Here are the best alternatives to the new iPhone SE (2020)

Best alternatives for iPhone SE (2020)
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The new iPhone SE (2020) is a power move of sorts from Apple. One of the most powerful mobile processors that currently exists, in an iPhone that starts at $399; who’d have thought? Not me. Though multiple reports have it that the A13 Bionic on the iPhone SE is slightly underclocked compared to the ones on the 11 series, it is still able to hold its ground against some of the most expensive Android phones. Yes, it doesn’t conform to the design choices of modern days and neither does the iPhone SE 2 come with one of those fancy smooth displays or a multi-lens camera system. As a result, the primary selling point of this phone is its chipset and the eventual system updates that’ll follow. And frankly, that makes sense – for the American buyers. For people elsewhere, there are many great alternatives to the new iPhone SE.

Uneven prices!

You see, the second-gen iPhone SE (like every other iPhone) is comparatively more expensive in other regions of the world. For instance, the base 64GB iPhone SE 2020 goes for $399 in the US. While in India, the starting price is INR 42,500 which is about $550. See how that changes its appeal altogether? Let’s take a look at the official price of the new iPhone SE (64GB) in some other countries.

Country Price (local currency) Price (USD equivalent)
US $399
Canada C$599 $425
Brazil R$3,699 $661
UK £419 $518
China ¥3,299 $465
India ₹42,500 $557
Australia A$749 $478

Reviewer-ship bias?

So, while you may have come across rave reviews of the phone from many established reviewers, you gotta put the price factor into consideration. With such a big cost difference, are you better off with a similarly priced Android phone instead? If you’re open to choices, we actually think so.

Therefore, in this article, we’re taking a look at the 7 best alternatives to the new iPhone SE. But mind you, the devices in this list come bearing different prices in different countries and some are even a little costlier than the iPhone SE. Moreover, they may or may not be officially available in certain regions of the world and we’ve considered the Asian (especially South Asian) market in terms of their accessibility. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at our pick of the best alternatives to the iPhone SE (2020).

Best iPhone SE (2020) alternatives

#7. Samsung Galaxy Note10 Lite

Kicking off the list at the number 7 position, we have Samsung’s Galaxy Note10 Lite. Now, I know it is nowhere near as powerful as the iPhone SE or any other phones in this list for that matter, but it does have one uniquely redeeming quality. The S-pen, which has been one of the most captivating features of the company’s ultra-premium “Note” lineup of smartphones, finally made its debut on an inexpensive Samsung phone.

While most of the regular flagship phones have a similar user experience despite the variations in their designs or some other aspects, the S-pen brings something new to the table. You can take notes, create doodles, launch apps, and more with the help of the sleek S-pen. It really does extend the phone’s productivity with its array of possibilities, and you can quote me on that. Though the S-pen on the Note10 Lite doesn’t have a gyro sensor in contrast to the one on the standard Note10/10+, the mere presence of one is a plus point.

Beyond the S-Pen!

Besides the S-pen, it has an equally impressive camera setup similar to that of the Note10 series. The trio of 12MP lenses on the Note10 Lite gives out impressive results, despite not giving in to the megapixel game. The vibrant 6.7-inches AMOLED display is another highlight of the phone. Well, it’s a standard 60Hz panel, but I’m certain this phone won’t be on the gaming enthusiasts’ radar anyway. Moreover, Samsung has opted for an optical in-display fingerprint scanner instead of ultrasonic found in the company’s high-end smartphones.

And yeah, it’s obviously not the fastest in the market. As I mentioned earlier, the Exynos 9810 is a 2-year old SoC that just can’t keep up with Qualcomm’s latest and greatest. Having said that, though incomparable, the performance on the Note10 Lite is just fine for everyday usage and even a bit of graphics-intensive gaming. The battery on this thing is equally impressive, which charges pretty quickly. Oh, and did I mention? It has a 3.5mm headphone jack as well!

