Apple iPhone SE (2020) vs Apple iPhone 8 full review
Apple has announced a new, cheaper member of its all-conquering smartphone family. The iPhone SE follows on from its hugely popular namesake that debuted back in 2016, but the updated model leaves behind the small chassis and instead adopts the design that Apple used on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. It also appears that the iPhone SE (2020) has replaced the latter in the current catalogue, so in this article we see how the two compare, and hekp you decide which one you should buy today.
Price & Availability
Apple announced the new iPhone SE (2020) on 15 April, with pre-orders from the Apple store beginning on 17 April and the devices being released a week later on 24 April.
There are three storage capacities available, priced as follows:
- 64GB £419/$399
- 128GB £469/$449
- 256GB £569/$549
With the release of the iPhone SE (2020), Apple has discontinued the iPhone 8. You may still be able to pick it up from smartphone stores or other retailers, though, so it may be worth looking around for some tasty iPhone 8 deals. As a guide, when it was available from Apple you would pay £479/$449 for the 64GB model and £529/$499 for the 128GB variant.
Design and Build Quality
As we mentioned above, Apple has opted to house the iPhone SE (2020) in that same chassis as the iPhone 8, so there is little to distinguish between them. Both have the familiar 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm dimensions and weigh in at 148g.
There's also parity when it comes to the speakers, ports, and control buttons. Of course, this means the new SE doesn't feature a headphone jack, unlike the previous model that bore its name.
To see how the two SE models compare, also take a look at iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone SE (2016).
There is no Face ID on the new SE, hence the reason for the Home button with Touch ID, just like the iPhone 8. This also means that you're spared the 'notch' that could be something of an annoyance for some.
The space taken up by the Home button also dictates that the display panel is the once standard 4.7in variant. This makes it smaller than those offered by the iPhone XR, 11 and 11 Pro, but if you're coming from an iPhone 6, 6s or 7 then it will be very familiar territory.
Flipping the devices over reveals a single camera lens in the top-left corner, and while the SE may boast some improved photography chops (as we'll see below), there's no physical difference on the outside. In fact, the only way to easily tell each of these devices from one another is the colour of the frame. The iPhone 8 came in either Gold, Silver or Space Grey, while the iPhone SE is available with a choice of Black, White or (Product) Red liveries.
Both have IP67 ratings, so they'll survive being immersed for up to 30 minutes in water less than a metre deep. Judging by the specs on Apple's website, the devices also share the same battery capacities, with wireless charging and fast charging features available (the latter if you buy the 18W charger that isn't included in the box).
Features & Specs
The real headline of the iPhone SE (2020), aside from the very reasonable price, is the inclusion of the A13 Bionic processor, which is the same one used in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. This is a marked improvement over the A11 Bionic found at the heart of the iPhone 8.
The faster chip, along with its third-generation Neural Engine, allows the iPhone SE to work faster and also introduces Portrait Mode with Portrait Lighting to the single lens camera, something the iPhone 8 was never able to achieve.
When the iPhone 8 first arrived, it came with three storage options - 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB - but this was whittled down to just the first and last as Apple shuffled its line-up over the past couple of years. The iPhone SE (2020) offers the same three options from the outset, presumably using the same speed flash-storage.
Again, there's little difference in this element, with both devices fitted with 4.7in Retina HD IPS panels that run at 1334 x 750 resolutions and offer 326ppi. On either you'll find True Tone displays, 1400:1 contrast ratio, 625 nits maximum brightness, wide colour display (P3), and support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 content.
But there is one difference: the iPhone SE (2020) uses Haptic touch technology (how long you hold the screen) while the iPhone 8 relies on the older 3D Touch (how much pressure you apply to the screen).
Along with the processor upgrade, the cameras have also been tweaked to provide a few extra features on the iPhone SE (2020). They both have a 12MP, f/1.8 aperture camera with OIS, 5x digital zoom and True Tone flash with slow sync. But, thanks to the A13 Bionic chip and its Neural Engine, the iPhone SE (2020) adds the Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and depth control that was previously reserved for the iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, 11 and 11 Pro.
It also has Portrait lighting that adds six effects to your images, plus next-generation Smart HDR as opposed to the Auto HDR on the iPhone 8. The Portrait mode is also available on the front-facing camera of the iPhone SE (2020) too, whereas it remains absent on the iPhone 8.
Video is close, with either device able to capture up to 4K at 24fps, 30 fps or 60fps, with OIS and a digital zoom up to 3x. Again, Apple has blessed the iPhone SE (2020) with additional qualities, including extended dynamic range for video up to 30fps, QuickTake video, and stereo recording. As we say, they're tweaks, but all will make your footage pop that bit more than they would on the older model.
It's 'as you were' in this department too for most things, but the iPhone SE (2020) does benefit with upgrades to WiFi 6 and Gigabit-class LTE, whereas the iPhone 8 maxes out at WiFi 5 and LTE advanced. Both support Bluetooth 5, NFC (for Apple Pay), GPS, and all the normal carrier bands.
The iPhone 8 remains a solid device for those who prefer the smaller and lighter handsets that Apple used to make, but it's blown clean out of the water by the iPhone SE (2020). The compact design appears on both, but it's under the surface where the newer model takes some serious strides forward. Apple's decision to include the A13 Bionic processor guarantees that the A13 will be the kind of pocket rocket that made the original SE such a favourite with its owners.
Add to this the improved camera modes, upgraded connectivity, and a surprisingly affordable price, and you're left with a clear winner. The iPhone SE (2020) is not only better than the iPhone 8, it will also have the far more expensive iPhones looking over their shoulders.