Apple’s reputation has been built up over the years for bringing out pricey-premium smartphones to the market but now Apple seems to have been trying on capitalizing the budget flagship category as well with the latest addition of iPhone SE 2020. Smartphone manufacturers have been trying to exaggerate the names of the smartphones by adding Pro, Plus, Ultra while Apple has done something really crazy and named its latest iPhone as the iPhone SE 2020 where the SE stands for Special Edition. But is this Special Edition iPhone really special? Let’s find out that in our Full Review of the iPhone SE 2020.
Design and Build: New Hardware, Old Body
On the first look, you won’t realize something new in the Design section of the iPhone SE 2020, its basically new and updated hardware in the nutshell of the iPhone 8. But on noticing carefully, you’ll find that the Apple Logo now has been moved to the center to align with the iPhone 11 series. So if you have used any of the iPhone until the iPhone 8, you’ll find it comfortable to hold. The side frames are made out of Aluminum and the phone weighs just under 150g, making it extremely lightweight for daily usage.
The back is made out of glass and the phone feels solid in hand, completely giving the feel of holding a premium iPhone back from 2017. Being a glass back, a feature that was expected and is provided by Apple is Wireless Charging, that’s interesting as its a rare feature to see at this particular price point. The phone is also IP67 rated, meaning the phone can handle splashes of water and has the ability to resist dust to some extent. Similar to the iPhone 8, the iPhone SE 2020 has the Touch-ID and skips out on Face-ID. The Touch-ID is as fast and as accurate as of the Face-ID, we never faced any issues while unlocking the phone even for once. During this pandemic, with all our faces covered with Masks, the Touch-ID could be a better and easy way of unlocking than Face-ID.
Unlike other smartphones in 2020, this new iPhone has comparatively bigger sized bezels, I would have personally loved if Apple would have fit in a larger display within the same chassis of the iPhone 8, shrinking down the bezels. Overall, if you are a sucker for small and compact phones, the iPhone SE 2020 could be the best choice for you.
Display: Old is Gold?
The iPhone SE 2020 has one the of smallest displays I have ever used in the past couple of years, and it feels refreshing shifting back down to a 4.7-inch display from the 6.5-inch display on the OnePlus 7T. Unline new smartphones with a 20:9 or even an 18:9 resolution, the iPhone SE has a 16:9 Display with a 720p resolution. While some of you might complain as its a 720p display, but trust me its lot better than what the specification sheet reveals.
The thing that concerned me, in the beginning, was the huge black top and bottom bezels, but after using it for a couple of days, I got used to it. This may be also one of the main reasons for How Apple Managed to price the iPhone SE (2020) under $399. The Display has great colors and decent contrast, but taking this smartphone out in direct sunlight, the brightness felt quite low and we had issues while viewing it outdoors. We tried consuming content of Netflix and Prime Video, and the experience wasn’t great. Wait, let me explain, With the Industry standards being set to 6.7-inches for a normal these days, and the S20 Ultra sporting a 6.9-inch display, watching content on the 4.7-inch display of the SE felt like a disguise.
For users, worried about playing PUBG on this phone, the screen size felt quite small and using a four-finger claw on the phone covered almost the whole screen, and the gaming experience then wasn’t commendable. Also, a small point to be kept in mind before purchasing the SE would be, the size of the keyboard and the typing experience: the keyboard is small in size and took a little extra time to get adapted to.
Performance: Tell me something I don’t know!
The hot take about the iPhone SE is nothing but its chipset under the hood, being powered by the A13 Bionic, the same powerful chipset available on the $1000 iPhone 11 Pro Max. The iPhone SE is easily the best performing smartphone available in the market out there under the price tag. With all the most, all the applications that one would use on a regular basis such as Social Media apps, Youtube, Chrome are well optimized on the device, the 3GB RAM runs it all smoothly. Comparable to Android smartphones out there with 8-12GB’s of RAM, the SE 2020 can easily hold 7-8 apps in the memory.
