Since the beginning of the year long before the Coronavirus pandemic became a global health crisis, there have been numerous reports about Apple wanting to reinvent it’s old affordable iPhone SE (2016) but then others said it could be named iPhone 9 and so on and so forth but let’s leave the story for another day. Apple in a press release released the iPhone SE (2020) anyway without the “2020” we just put that to make a differentiation from the 2016 version of the device.
While dubbed the cheapest iPhone currently in the market at just US$399, one might just expect it to open more doors to Apple’s declining smartphone sales but it doesn’t matter because most countries have had their economies paused and that had caused the loss of millions of jobs worldwide. Being able to afford the expensive US$999 iPhones might have to come to a pause and so people needed something cheaper and something modern…maybe that’s not what Apple officials thought of after all but whatever it is, who cares.
Some tech reviewers call this one of the best budget smartphone out there but maybe I’ll also argue about that part later on in this review because unlike the overtly-competitive Android smartphone market, if say Xiaomi makes such a device with a $399 price tag slapped at its back and lacks some basic things people would want, nobody would be interested but “Apple is Apple”. Analysts in the Chinese market where Apple is thought of to appeal a little bit to the billions of people might not really make much impact because Chinese believes the price is too much for what its worth but maybe that’s the impact of the Pandemic speaking on the state of the economy. Someone even said “If we don’t buy it, the price will drop further” that’s harsh. But let’s leave the negative aside and speak about what makes the iPhone SE (2020) a device you should still consider despite the stiffened global economy.
Everything good about the iPhone SE (Hardware)
The iPhone SE features modern technology found on the high-end iPhone 11 series which is interesting for it’s price. It seems Apple is a little bit generous this time around for such offerings but what are the cool things about the device anyway? The speed is unprecedented and the software is well patched up with latest security updates which makes it an ideal smartphone for those who want one.
Merely looking at this device from afar, one would think it’s an iPhone 8 or maybe that’s what it is from t he outside. The design which incorporates the good old Apple Home button as a result of the TouchID being reintroduced as well as those bezels at the top and bottom of the device makes it really similar to what we’ve seen in the past. This shows that Apple rarely changes its designs compared to Android smartphone makers like Samsung whose devices always look different every year.
Small body with a small screen makes the device feel so tiny when held for someone who’s been holding giant smartphones for years. This felt really tiny when held as the modern smartphone standard seems to have changed to the giant displays and hole-punch camera placement, Apple seems to have remembered it’s customers with small hands (not to be offensive) or should I just say not everyone wants a massive smartphone after all. With the current iPhone 11 Pro being the smallest iPhone in the market, the new iPhone SE (2020) took it’s place with its 4.7-inch display.
The iPhone SE is water and dust resistant, so you can accidentally drop it in a pool. I had two review units with me (Black and Red) but fell in love with the red color. It has decent stereo speakers that fire from the top and bottom of the phone, or left and right when you hold it in landscape. They’re not amazing, but they sound clearer than you’d normally get from a single speaker at this price.
Also with the current speed with the deployment of 5G networks although there is a standstill due to issues with Pandemic, conspiracy theorists causing damages to 5G infrastructures and other issues, the roll-out might be slowed but that doesn’t mean this isn’t the future but it seems Apple isn’t yet concerned about that just yet because obviously most of the sales of the iPhone SE will be in the US, Europe and other Western countries where 5G isn’t really mainstream yet as nearly all smartphones released in China nowadays have the 5G network capacity. But the iPhone SE (2020) supports the much faster 4G LTE network which is available everywhere as well as the Wi-Fi 6.
The 4.7-inch display
And speaking of the display, it’s a Retina IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with 16M colors or maybe that sounds too technical for you but this is the same display hardware used on the olden iPhone 8, which is slightly related to those on both the iPhone XR and the iPhone 11. While it’s not the crispiest unlike the Super Retina OLED found on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, this actually performed well. The size of the screen compensated for the resolution so it wouldn’t look blurish unlike gigantic Android smartphones screens with low-resolution displays.
The size of the screen gives the device an approximation of 65.4% screen-to-body ratio with the 4.7-inch display measuring 60.9 cm2. It produces a resolution of 750 x 1334 pixels with 16:9 aspect ratio making and media consumption interesting and fascinating. It also feature a 326 PPI Density all which adds up to the strength and weaknesses of the display and it has TrueTone, a feature that automatically adjusts the white balance on the screen so it’s more accurate and easier to view based on the lighting in the room.