#6. Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite

Two Samsung phones in a row; yup. Like the one above, the S10 Lite is the company’s similar take on a cheaper flagship device. In most parts, the S10 Lite even outclasses every other device under the S10 series. So much for the “lite” flagship thing, eh? With its big battery, an immersive display, decent performance, and equally decent camera setup, the phone is a testimonial to Samsung’s emerging competence at coming up with impressive yet low-cost smartphones.

samsung galaxy s10 lite

Starting with performance, the S10 Lite is powered by last year’s Snapdragon 855 chipset. And thank god almighty that there is no Exynos variant of the device. Finally, a Qualcomm-powered flagship from Samsung that isn’t specific to the US or China. As a result, the S10 Lite performs incredibly well despite the intensity of the task at hand. Be it launching a heavy app/game or concurrently keeping them in memory for multitasking purposes.

Classic Samsung cameras!

Jumping to the cameras, you get a triple-lens camera setup with a 48MP primary lens, a 12MP ultrawide lens, and with a disappointing surprise – a 5MP macro lens, all arranged in a squarish module. It seems like an intentional decision from Samsung to kind of disparage the cameras on the S10 Lite. As far as I can recall, no Samsung flagship phone to date has had a macro sensor. More importantly, no flagship should have one. Anyway, the images from the S10 Lite are classic Samsung, including the ones from the 32MP front-facing camera placed inside the small punch-hole cutout. By that I mean, punchy colors, a good amount of details and stuff.

Additionally, the phone also has a large 4500mAh battery which also supports 45W USB-PD charging, though you get a 25W charger inside the box. So, hey, how come Samsung was able to make this phone so cheap? The first thing I can tell is the build material used. Unlike the premium glass material found in actual flagship devices, the S10 Lite has a polycarbonate “glasstic” body, which doesn’t support wireless charging on top of being a relatively inferior material. What’s more? The camera setup could’ve been better and the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is replaced with an optical one as well.

#5. OnePlus 7T

Next up, we have the OnePlus 7T. Arguably revered as the best phone under the OnePlus 7 series, the 7T even came top on Android Authority’s recent public poll about which is the better of the three; OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, or 7T. God, I love democracy! Because of the recent price drop following the launch of the new OnePlus 8 series, the 7T is now a more attractive purchase than ever. Besides the more powerful chipset and a few upgrades here and there, the OnePlus 7T is eerily similar to the new & expensive OnePlus 8.

Let’s start with the performance. Snapdragon 855+ on the 7T is the flagship Qualcomm SoC for 2019 with some improvements in the graphics department. Though it expectedly falls behind the 865, the difference between the two is just about 20% if the benchmark scores are to be believed. And just how much of that translates to real-life usage you ask? I’d say not enough; not enough for me to suggest someone with an 855+ phone upgrade to one with 865. The only major upper hand on the new Snapdragon 865 is its dedicated 5G modem. And as it stands, many countries in the world lack a proper 5G infrastructure for people to take advantage of the modem.

The best at almost everything

Moving to the display, the OnePlus 7T has a 6.55-inches AMOLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate and a small teardrop notch to house the front-facing camera. I know I have repeatedly argued how non-premium the notch looks for a modern smartphone, but considering just how well built the 7T is, I can let it slide. The color-rich, smooth, visually pleasing, and HDR10+ compliant display on the phone is absolutely mesmerizing.

Getting to the cameras, you get a triple-lens system at the back mashed inside a circular blob with a big bump. But that won’t be a problem since you can easily hide it with a decent case. The photographic prowess of the phone is quite good though it’s still not flagship-level good. You get a 48MP primary lens, a 12MP telephoto lens, and a 16MP ultrawide lens, which also doubles as a macro shooter. With all this, the OnePlus 7T is one of the best value-oriented phones you can buy right now.

#4. iQOO 3

Next on the list is iQOO 3. “iQOO 3? Wait, what noise are you making? What is that?” You might be wondering what an “iQOO” is and I understand because it’s not a household name when it comes to smartphones. It is a sub-brand from Vivo, which recently got an independent status as it was spun off into a separate brand for the Indian market. iQOO is mostly known for its gaming smartphones with high-end specs in the Chinese market and now, it looks to conquer the second-biggest smartphone consumer in the world. Starting its independent venture, the company launched iQOO 3 in India back in February and now has permanently cut its price by 10% making the phone even more alluring.

iQOO 3 launch with SD 865

At heart, the iQOO 3 is still a gaming phone though it may not look like it. It is powered by the latest Snapdragon 865 chipset, and though we know this SoC has a 5G modem, the phone is available in both 4G LTE and 5G versions, each with different memory configurations as well. So, the performance is top-notch as you’d expect. iQOO 3 is also the first phone to be powered by the new UFS 3.1 storage protocol which brings faster write speed and minimized power consumption.