When it comes to benchmarks, the SE 2 nails it as well, as expected from a smartphone running Apple’s most powerful chipset. Gaming on the smartphone felt like a breeze, even high-end games such as PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile run easily on the maximum settings without any hiccups. With Apple keeping updated the iPhones for a minimum of four-five years, the SE wouldn’t face any issues for the next couple of years. The SE 2020 runs on iOS 13 out of the box and can be updated to iOS 14, you get all the usual iOS features including Airdrop, iMessage, Facetime, and more. But do note that, the SE gets a little warm while performing intense tasks like gaming and the battery takes a hit massively.
Camera: Lights, Camera Action!
Another key important highlighting feature of the SE 2020 would be its single rear camera. While brands like Xiaomi and Realme are hyping their 108-megapixel and 64-megapixel cameras in their latest smartphones, Apple has silently used the same sensor 12-megapixel that they used on the iPhone 8. But wait before judging it in terms of megapixels, the SE 2020 with the latest A13 Bionic has the new ISP which can bring out much better results from the same sensor on the iPhone 8.
The 12-megapixel shooter clicks some amazing photos with good amount of details, natural and pleasant looking colors with great dynamic range. The color temperature and white balance are on point and in simple words, the SE 2020 can capture some really good looking shots. Where the iPhone SE’s camera lacks is, on Apple’s Night Mode. So when it comes to capturing photos with less amount of light, the SE struggles in a manner. Overall, the image quality is excellent, with great colors and dynamic range.
Battery and Charging: Acceptably Good Battery
Housing a 1,821mAh battery under the hood, the iPhone SE 2020 although powering a 720p 4.7-inch display, the battery of the iPhone SE 2020 is one of the weakest performing sections. It could last you a day long, but in our testing, we could achieve 5-6 hours of the screen on time at the max on the SE with some casual usage. On Wi-Fi alone, the battery lasted us about 5.5 hours easily, and on usage with Mobile Data turned on, the battery life dropped significantly.
It could take you through a day, but we managed to kill the battery on the SE with just 6-7 classic games of PUBG Mobile on HDR + Extreme settings. That said, if you do not game a lot on your phone and just do some basic tasks like calling, checking emails, or replying to messages on Whatsapp, the SE could be a wonderful choice for you.
When it comes to charging, the SE comes out of the box with a 5W charger and charges via the infamous lightning port, yeah you read it right a 5W charger out of the box when brands are providing 18W Fast Charging to smartphones under Rs.10,000 in India. The charging times are decent, it took approximately two hours to charge the phone fully from about 0 to 100%. Yeah, there is support for 18W Fast Charging and Wireless Charging, but then you’ll need to purchase the chargers separately.
Who Should Buy the iPhone SE?
One of the best recommendations I would give to someone who wants to buy a smartphone under the Rs.45K price segment, the SE 2020 offers a decent display, an amazing camera, smooth and excellent performance, and decent battery life. Although there are some compromises such as the smaller display, huge bezels, a small battery, and a single camera, the SE outperforms on what it does well. For example, the performance on this tiny beast is exceptional, the single rear camera captures incredibly good photos for the price.
So if you are someone who wants an iPhone and not an Android, or you want to use Apple’s services such as Facetime, iMessage and more, or if you want an iPhone just to pair it up with the Apple Watch, or you want a smartphone that’s compact and has an excellent camera module with smooth performance, then the iPhone SE should be your first choice. While I recommend this device to a user who wants an iPhone, for an Android user ill recommend waiting for the Pixel 4A which is arriving pretty soon.
Disclaimer: We tested the iPhone SE 2020 as our primary device on the Jio 4G VoLTE network for more than a week. All our reviews are unbiased and are published without the brand getting to read it before you guys. We don’t change our reviews on pressure from brands and that’s the reason we are not sent review units from some brands.