Trying to watch YouTube videos on this device in a portrait mode wasn’t really comfortable for someone coming from a massive 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED display of the Galaxy S20 Ultra meant I had to step down to the levels of the iPhone SE’s display but it wasn’t bad. Looking at the display outside the house under bright sunlight does have an impact because the bezels at the top looked as if they were hoods to the display but increasing the brightness to the fullest, I was still able to get through normal tasks and operated the device successfully. The display is protected by glass with oleophobic layering making it super smooth and strong just so in case your keys won’t scratch the surface of the screen accidentally.
I don’t think using the smaller display felt bad because you’ll soon get used to it in a matter of days after continuous usage. My problem was just with the keyboards which really felt tiny and most of the times, I would mistype something and had to retype or just use the auto-correct functionality. But like I said earlier, this device would be great for those with smaller hands as this will fit right well into their hands and also give them the ease to type with the small on-screen keyboards.
Performances (It has A13 Bionic processor)
The iPhone SE (2020) come at a good price cut and features the latest A13 Bionic Chipset which is the same processor running the iPhone 11 which costs about $699 and the pricier iPhone 11 Pro with its $999 price slaps. The chip as we know is very fast and offers smooth transition for the device’s internals. It has a 2GB of RAM with internal storage variations just like Apple would usually do and that ranges from 64/128/256 GB with each storage space increasing the pricing of the device.
Much like the high-end iPhones, this device is capable of running really powerful and graphics intensive games and applications and thanks to it’s optimized software, the battery consumption isn’t bad at all but that in a moment. Take for example, playing Arcade games on the device were really smooth. Transitioning from one application to the other was blazing fast and don’t be surprised by the 2GB of RAM (unlike Android devices) the iOS uses memories differently compared to Android.
And with the good performances of the device, you can still use it for as long as 3 years before something starts going crazy with the internals of the device hopefully, it’s not Apple slowing it down again for “good reasons” obviously. This is a great upgrade from the iPhone SE (2016) as those who are already used to the olden device can easily migrate to the newer version and continue from there.
Battery life (It has wireless charging)
Apple did well to not disclose the range of the device’s battery but we have it and its a 1821mAh Li-Ion cell which has support for Qi Wireless charging at 18W fast charging which can give the device a boost of 50% under just 50 minutes (Not bad for an affordable smartphone you’ll say). But the battery performance is great and the device now use a USB 2.0, proprietary reversible connector and the lightning port is long gone.
Using the device for a day proved Apple really did well to get the iOS 13 to be well optimized and consume lesser battery. One thing I’ve always credited Apple for is the fact that everything within their device despite being made from different manufacturers (sometimes) oftentime sync together which further enhances the ecosystem. So the battery did performed well and would do for an average user. This might not be the kind of device you’ll expect to last you for days maybe you should opt for those massive rugged smartphones instead like the Ulefone Armor 7 and if you’re a gamer, then you can add up few bucks to make $579 for a Nubian RedMagic 5G.
To get the fast charging in action, you’ll need to spend about $29 for an 18W power breaker as Apple only included a 5W charger in the box…so not generous enough.
The camera (It can shoot 4K)
The iPhone SE (2020) offers a 12 MP (wide lens) main single sensor with f/1.8 aperture, PDAF and OIS and can record 2160p@24/30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, HDR, videos which is fascinating but those aren’t just off the paper as the device really performed those tasks in reality. The camera on the iPhone SE is quite better than the one on the iPhone XR believe it.
The picture looks great and when photographs are taken in good lighting conditions, you’re going to really love what you get. This probably boils down to the smaller crispier display. One thing that did amaze me though was that trying the photographs taken on the iPhone SE on a larger display still retain the details and that is interesting.
While the little iPhone SE (2020) doesn’t allow you the luxury of those fancy Apple stuffs such as the ultra-wide lenses or the ToF sensors which can be found on the more expensive devices, this single snapper does get the job done. It’s great for quick shooting and can take quite good photos even in low-light. There are software tweaks that makes image processing cool and that in turn is what produces the crisp photo quality you get using the iPhone SE. Do not forget to switch between the Smart HDR feature or Quick Take filming and Portrait Mode all which help you produce a really high quality photographs.
What’s bad about the iPhone SE (2020)
Being critical of an inexpensive smartphone is like expecting a new born to win a race against adults (not literally though) but you get the point. These type of devices are usually stripped down of features and specifications which makes them lightweight but then the iPhone SE still tries its best to being a good enough device if you think about it.
The battery of the device is smaller and like I said earlier might not fit well for those that are planning on using the device heavily as you might be disappointed. Normal activities such as web surfing and maybe some movies might get you through the day but extreme gaming and binge-watching movies will not.
