sold respectively € 35 and € 25. Uncool.
My opinion after this iPhone SE test
In the end, everything is a question of the target, and I think this iPhone SE has everything to be a real box. I would have liked more endurance and more fashionable borders, but it is a choice assumed by the manufacturer. By attacking the smartphone segment for less than € 500, Apple will respond to high demand from existing customers – but also from those who have always wanted an iPhone – who never wanted to exceed a specific budget.
The iPhone SE 2020 has all the advantages of an iPhone: it is very powerful, iOS 13 is a joy and the ecosystem too. Photo processing is not the best on the market, but it is possible to capture excellent shots in a bright environment. In my eyes, the two weak points of this iPhone SE 2020 are the screen and the autonomy. The design is not very contemporary, but Apple masters finish perfectly to make a product very clean on it.
If you have enough of an iPhone that predates the iPhone X and you wonder if it’s worth switching to this first iPhone in 2020, the answer is yes. And even if it is not perfect, the iPhone SE is one of the very best smartphones for less than € 500.
- It’s an iPhone
- The format is nice
- iOS 13
- The price
WE LIKE LESS
- These borders
- 5W charger in the box
- Too limited autonomy