It’s been about four years since Apple first introduced their iPhone SE and it was a slight departure for the company. There’s no surprise that the iPhone can seem expensive but the iPhone SE is a new way to get the latest iPhone specs without paying a high price tag.

Design & Hardware

The exterior of the second-gen iPhone SE should look and feel very familiar to some. That’s because just like the original SE, the new model is taking an old design (in this case the iPhone 8) and putting the internals of the iPhone 11 inside.

Apple iPhone SE (2020)

The body of the new iPhone SE is a combination of glass and aluminum, which makes the phone feel more premium than the price would suggest.

Powering the second-gen iPhone SE is Apple’s A13 Bionic processor. The display is a 4.7-inch Retina HD display with a resolution of 1334 x 750 at 326 PPI. The SE’s display does look good but is still much lower in resolution compared to similarly priced and more expensive smartphones.

In this day and age when smartphone screens are huge, the iPhone SE’s display feels small in comparison, which may be great for some but it would have been nice if offered an iPhone SE Plus which uses the iPhone 8 Plus’ body and screen.

Apple iPhone SE (2020)

The new iPhone SE is very easy to hold and use in one hand, especially with my fairly large hands, which has become used to large phones like the Galaxy S20 Ultra and OnePlus 8 Pro.

The phone is IP67 water and dust resistant and the display also features Apple’s TrueTone technology and supports Dolby Vision and HDR10 playback.

Because the new iPhone SE uses the iPhone 8’s body, it has Touch ID, meaning you can use your fingerprint to unlock your phone and for Apple Pay.

In terms of battery life, Apple claims you can get up to 13 hours of video playback and 40 hours of audio playback. In all other use cases, the new iPhone SE’s battery is the same as the iPhone 8, meaning it lasts most of the day.

The new iPhone SE supports Qi wireless charging and fast charging via a compatible 18W or higher charger, giving you a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The charger that comes in the box is 5W, so you’ll need to buy a fast charger separately.

We have some fast charger recommendations in our USB-C accessories guide.

Typically with Apple devices, they offer pretty good standby battery life but for some reason, that doesn’t hold true with the new iPhone SE. Some of the iPads I’ve tested would last days on standby and only go down to like 90% after a couple of days or even a week.

With the iPhone SE, it lasts around 3-4 days before it goes completely dead when in standby mode.

The iPhone SE comes in three colours, black, white and (PRODUCT)RED. Storage options include 64, 128 and 256GB.

Canadian pricing for the iPhone SE (2020) is below:

  • 64GB – $599 CAD
  • 128GB – $669 CAD
  • 256GB – $809 CAD

The iPhone SE (2020) can be purchased from the following retailers and carriers:

Software

iOS 13

The new iPhone SE is running iOS 13 which has made a couple of improvements over past versions of iOS.

The biggest feature of iOS 13 is the new Dark Mode, which works throughout the operating system and all of Apple’s own apps and third-party apps that have a dark mode.

iOS 13

The Photos app in iOS 13 has been given a slight overhaul with a new curated view and better organization features. There’s also a redesigned photo and video editor in the Photos app.

iOS 13

Since privacy is a big focus for Apple, they’ve implemented a new feature called Sign in with Apple, allowing you to use your Apple ID, without needing to make a new ID and password for that specific app or website.

iOS 13

Maps have also been improved and the company is working on rolling out their new maps with more realistic details for roads, beaches, parks, buildings and more. There’s also a new Look Around view which is similar to Google Maps’ Street View.

Siri has also been given some improvements with the new Shortcuts app, so you can ask the voice assistant to launch certain actions or apps.

