2020 iPhone SE Review Roundup: A Small Wonder

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 22 Apr 2020

2020 iPhone SE Colors

Ahead of the release of the 2020 iPhone SE on April 24, the first set of reviews of the device are out. All of them praise the device for its small size and the excellent value for money that it offers. Check out our review roundup of the 2020 iPhone SE to see what other publications have to say about it.


Matthew Panzarino rightfully points out from his own experience that typing on a 4-inch display is going to be something that most people are now going to find frustrating. The 4.7-inch display on the 2020 iPhone SE, thus, makes a lot of sense and is perhaps the lower limit for most people. Another thing he points out is that if you are coming to the 2020 iPhone SE from an older iPhone featuring a physical home button, you are going to be okay. However, if you were using an iPhone X or anything newer that uses swipe gestures, the iPhone SE is going to feel like a major downgrade.

Pushing the home button is so awkward. The insane durability and utility of the swipe-able interface presented in the iPhone X jumps out hard here. Those swipe gestures are so natural and organic now that breaking them is no easy feat. If you are coming from a current Touch ID device you’ll be ok, but it will be a big adjustment from, say, an iPhone X.

The camera is perhaps the most interesting part of the iPhone SE since it the hardware is from the iPhone XR while the ISP is the one that’s found on the iPhone 11/Pro lineup. Thanks to the improved ISP, the iPhone SE takes better photos than the iPhone XR.

This proves out, as in my tests, the iPhone SE camera was much improved over the iPhone 8, and offered more portrait modes than the iPhone XR. The additional modes focus on cutting subjects out of the background. Their inclusion is tied directly to the ability of the Neural Engine (a portion of the A13’s chip dedicated to high frequency low-lift machine learning tasks) to execute segmentation masking and semantic rendering.

For those considering stepping downward in their choice of device, it’s worth noting here explicitly that nearly across the board the image quality was just pounded by the iPhone 11 Pro. Which is, on one level, expected. The iPhone 11 Pro is a much more expensive device.


The Verge

2020 iPhone SE

The design is not going to win the 2020 iPhone SE any awards but it does have excellent build quality.

The bezels are a bother, but the build quality is not. Apple’s long history with this phone design means that it’s rock-solid. There’s no flex, no gross seams, no gaps. The 4.7-inch LCD display is as good as ever, with True Tone to help color-match your surroundings.

As with the iPhone 7 and 8, the home button isn’t a physical button, but simply a spot on the bottom that gives you a tactile tapback when you press it. I’m happy to say that Apple hasn’t skimped on the haptics on this phone: they feel great.

If you are concerned about the battery life, well…you might have a reason to worry depending on your usage.

Speaking of longevity, battery life on the iPhone SE is all right but not stellar. I’m getting through a full day, averaging between four and five hours of screen-on time. I was hoping the A13 Bionic processor would unlock the longer battery life we got with the iPhone 11, but it seems that was mostly about battery size, and the SE has the same size battery as the iPhone 8.

The iPhone SE’s camera performance is great but the lack of Night mode in the camera app is a shame.

This is all great, but the disappointment comes with low-light photography. The iPhone SE simply doesn’t do as well there as it does in other situations. There’s no night mode, and in dim light, there’s just too much noise. It’s almost like the whole camera stack panics and overcorrects, especially on portraits.

The video recording capabilities, however, are in a league of its own.

But before you put a crown on the Pixel 3A or the upcoming Pixel 4A, I want to point you to the iPhone SE’s video capabilities. It absolutely punches above its weight class, with 4K stabilized both optically and with software, extended dynamic range, and the option to go as high as 4K at 60fps. If you can get better video performance out of any phone that costs less than $500, I’d like to see it.


Some iPhone SE video reviews that are also worth checking out:

What are your thoughts on the 2020 iPhone SE after reading the reviews? Do you plan on buying one?