iPhone SE (2020) Long-Term Review: A Conflicting Stand

Apple iPhone SE 2020 Long-Term Review

Hey guys, so today I will be talking about the long-term review of the iPhone SE 2020. I bought it like 3 months ago and have been using it since, alongside other devices in our review pipeline like the OnePlus Nord and the Samsung Galaxy A71. And we know that initially, the $399 price-tag for the phone made a lot of headlines during its announcement. But like I said in my initial review, the iPhone SE 2020 is priced way higher in the Asian market.

Let’s just look at the list of the prices of iPhone SE in different regions. In fact, other than the US and some European countries, its retail cost averages to some $545, which does not make it so cheap as Apple would like you to think.

Country Local Price (64GB) Equivalent USD
Bangladesh BDT 45,000 $529.45
India INR 37,900 $516.66
Nepal NRS 67,500 $575.80
Philippines PHP 26,490 $545.36
UK GBP 419 $557.37

Average: ~$545

Still, I got it as I was eager to know & review what this 2020 Special Edition (SE) iPhone had to offer and also wanted to know how it stood against the other upper-mid-range smartphones in the market.

Vivo V20 SE Ad

iPhone SE 2020 Specifications:

  • Body: 5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29-inches; 148gm; IP67 dust/water resistance
  • Display: 4.7-inches Retina IPS LCD panel; True Tone Display; Wide Color (P3); 625 nits peak brightness; 1400:1 contrast ratio; 326 PPI; Dolby Vision, HDR10
  • Resolution: HD (1334 x 750 pixels); 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Chipset: Apple A13 Bionic (7nm+ Mobile Platform)
  • CPU: Hexa-core (2×2.65 GHz Lightning + 4×1.8 GHz Thunder)
  • GPU: Apple GPU (4-core graphics)
  • RAM: 3GB RAM
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB NVMe internal storage (fixed)
  • Software & UI: iOS 13 (upgradeable)
  • Rear Camera: 12MP, f/1.8 lens
  • Front Camera: 7MP, f/2.2 lens
  • Security: Fingerprint Sensor built into the Home button (Touch ID)
  • Audio: Stereo speakers
  • Connectivity: Dual-SIM (Nano, eSIM), WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (dual-band), Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/GNSS/iBeacon, NFC, Lightning Connector, 4G LTE
  • Sensors: Three-axis gyro, Accelerometer, Proximity, Ambient light
  • Battery: 1821mAh Li-Ion with 18W fast charging; Qi Wireless Charging
  • Colors: Black, White, (PRODUCT)RED
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 67,500 (64GB) | Rs. 76,000 (128GB) | Rs. 90,000 (256GB)

iPhone SE 2020 Review:

Design

  • Glass front/back with aerospace-grade aluminum frame
  • Big bezels on top and bottom (for Touch ID)
  • IP67 protection against splash, water, and dust

Let’s pick things up from the design. Now, what you have to understand is that this phone is not made for someone who likes to have a big device because it is small, it’s compact, and feels great especially for someone with small hands like me.

The aluminum curves give quite a grip too. As for durability, I used this device quite carefully and haven’t come across any scratches. I used it without a case, so it’s quite good that the device is durable enough to handle my usage. Also, its IP67 rated so I haven’t had to worry about the drizzles in Kathmandu this time around. But one thing I’ve noticed is that the display becomes completely unresponsive when the phone is drenched in water.

An uninspiring design

But the usability aside, something that has disappointed me is that this is not a trendy-looking design and I know that most of you would agree with me. It has borrowed the looks from 2017’s iPhone 8, which is uninspiring from a brand like Apple.

I do kinda understand this choice since using the same old design makes the manufacturing process easy for a company as it saves you on engineering man-hours. But, when you are launching a product of a different price category and competing against the midrange Android smartphones, Apple should’ve given us a design overhaul just to make matters a little bit interesting at least.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 - Touch ID

My suggestion? Maybe get rid of the Touch ID and those bulky bezels. Make the display a little bigger with a trendier aspect ratio, while maintaining the same form factor. I wouldn’t have even cared if it had a plastic back, to be honest. With this, I actually don’t know what Apple is going to do in terms of design with the next year’s iPhone SE?

Display

  • 4.7-inches Retina HD IPS LCD panel
  • True Tone Display; Dolby Vision, HDR10

So, with the mere 4.7-inches IPS LCD display with a 16:9 aspect ratio, watching videos was not that great of an experience for me. Even while watching videos on Facebook, 9:16 videos cover up the entire screen which looks a little weird. And the cons for a smaller display does not quite end there. When you are browsing the web, you will have to be very careful not to click the wrong link if they are placed very close to one another.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 - Display

In terms of sheer quality, iPhone SE 2020 has an HD panel but it looks quite good. It’s bright and has good color accuracy, so no complaints on that side. Having said that, I would go for the 90Hz AMOLED panel of the OnePlus Nord any day of the week if I had to choose.

Performance

  • Hexa-core Apple A13 Bionic SoC (7nm+)
  • 3GB of RAM and up to 256GB of NVMe internal storage (fixed)

But you know where the iPhone SE 2020 shines the brightest: the performance department. The A13 Bionic chipset practically beats almost all the phones in that price range and with a good margin too. I have installed so many apps in here, and I’m yet to record even a single instance where I noticed the slightest of lags – under both normal & demanding usage. So, I’m very impressed with its performance.

