Apple iPhone SE (2020) full review
Apple has announced the new iPhone SE (2020), with some impressive specs and a price that makes it a true bargain. So, if you're still holding on to an iPhone 6 or 6s, is it time to upgrade? We compare the three devices so you can make the right choice.
Price & Availability
The new iPhone SE (2020) was revealed on 15 April, with pre-orders from Apple starting on 17 April and the devices officially releasing a week later on 24 April.
There are three storage variants to choose from, priced as follows:
- 64GB £419/$399
- 128GB £469/$449
- 256GB £569/$549
Apple no longer offers either the iPhone 6 or 6s for sale, just as the iPhone 7 and 8 have also been retired. You could try looking for second-hand units, which usually cost around the £100/$100 mark.
Design and Build
The iPhone 6 was the first of Apple's smartphones to sport a 4.7in display, setting the trend that would follow for the next three generations. It left behind the squarer, compact (and many think classic) design of the iPhone 5 and 5s, opting instead for a larger chassis with aluminium on the back and curved edges all around the frame.
Of course, the older design would make a reappearance in the original iPhone SE, but time waits for no man, and the 2020 model adopts basically the same chassis as used on the iPhone 6, 6s, 7 and 8.
To see how the SE range compares, read iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone SE (2016).
The overall dimensions of the three devices are practically identical, with only minor variances between them, as you can see below:
- iPhone SE - 138.4mm x 67.3mm x 7.3mm; 148g
- iPhone 6s - 138.3mm x 67.1mm x 7.1mm; 143g
- iPhone 6 - 138.1mm x 67mm x 6.9mm; 129g
The additional thickness of the iPhone SE can be accounted for by the glass back that allows wireless charging, just as on the iPhone 8. There are some other differences, though.
Whereas the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s come with headphone jacks and physical Home buttons, the iPhone SE (2020) follows the pattern of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, removing the jack and using a touch sensitive Home button instead.
Apple's second-generation Touch ID sensor is found on both the iPhone SE (2020) and iPhone 6s, while the iPhone 6 comes with the slower first-generation model. One area where the iPhone SE construction has a huge advantage though is that it has an IP67 waterproof rating, meaning it can survive being submerged to depths less than a metre for up to 30 minutes, whereas neither of the older models offer no such assurances.
Finally, there are the colour schemes. The new iPhone SE (2020) is available in White, Black, and (Product) Red, while the iPhone 6 and 6s sport Space Grey, Gold, and Silver liveries, with the latter also coming in Rose Gold (or Pink to people with eyes).
For a comparison of the main differences between the older models, read iPhone 6s vs iPhone 6.
Features and Specs
On the surface all of these iPhones look quite similar, but once you delve into the components and capabilities themselves, it becomes obvious that all are not equal.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the spec sheet for the iPhone SE (2020) is the processor. Apple has bestowed its A13 Bionic chip on the new device, which is the same chip used in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. In the tradition of the SE name, this should guarantee that the 2020 model has the same lightning fast performance as its earlier namesake.
One of the main reasons for this is because it can utilise the power of the processor while not having to calculate as many onscreen pixels as the larger and higher-resolution displays of the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. This same technique was employed in the iPhone SE (2016), which was essentially an iPhone 6s in the frame of an iPhone 5s.
Due to their advancing ages, the iPhone 6 and 6s languish somewhat in the processing department, with A8 and A9 chips respectively under the bonnet. In their day these were powerful processors, but they can't get anywhere near the speed and power of that offered by the iPhone SE (2020).
Storage options are also improved on the new SE, with either 64GB, 128GB or 256GB on offer. This is a step up from the 32GB and 128GB that were available for the iPhone 6s and the 16GB, 32GB or 64GB options on the iPhone 6.
If you own one of the latter and have been struggling with the prison that is 16GB, moving to even the lowest-capacity iPhone SE (2020) will feel like leaving a caravan for a castle.
At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking that all the devices have the same display, and in many ways you'd be right. Each feature a 4.7in Retina HD panel with 1334 x 750 resolution, 326ppi, and 1400:1 contrast ratio.
The iPhone SE (2020) has a few advancements, though, such as a 625 nits maximum brightness - the others have 500 - True Tone display technology so the colour temperature of the screen adjusts to the surrounding environment, plus it comes with Wide colour (P3) whereas the older models only manage full sRGB. The iPhone 6s does have 3D Touch, but Apple has abandoned that of late in favour of the Haptic Touch technology employed in the iPhone SE (2020).
You won't find multiple lenses on any of these devices, as all feature a single shooter on the back and a FaceTime HD camera on the front, but again the iPhone SE (2020) optics far outstrip those of the older models.
The iPhone 6 has an 8Mp, f/2.2 aperture camera with True Tone flash, HDR for photos, and a digital zoom of up to 5x. The iPhone 6s is exactly the same, except that the sensor is a 12Mp unit instead.
While the iPhone SE also has a 12Mp sensor, its aperture is wider at f/1.8 and there's also optical image stabilisation, slow sync on the True Tone flash, next-generation Smart HDR for photos, plus the Portrait mode that even the iPhone 8 didn't have.
Video tops out with 4K at 60fps, while the iPhone 6s can only manage 30fps and the iPhone 6 is only capable of 1080p and 60fps. Again, the iPhone SE (2020) features optical image stabilisation, plus there's extended HDR for footage up to 30fps.
Even the front facing lens offers higher-quality still and video images, with its more powerful sensor and Portrait mode. Basically, the iPhone SE (2020) has a much better cameras in pretty much all respects.
Another area where you can see the progression of time is with the network and connection capabilities of the devices.
The iPhone 6 has LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, and supports the usual carrier bands. A year later Apple upgraded the iPhone 6s to LTE Advanced, 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 with MIMO, while maintaining all the other specs. Now, the iPhone SE moves this up further by including Gigabit-class LTE, 802.11ax WiFi 6 with MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC with reader mode.
So, the upshot of this is that connections on the iPhone SE (2020) should be faster and more reliable than those of its elder siblings.
Apple is good at keeping older products on the latest version of its operating systems, but if you want compatibility with the newest updates to iOS then there's only one candidate. The iPhone 6 has already dropped off the list, with iOS 12 being its final upgrade.
Rumours are that the iPhone 6s will survive again this year and make the leap to iOS 14, but that's yet to be confirmed. With the iPhone SE (2020) being a new device and featuring the latest Apple processor, it looks sure that any owners will be remaining on that latest version of iOS for the next four or five years without issue.
If you didn't mind the smaller screen, then the original iPhone SE was arguably better than both the iPhone 6 and 6s, so it's no surprise at all that its new incarnation is a superior device in all departments. The powerful A13 Bionic processor puts it on par with the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, the camera upgrades best the iPhone 8, and the price kills them all.
Simply put, the iPhone SE is the device that most people need for their everyday device. There are no bells and whistles, but everything that's included is worthy of its place. The best part is that if you already like the size and feel of the iPhone 6 or 6s, then the iPhone SE (2020) will immediately feel like home, just a much better one.
Apple iPhone SE (2020): Specs
- A13 Bionic processor
- 3GB RAM
- 64GB/128GB/256GB of storage
- 4.7in (1334x750 at 326 ppi) display, 625 nits brightness, 1400:1 contrast, True Tone
- 12MP (f/1.8) rear-facing camera with flash, Portrait mode, 4K video
- 7MP (f/2.2) front-facing camera, Portrait mode
- IP67 water and dust resistance
- 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm