Apple announced its latest iPhone SE for 2020 Wednesday, with the aim to court budget-minded phone users who may not be able to splurge on $1,000 handsets like the iPhone 11 Pro or Galaxy S20. As the sequel to 2016’s sleeper-hit iPhone of the same name, the iPhone SE starts at $399, £419 or AU$749. And with a 4.7-inch screen, it’s notably smaller than both Apple’s current flagship lineup and the iPhone XR.

With a four-year gap between the new iPhone SE and the older one, Apple went to town with the upgrades. That includes wireless charging, better camera specs and water resistance. (Unfortunately, for wired headphone users, the new iPhone SE doesn’t have a headphone jack.)

If you’re looking for a new iPhone but want to save as much money as possible, the iPhone SE is your best bet — you’ll save $300 outright compared to the price of the iPhone 11 (which costs $699, £729 or AU$1,199). But the iPhone 11 does have some additional features that, if you can afford it, are useful. If you’re weighing between the two phones though, here’s a walk-through of what you get with that extra $300.

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The new iPhone SE (left) with the iPhone 11 lineup.


Apple

Size and design: iPhone SE is small and compact

The most obvious difference between the two phones is that the iPhone 11 is larger. The iPhone 11 has a 6.1-inch screen while the iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch display. While you get more screen real estate for your apps and watching videos with the former, the iPhone SE will draw users for its comfortable portability and compact grip. 

Both iPhones have LCD displays, but the iPhone 11 has a “Liquid Retina HD display” while the iPhone SE has “Retina HD.” These are branding terms that Apple uses to differentiate its display technology; all you have to know, though, is that the iPhone 11’s screen is sharper, although they both have the same number of pixels-per-inch or pixel density.

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Sales of the new iPhone SE in red will support coronavirus relief.


Apple

Some users will also like the iPhone SE’s home button. Now that Apple is discontinuing the iPhone 8, the iPhone SE will be the only iPhone Apple will sell with a physical home button. In addition to being intuitive to use, it also means you don’t have to use swipe gestures to return to the homescreen or call up recent apps. The home button will also house the device’s fingerprint reader for unlocking the phone and authorizing digital payments (what Apple calls Touch ID). The iPhone 11, however, uses facial mapping sensors on the front-facing camera for biometric security (aka: Face ID).

The devices are both IP certified for water protection. But because the iPhone 11 is rated IP68 compared to the iPhone SE’s IP67 rating, it means that the iPhone 11 is a tad more durable against submersion (as in, it’s certified to withstand longer or deeper immersion in water). On paper, an IP67 level of certification means the iPhone SE can survive in up to a meter of water (3.3 feet) for about 30 minutes.

Lastly, the iPhone SE only comes in black, white and red. The iPhone 11 comes in those three colors, too, but if you want more options, you can also get it in pastel yellow, green and purple.

Camera: iPhone 11 has the upper hand

If you’re not necessarily a camera power-user, the iPhone SE’s single 12-megapixel rear camera should suffice for posting images on Instagram and casual video recording. But if you care about photography or want to have more tools at your disposal, the iPhone 11 has notably better camera setup than the iPhone SE.

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The iPhone 11 has two rear cameras.


Angela Lang/CNET

The iPhone 11, for instance, has a second wide-angle camera. That means you can take sweeping landscape photos or creative, more dramatic pictures at close distances. And though both iPhones have 5x digital zoom that uses software to render closeup images, only the iPhone 11 has the hardware to carry out 2x optical zoom, that doesn’t degrade image quality. The iPhone 11 also has Apple’s low-light camera mode, Night Mode. Night Mode reduces things like digital artifacts, graininess and motion blur to capture and brighten up images taken in dim lighting.

As for the front-facing camera, the iPhone 11 doesn’t just have a better selfie camera because it has more megapixels (12 megapixels compared to the iPhone SE’s 7 megapixels). It can capture 4K video (compared to the iPhone SE’s 1080p video) and record slow-motion video, too.

Processor and battery: Both have A13 Bionic

As its main budget phone, Apple could have outfitted the iPhone SE with an older processor. But the device is equipped with the latest proprietary A13 Bionic chip, the same one that’s inside the iPhone 11. That means we should be able to observe similar processing performance speeds, but we won’t know for sure until we have the iPhone SE in our hands and can run benchmark tests. 

Apple's A13 processor in the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max

Apple’s A13 processor.


Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

For what it’s worth, when we ran Geekbench 5 and 3DMark’s Slingshot Unlimited on the iPhone 11 last year, it performed comparably — and at times better than — the Galaxy S20, Pixel 4 and the OnePlus 8 Pro. But again, we don’t know about the iPhone SE’s performance yet.

As always, Apple doesn’t disclose the iPhone SE’s battery capacity. According to its numbers though, the iPhone SE’s battery doesn’t last as long as the iPhone 11’s. When it announced the iPhone 11, Apple claimed that it lasts up to “one hour longer” than the iPhone XR and cited 10 hours of streaming video playback. Unofficial teardowns of the handset also revealed a 3,110-mAh battery. This time around, Apple said the iPhone SE has the same battery life as the iPhone 8, and listed 8 hours of streaming video playback. Though we don’t yet know the specs for the iPhone SE, the iPhone 8 had a 1,821-mAh battery according to third-party teardowns.

iPhone SE (2020) vs. iPhone 11

Apple iPhone SE (2020) iPhone 11
Display size, resolution 4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334×750 pixels 6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina; 1,792×828 pixels
Pixel density 326ppi 326ppi
Dimensions (inches) 5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in. 5.94×2.98×0.33 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm 150.9×75.7×8.3mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 5.22 oz.; 148g 6.84 oz.; 194g
Mobile software iOS 13 iOS 13
Camera 12-megapixel 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)
Front-facing camera 7-megapixel 12-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K
Processor Apple A13 Bionic Apple A13 Bionic
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM Not disclosed Not disclosed
Expandable storage No No
Battery Not disclosed Not disclosed
Fingerprint sensor Home button No
Connector Lightning Lightning
Headphone jack No No
Special features Water resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging
Price off-contract (USD) $399 (64GB), $449 (128GB), $549 (256GB) $699 (64GB), $749 (128GB), $849 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB) £729 (64GB), £779 (128GB), £879 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$749 (64GB), AU$829 (128GB), AU$999 (256GB) AU$1,199 (64GB), AU$1,279 (128GB), AU$1,449 (256GB)


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