Gaming-first phone

One thing that could be a little disheartening is that its 6.44-inches Super AMOLED display is a regular 60Hz panel instead of a smoother 90Hz, 120Hz, or even 144Hz. However, this issue is partially taken care of with its 180Hz touch sampling rate. And you know it is equally important, especially when you’re gaming. And talking about gaming, iQOO 3 has two “Monster Touch” pressure-sensitive buttons on the right side for a more immersive gaming experience. But despite being a gaming-first phone, it doesn’t skimp on other aspects either.

The cameras, for instance. It has a 48MP quad-camera setup at the back and a 16MP selfie shooter inside a small punch-hole cutout on the top right corner of the display. Adding to the fascinations is its 4400mAh battery that the company claims can juice up to 50% in 15 minutes with its 55W Super FlashCharge technology. Best-in-class processor, decent camera setup, great battery; all for less than what the mainstream flagship phones cost is an absolute steal.

#3. Realme X50 Pro 5G

Like iQOO, Realme is also a sub-brand of another Chinese smartphone manufacturer OPPO, which got its independent license back in 2018. Mostly known for its mid-range phones with trendy designs, Realme really came into the global spotlight with the Realme X2 Pro. Launched in October 2019, the phone was quickly able to grab the “flagship killer” crown. And now, the Realme X50 Pro from the company is another attempt in the flagship arena. It comes with the Snapdragon 865 chipset, a quad-camera setup, an insane 65W charging, and more.

realme x50 pro 5G design

As we’ve discussed multiple times throughout this article, the Snapdragon 865 comes with an external 5G modem. But what’s special about the X50 Pro is that it is India’s first 5G smartphone. That’s a pretty important title to have acquired. Moving on, the phone sports an equally impressive 6.4-inches Super AMOLED display with 100% DCI-P3 coverage & HDR10+ support which equates to a high contrast & color-accurate panel. Furthermore, it also follows the trend of 90Hz refresh and 180Hz touch sampling rate.

A bit let-down by the cameras

While I’m praising the display, I can’t help but be let down with the pill-shaped cutout for the two front cameras. For me, it’s very distracting and looks kinda cheap at this point. Talking about the cameras, this flagship killer bears the age-old issue with a phone of its kind – an unspectacular camera performance. Though the 64MP quad-camera setup sounds excellent on paper, the reality is a little disappointing. The phone does produce reasonable quality images under good lighting conditions but when that’s not the case, you start feeling like the Realme X50 Pro could’ve done just a little more. While there’s certainly room for improvement via future updates, a lack of polished software from a relatively new company doesn’t ring a very confident bell.

Nevertheless, the battery, yes, the battery performance is something that will blow you away. Powering the X50 Pro is a 4200mAh cell that has 65W SuperDart charging at its helm. With this, the phone shares the fastest smartphone charging tech with its parent company OPPO’s Reno Ace that came with 65W SuperVOOC Flash Charge 2.0. So, yeah, the Realme X50 Pro 5G checks most of the boxes for an excellent smartphone. That too at a starting price less than that of the second-gen iPhone SE, in the Indian market at least.

#2. Xiaomi Mi 10

In the second spot on our list is Xiaomi’s new Mi 10. Admittedly, it is a little expensive compared to other phones on the list. However, its incredible build quality and some absolute flagship-worthy features for the price truly makes for a great value smartphone. Featuring an elegantly curved display and a punch-hole cutout display, the Xiaomi Mi 10 exudes confidence in its design choice and is an incredible step up from its predecessor.

xiaomi mi 10 launched price specs

Getting to the core performance itself, the phone is powered by Snapdragon 865 and comes with support for dual 5G connectivity; both SA and NSA mode. At a time when 5G is getting so much traction (to a point where it seems almost inefficiently unnecessary), no way was Xiaomi going to sit it out. Xiaomi is quite big in its home country China, which is also en route to having the largest 5G network in the world. It looks like a pretty easy choice to make, honestly. Anyways, the Snapdragon 865 is coupled with either 8 or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage.