Gaming

Also, the gaming on this phone is stellar. It’s not a complete package like other Android alternatives with an AMOLED screen & a smoother display but when it comes to pushing the fps in the highest of settings, this is the phone to get. In reality, it’s gaming performance is better (in terms of pushing graphic settings to the max) than the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (Exynos) which is one of the most expensive phones of 2020.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 - Gaming

Under PUBG Mobile, you can push to Extreme frame rates with HDR graphics and still get respectably smooth performance whereas the max you can go on the OnePlus Nord is HD graphics coupled with High frame rates. But it’s a real shame that everything is squeezed in this small display wherein you won’t have a lot of space between controls making it a bit uneasy during your gaming session.

Sweet-sweet iOS

Yet, the cherry on top is the iOS 13 that the iPhone SE 2020 runs on. If you are someone who uses apps like Facebook Page Manager, Ads Manager, or Instagram, they run better on an iPhone. Apple is also famous for its years of software updates on its products. Even the original iPhone SE from 2016 is running the latest iOS 13.7 updates that came out just a couple of days ago.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 - iOS

But, with an outdated design and a small display, I think with every iteration of an update, the new features will be limited with the iPhone SE. Like, with the upcoming iOS 14, you definitely won’t be able to enjoy the picture in picture feature or those cool widgets on a screen this small. While we are talking of performance, the stereo speakers here have colored me impressed for a long time now. They are definitely one of the best things about this device.

Cameras

  • Rear: 12MP f/1.8 lens
  • Front: 7MP f/2.2 lens

Okay, now let’s get to how the cameras have held up! As we know, it’s got a single 13MP camera at the back and a 7MP shooter at the front. And the best thing about the rear camera is the fact that it produces such natural colors.

Normal Images

I have especially loved the shooting images for flowers from this phone because most of the other phones like the OnePlus Nord or the Galaxy A71 bring out a bit saturated colors.

Other than colors, the images are fairly sharp and have a good dynamic range.

Also, I love the fact that the autofocus on this device works incredibly well.

Nighttime Images

However, the night time images are not that impressive when comparing it with the Nord as it brings out better exposure and detailed pictures.

What’s worse is that there’s no dedicated Night Mode on the iPhone SE either.

Selfie Images

And despite receiving a few updates, Apple hasn’t improved the selfie department.

The phone brings out a little weird brown tone on my face which does not look so good.

Portrait Images

Portraits are okay though.

Here, the subjects look a bit dark but other than that, things are pretty balanced and edge detection is okay too.

Videography

But the best thing about the iPhone SE cameras is the videos as you can get stabilized and good quality recordings in 4k/60fps too. Having shot a lot of videos from the SE, I can definitely vouch for it being one of the best cameras for vlogging in the upper mid-range price category.

Overall, I feel that the rear camera on the iPhone SE is quite reliable and is consistent for photos as well as videos. The shutter speed is excellent, and images generally don’t come out blurry.

Battery

  • 1821mAh with 18W fast charging
  • Qi Wireless Charging

What’s next, yes the battery. As expected, it’s pretty bad for a heavy user like me. And the caveat here is once again – the design. Since Apple has used the same chassis as the iPhone 8, it can’t fit in a bigger battery in here.

Hence, the iPhone SE 2020 is probably one of the least enduring phones I have reviewed in a while. A few sessions of PUBG, an hour of YouTube and social media and that’s all the screen-on-time I got. On heavy usage, I’ve had to charge the phone even in mid-day. But unlike Samsung phones, it does have a good standby time though. Yet, that, by no means covers up for the poor endurance.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 - Charger

Similarly, you get a 5-watt charger inside the box. I am using my iPad’s 12W charger right now, so I didn’t have to buy a separate fast charger. But, if you are buying an iPhone SE right now, you gotta add another 30-40 dollars to the already excessive price tag, which is quite ridiculous if you ask me.

Conclusion

So, that was all for my long-term experience with the iPhone SE 2020 – having used the device for 3 months now, my impression remains unchanged from my initial review.

iPhone SE 2020 is a stellar phone for $399 in the western market. But, for buyers in regions like Asia, it is priced exorbitantly and there are so many Android alternatives to choose from too. Still, I do understand the sentiments of Apple fans and someone who has been using Apple products.

At the end of the day, I strongly feel like you should give the OnePlus Nord a try for those who’re looking for a good iPhone SE alternative. Here in Nepal, it is like Rs. 17,000 cheaper compared to Apple’s 2nd gen iPhone SE. Or, if you want a more powerful phone, there’s the OnePlus 8 with Snapdragon 865, a gorgeous display, and excellent battery life for a little extra cash.

  • Watch our view review of the iPhone SE (2020).

iPhone SE 2020 Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Durable, compact design and a pocketable form-factor
  • Surprisingly vibrant display thanks to Dolby Vision & HDR10
  • Top-notch performance because of the A13 Bionic
  • The swiftness of iOS, combined with years of software updates
  • Excellent videos and good photos (in a well-lit environment)

Cons:

  • The phone’s size may be unacceptably compact for many
  • Small display so the overall viewing experience isn’t great
  • Not the most dynamic of camera arrangements
  • Terrible battery life & only 5W charger provided inside the box
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
7.5
Display
7
Performance
10
Back Camera
7.5
Front Camera
6.5
Software & UI
9
Battery
6
Value for Money
6.5