Apple announced the brand new iPhone SE a couple days back and at its $399 starting price, the phone looks like a solid deal. It offers the latest processor Apple makes, a solid camera, and it offers a small screen — 4.7-inches. However, the iPhone XR exists, and it’s priced at $599. So, is that $200 difference worth skipping or choosing the iPhone XR over the iPhone SE or vice-versa? It’s sort of difficult to explain, but let me tell you my opinion by pitting the iPhone SE vs iPhone XR.
Small Displays Can be Good
Lets face it — in 2020, there is a scarcity of small phones, or at least small good phones. Almost no Android smartphone maker offers a small phone anymore, and the iPhone has, since 2 years, started at 5.8-inches, which is not small. So yeah, having a 4.7-inch phone seems like a good idea.
Plus this 4.7-inch screen isn’t a bad display at all. We’ve seen this before — it’s the same display as the iPhone 8, and that was one of the best LCD panels I have ever seen. Apple knows how to calibrate displays really well, and this iPhone SE display will be no different. It has the same pixel density of 326ppi, and yes, it’s not Full HD, but it’s dense enough to not really matter. More importantly, it’s cheap enough to render that argument worthless.
The iPhone XR has a 6.1-inch display which is massive when compared to this screen size. But the thing is, for $200 extra, the XR doesn’t offer anything substantially better than the iPhone SE. It’s still and LCD panel, it’s still 326ppi, and it’s still just as good as the iPhone SE’s display. The only improvement? It’s bezel-less. The downside? It has a notch.
The A13 Bionic is Definitely More Future-proof
I’m gonna be ruthlessly honest about this — the A12 Bionic performs every bit as well as the A13 Bionic does in the real world. Sure, benchmark scores for the A13 are way better, but unless you only use your phone for running benchmarks all day, those are just silly numbers that you shouldn’t really judge a phone by.
The fact is, Apple has reached a point in its SoC development where the chips are so good that every year the company basically adds more headroom for future performance requirement. Nothing you do on your phone will utilise 100% of an A13 Bionic, or an A12 Bionic, or even an A11 Bionic chipset. It just won’t.
However, having the A13 Bionic will show a difference if you’re going to hold on to your phone for around 4-5 years — which is something you should do, by the way. It’s good for your wallet, and it’s great for the environment as well.
With the iPhone XR, you’ll be spending $200 more, but getting a processor from 2018. That’s definitely something to keep in mind.
The Exact Same Camera, But Better
The iPhone SE (iPhone 9) has the same 12MP f/1.8 rear camera as the iPhone XR. It also has the same 7MP f/2.2 front camera. However, since the iPhone SE 2020 comes with the A13 Bionic, it has the new ISP, which grants it access to more photography tricks than the iPhone XR gets.
For one, the iPhone SE 2 has more Portrait Lighting options than the iPhone XR. It also has all the features the XR does in terms of photos and videos, including 4K60 video recording with stereo audio.
The front camera also offers all the shooting modes offered by the iPhone XR. However, strangely enough it doesn’t offer 1080p60 video recording on the front camera — that’s downright weird.
Once again, however, with the iPhone SE you get all the things you would get with the iPhone XR, and some additional features, including Night Mode, and Slofies that you won’t get with the iPhone XR.
Tiny Phone = Tiny Battery
Look, you wanted Apple to make a tiny phone, it did. However, it also stuffed that tiny phone with a tiny battery that sounds laughable on paper. The iPhone SE comes with an 1821mAh battery. In comparison, the iPhone XR comes with a 2942mAh battery. That’s a 38% smaller battery.
Everyone knows that the iPhone XR has an excellent battery life. It easily goes through a day of regular usage. The iPhone SE, with its much smaller battery pack should still perform pretty solidly though. You know why? First off, it has a smaller screen with less pixels to push. More importantly though, the A13 Bionic is up to 40% more power efficient than the A12 Bionic and that means a significantly lower power consumption on the iPhone SE.
I can’t tell for sure whether the iPhone SE will last a day, but it should.
Also, both the iPhone SE (iPhone 9) and the iPhone XR support 18W fast-charging, but neither comes with the charger in the box. They can both also be charged wirelessly using any Qi-compatible wireless charging pad (and hopefully AirPower soon).
iPhone SE (2nd Generation) vs iPhone XR: Specs Comparison
Best Budget iPhone in 2020: iPhone SE
So yeah, at the end of the day, the iPhone SE is a pretty solid winner for the title of the best budget iPhone to buy in 2020. If you were looking to buy an iPhone but you didn’t want to spend a lot of money on one, the iPhone SE is the phone for you. It’s also the iPhone for people who wanted a smaller phone. The iPhone SE fills a lot of blanks for Apple’s smartphone line-up and it does it while still bringing most of the best that Cupertino has to offer.
By the way, if you do decide to buy the iPhone SE, check out our selection of the best iPhone SE cases and covers to protect your investment.