Some of the other new features and improvements in iOS 13 include:

  • Reminders has a new look and offers intelligent ways to create and edit reminders, with more ways to organize and keep track of them. The quick toolbar makes it easier to add times, dates, locations and flags, or add attachments. With deeper integration with Messages, it’s easy to tag someone in a reminder so that it surfaces when the user messages with that person.
  • Messages can automatically share a user’s name and photo, or customized Memoji or Animoji, to easily identify who is in the Messages thread. Memoji are automatically made into sticker packs built into the iOS keyboard, so they can be used in Messages, Mail and other apps. Memoji also features new hairstyles, headwear, makeup, piercings and accessories.
  • CarPlay gets its biggest update ever with a new Dashboard to view music, maps and more in a single view, a new Calendar app and Siri support for third-party navigation and audio apps.
  • HomePod can distinguish voices from anyone in the home to deliver personal requests, including messages, music and more. Live radio gives Siri access to over 100,000 radio stations from iHeartRadio, radio.com and TuneIn, and a new sleep timer turns off music after a set amount of time. Handoff enables users to easily move music, podcasts or a phone call to HomePod when they arrive home.
  • With AirPods, Siri can read incoming messages as soon as they arrive, from Messages or any SiriKit-enabled messaging app. A new audio sharing feature makes it easy to watch a movie or share a song with a friend by simply bringing a second pair close to iPhone or iPad.
  • Voice Control provides a powerful new experience that enables users to operate their iPhone, iPad or Mac entirely by their voice. Using the latest Siri speech recognition technology, Voice Control gets even more accurate text transcription and editing.
  • Notes have a new Gallery View, more powerful collaboration with shared folders, new search tools and checklist options.
  • QuickPath brings easy one-hand typing to the iOS keyboard by continuously swiping through the letters of a word.
  • Text Editing is enhanced, making scrolling documents, moving the cursor and selecting text faster and more accurately.
  • Files app introduces the ability to share folders with iCloud Drive and access files from external storage devices like SD cards and USB flash drives.
  • Health offers ways to monitor hearing health and brings new ways to track, visualize and predict a woman’s menstrual cycle.
  • Location Services controls give users more choices for how they share location data with apps, including a new one-time location option and more information on when apps are using location in the background.
  • Performance improvements make the entire system more responsive with faster Face ID unlock, and a new way to package iPhone apps on the App Store that reduces app download sizes by up to 50 percent, makes app updates over 60 percent smaller and results in apps launching up to twice as fast.

You can read more about what’s new in iOS 13 on Apple’s website.

The new iPhone SE will also be getting the iOS 14 update later this year, you can read more about iOS 14 here.

Camera

Apple iPhone SE (2020)

The 2020 iPhone SE has a 12MP lens that is part of a new camera system. Combined with the A13 Bionic, Apple says the new iPhone SE’s camera is their “best single-camera system ever.”

Apple has added an image signal processor and Neural Engine which is used for computational photography such as Portrait Mode.

Apple iPhone SE (2020) Portrait Mode

The device can capture videos up to 4K at 24, 30 or 60fps as well as 1080p at 30/60 fps and slow-motion video at 120fps or 240 fps.

The front camera is 7MP and should be perfect for selfies and FaceTime calls.

Photos taken on the new iPhone SE look great with quite a bit of detail and colour. Videos also look great, especially thanks to the option to record in 4K at 60fps.

One part of the iPhone SE’s camera could use some work is in low-light situations. While the iPhone 11 models gained a new Night Mode, the iPhone SE sadly did not.

You can still take good photos in low-light situations, just not great ones. It would great if Apple could add Night Mode in a software update for the iPhone SE, so then the phone’s camera can be more on par with the Pixel 3a’s Night Sight.

Final Thoughts

Apple iPhone SE (2020)

Overall, iPhone SE (2020) provides great value for money because you’re getting that latest iPhone internal, great camera all for a fraction of the cost of an iPhone 11.

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Touch ID works well
  • Solid battery life
  • Great camera
  • A13 Bionic offers great performance
  • Wireless charging and fast charge support
  • Cheaper than the iPhone 11 series

Cons

  • Display and design can seem outdated at this point
  • Not-so-good battery stand-by
  • The camera has no Night Mode

3 thoughts on “Apple iPhone SE (2020) Review

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