Apple iPhone SE (2020) vs Apple iPhone XR full review

The new iPhone SE (2020 model) has finally arrived after years of waiting and is now the cheapest and smallest iPhone you can buy from Apple. But is it worth spending a little more on the impressive XR? We compare these two models in a number of areas to help you choose the best iPhone to buy.

This second generation SE replaces the iPhone 8 in Apple's smartphone range and with a £210/$200 price difference between it and the XR there's a lot to consider. There are a number of key design and hardware differences which will make the two iPhones appeal to different crowds.

iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone XR: Price and Availability

Forget about the iPhone 8, the iPhone SE 2020 is even cheaper and, bizarrely, Apple now undercuts major Android rivals such as OnePlus. What odd times we live in.

The new iPhone SE starting at just £419 or US$399 will make it very tempting indeed. Some of you may even stop reading here and go buy one - fair play.

You'll have to spend a fair amount more to get the iPhone XR which will be two years old in September 2020. Not as far away as it might feel. It's £629 or US$599 at its most affordable and you can spend £50/$50 to double the storage.

Even at its highest spec, the iPhone SE 2020 is still cheaper than the cheapest XR model so it's got a lot of work to do on that basis.

Check out all the prices below and read our complete iPhone buying guide to see what other iPhones have to offer.

  iPhone SE (2020) iPhone XR
64GB £419/$399 £629/$599
128GB £469/$449 £679/$649
256GB £569/$549 -

iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone XR: Design & Build

Looking at these two iPhones from the rear means there appears to be minimal difference. Namely the size since they both have a single rear camera and the same combination of glass and aluminium.

However, turn them over to the front and it's instantly clear which is which. The iPhone SE 2020 uses the older and much loved design featuring a physical Home button and a bezel above the screen - it's the same as the iPhone 8, not the original SE.

Read our comparison of the old and new iPhone SE here.

Meanwhile, the XR has Apple's more modern full-screen approach where the display takes up almost the entire front of the phone. The exception being the notch at the top to house things like the front camera and speaker.

iPhone XR colours

This means, importantly, that you must use Face ID to unlock (if you don't want to use a traditional PIN) as well as Apple's navigation gestures. So if you're the kind of iPhone user that wants to keep the Home button and Touch ID then the new SE is for you.

Despite the difference in screen-to-body ratio, the SE is a much more manageable phone overall. It's a lot smaller, thinner and lighter - plus the smaller display (details in the next section) is better for one-handed use.

Here are the dimensions:

  • iPhone SE 2020: 67.3 x 138.4 x 7.3mm, 148g
  • iPhone XR: 75.7 x 150.9 x 8.3mm, 194g

There are some design features that are the same across the two such as the Lightning port and IP67 waterproofing but if colour is a big deal to your purchase then note that the iPhone XR is available in a larger range of options: White, Black, Blue, Yellow, Coral and (PRODUCT)RED (see above).

Meanwhile, the iPhone SE comes in just Black, White and (PRODUCT)RED.

iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone XR: Specs & Features

Despite launching over 18 months apart, there are a few specs that the new SE and XR share. These include the same cameras, wireless charging and dual-SIM. However, there are some major differences which will no doubt help you choose between them.

We've already mentioned the way getting the SE means you can use the Touch ID fingerprint scanner embedded in the Home button and the smaller screen. At 4.7in this could well be one of the last 'small' phones to be made - even the Android makers have moved on from mini or compact versions.

Note that it doesn't have 3D Touch like the original SE.

Those are the two big differences but the iPhone SE 2020 jumps ahead of the iPhone XR with its A13 Bionic processor, which is found inside the iPhone 11. The iPhone XR runs on the older A12 Bionic so won't have the same longevity.

iPhone SE 2020

This difference in chip means the 3rd-generation Neural Engine (compared to 2nd-gen) gets some extra photography features. These include twice the amount of Portrait Lighting effects, improved Smart HDR and QuickTake video.

However, the XR does offer additional features when using the front camera such as Animoji and Memoji, Smart HDR and plus Cinematic video stabilization.

Those are small differences but if photography is important then they might make your decision easier.

It's also worth noting that the SE is available in a 256GB storage capacity where the XR is capped at 128GB. So if you're worried about running out of space for large apps and photos, the SE wins here.

Battery life should be pretty similar, but on paper the XR can go longer with Apple claiming 16 hours of video playback when the SE 2020 can manage 13.

Here is a spec comparison of the iPhone SE 2020 and XR:

  iPhone SE (2020) iPhone XR
iOS iOS 13 iOS 13
Colours White, Black, (PRODUCT)RED White, Black, Blue, Yellow, Coral, (PRODUCT)RED
Display 4.7in Retina HD Display (1334x750, 326ppi) LCD IPS  6.1in Liquid Retina HD Display (1792x828, 326ppi) LCD IPS
Processor Apple A13 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic
Storage 64/128/256GB 64/128GB
Rear camera 12Mp, f/1.8, OIS, 5x digital zoom, Quad-LED flash 12Mp, f/1.8, OIS, 5x digital zoom, Quad-LED flash
Front camera 7Mp FaceTime HD, f2.2, 1080p video 7Mp FaceTime HD, f2.2, 1080p video
Video recording 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps
Biometric security Touch ID (Home button) Face ID
Wireless charging Yes Yes
Dual-SIM Yes Yes
Waterproofing IP67 IP67
Dimensions 67.3 x 138.4 x 7.3mm 75.7 x 150.9 x 8.3mm
Weight 148g 194g
Price From £419/$399 From£629/$599
Buy SIM-free Buy Buy
Buy on contract Buy Buy

Verdict

With quite similar designs and even a few matching specs, choosing between the iPhone SE 2020 and iPhone XR comes down to a few key things.

In its favour, the SE is a lot cheaper (even at 256GB) and has a newer processor. However, the main reason to buy it in terms of hardware is if you're looking for a compact iPhone with a small screen and one that still has Apple's iconic Home button with Touch ID.

Those more open to the modern display and gesture controls of the iPhone XR may well want to splash out, but we'd proceed with a little caution since this model is getting old now and is likely the next in line to get the chop.

You might want to consider the iPhone 11 for a newer model or perhaps wait and see if Apple launches a recplacement later in 2020.

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