There is no headphone jack but I’m not surprised about it because since the days of the iPhone 7, it seems Apple’s been done with that for good especially with the success of the AirPods TWS earbuds, who needs the headphone jack you’ll say but then that brings us back to the original iPhone SE back in 2016 which also has the headphone jack but well, that was like 4 years ago so no worries then. But Apple included the dongle that can be attached to the charging port so using wired earphone shouldn’t be a problem just that you won’t be able to charge and use wired earphone at the same time unless you use some specialized dongle that supports this technology.
The iPhone SE also lacks the U1 chip which can be found on the iPhone 11 which is rumored tot offer support for a new AirTags technology that allows you to use the U1 chip find your lost items which are attached to the AirTags system. But even if this technology ever exists, there is possibilities that the iPhone SE might later on have support for it using let’s say Bluetooth or other in-built technology but until more information are revealed about the AirTags itself, nothing much can be said just yet.
So should you buy it?
Short answer is YES! And the long Answer is that the current economic landscape might force many of us to opt for a much affordable smartphone and that’s where the iPhone SE come in handy. he device sells for US$399 (NG₦ 154, 213 / SAR 7,423)and it offers you a premium value in the mid-range spectrum which isn’t a bad thing at all. This device can be your daily driver for 3 years if you so want it as it gets regular Apple software updates and we all know Apple is generous enough to know how to make old devices support modern software.
The device’s pricing of $399 offer you the base storage of 64GB which might not be enough if you plan on downloading numerous stuffs on the device because remember, iPhone SE doesn’t have support for external storage so you might want to scale up at an additional US$50 price tag to get the 128GB model. But if you just want something modern iPhone with those fancy stuffs such as the FaceID, notch, a larger OLED display and so forth, then you might just opt for the iPhone 11 which has all those perks but at a price you know.
iPhone SE (2020) VS…
iPhone 11: The iPhone 11 was released this past September and offers numerous color because who doesn’t like beautiful colors. I personally prefer the Red iPhone 11 because Maroon is my favorite and I think Red is the closest to that color since there is no Maroon iPhone 11.
Elsewhere, the iPhone 11 now feature a dual rear camera setup with a 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS and then another 12 MP, f/2.4, 13mm (ultrawide) sensors which gives the device awesome portrait and good quality effects such as the Bokeh which blurs out everything at the back of a subject on the camera’s focal point.
iPhone XR: Released back in 2018 as the affordable iPhone of that time but larger than the iPhone XS itself offering a large 6.3-inch display and come in multiple colors as well. While offering a single rear camera snapper, the iPhone XR was obviusly one of the most talked about back then having specifications such as a single 12MP camera with a f/1.8 aperture, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, PDAF and OIS. It prduces a really good quality picture and it’s camera features includes 2160p@24/30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, HDR, stereo sound rec.
The front facing selfie camera is a little 7 MP, f/2.2, 32mm (standard) sensor capable of recording a 1080P video as well which is really interesting. The device still offer really amazing technology such as the new Apple FaceID and it’s upgradeable to the latest iOS 13.3 which is now stable since it’s initial release in 2019.
Vivo Z6 5G: If you don’t mind an Android smartphone, then this 5G affordable smartphone that offers an incredible specs. The RAM spans between 6GB and 8GB while the internal storage is 128GB which can be expanded using a dedicated external card. Powering the device is the Qualcomm SDM765 Snapdragon 765G (7 nm) Chipset which offers support for 5G network while the CPU is a Octa-core (1×2.4 GHz Kryo 475 Prime & 1×2.2 GHz Kryo 475 Gold & 6×1.8 GHz Kryo 475 Silver). It has a quad rear camera setup and sells for US$320 (NG₦ 116,960 / SAR 4,989)
Nubian RedMagic 5G: If you want a gaming smartphone with all the perks and interesting features but do not want to spend too much dollars on just smartphone, this $579 smartphone is your best bet as it offers everything you’d need from a strong smartphone at the mid-range price-point such as an OLED display, a massive battery and great looking designs with lots of internal storage.
The ZTE Nubia Red Magic 5G come with a triple rear camera setup which includes a 64 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.72″, 0.8µm, PDAF, then a smaller 8 MP, (ultrawide) and then a much smaller 2 MP, (macro) which are all expected to capture life-lick image resolution when finally released
iPhone SE (2020)
Interesting mid-range smartphone that comes in a small package while offering nice hardware specifications
- A13 Bionic chipset
- Crisp display
- Wireless chargring
- Good cameras
- No 5G
- Lacks headphone jack
- Really petite for 2020