An excellent display!

Another thing that’s praiseworthy on the Mi 10 is its display. You get a tall 6.67-inches AMOLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate and 1120 nits of peak brightness. Earlier, I used an adjective “elegant” to describe the phone’s curved edges. As smartphone manufacturers are indirectly being imposed into adopting curvatures on the screen, especially on their flagship devices (thanks, Samsung), accidental touches have become an unwelcome “feature” on such devices. Here, Xiaomi has implemented a software-based function to avoid such hindrances altogether.

A 108MP camera finally makes a cameo on our list with the Mi 10. Accompanying it are macro, depth, and an ultra-wide sensor, though I was a little surprised to see the lack of a telephoto lens. The 108MP lens shoots 27MP images natively, but you can crank it up to the max for those fine details. Finally, the phone has a big 4780mAh battery and supports 30W wired & wireless charging. To note, this is the only phone on this list to bear wireless charging and a damn fast one at that.

#1. OnePlus 8

At last, we’ve reached the end of our list, and sitting atop the throne is the new OnePlus 8. It’s no secret that the company’s phones have been gradually getting more expensive with each iteration. And with the OnePlus 8 series, it’s finally happened; the brand once touted as a flagship killer has come full circle and become a flagship itself. Though the vanilla OnePlus 8 receives the short end of the straw with its questionable camera setup and a punch-hole camera instead of a pop-up one, it is still one of the best phones for its price. Especially with its India-only starting price of ₹41,999 (about $550), the OnePlus 8 is an excellent alternative to the iPhone SE (2020).

oneplus 8 interstellar glow

Opposed to how the iPhone SE is getting great international reviews, the OnePlus 8 series is being hailed as a betrayal to the fanbase altogether. That’s exclusive to the price. However, since the Indian market is an exception, the story is reciprocated there. The company is synonymous with speed, and OnePlus 8 delivers it. The latest Snapdragon 865 SoC powers the phone. In terms of memory, you get either 8 or 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM. That’s a little surprising as OnePlus could’ve easily gone with the latest LPDDR5 technology instead. It seems like the company had a really hard time rationally differentiating the 8 and 8 Pro.

Conforming to the flagship!

Also, the OnePlus 8 now borrows that slightly extensively curved display. It looks cool but definitely brings some troubles of its own. However, OnePlus says that it’s fixed the issues of accidental touches with the OxygenOS 10.5.5 update; so that’s great news. The 6.55-inches AMOLED panel is glorious to look at and interact with as well, thanks to the 90Hz refresh rate. Don’t believe me? DisplayMate even gave an A+ rating to the display on the OnePlus 8 series; which just goes on to show how magnificent it is.

Heading to the cameras, I found the lens choice, in particular, to be a little odd. That’s because OnePlus skipped telephoto for a dedicated macro lens. It doesn’t make sense to me; but looking past that, the images from the OnePlus 8 are on-par with other flagship devices. Therefore, because of its excellent build quality, performance, display, and more, the OnePlus 8 is one of the best substitutes for the new iPhone SE – in the Indian market, to be precise.

Best iPhone SE (2020) alternatives – Summary

Rank Smartphone Best Price Reason
1 OnePlus 8 ₹41,999 (~$554) Best overall performance
2 Xiaomi Mi 10 ¥3,999 (~$565) Excellent build quality & performance
3 Realme X50 Pro 5G ₹37,999 (~$501) Great performance & a diverse camera setup
4 iQOO 3 ₹34,990 (~$461) Excellent gaming device among other features
5 OnePlus 7T ₹34,999 (~$461) Great value for money
6 Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite ₹42,142 (~$555) Flagship Samsung experience on discounted price
7 Samsung Galaxy Note10 Lite NPR 59,999 (~$492) Increased productivity with the S-pen

Final words

As you see, there are a lot of great Android alternatives to the iPhone SE (2020). It is certainly a great deal for American buyers, especially those who are into the Apple ecosystem. But even if you think it’s a good deal, I strongly believe shouldn’t make a switch if you already have a good-enough Android phone.