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Should You Upgrade to the New iPhone SE (2020)?

iPhone SE in black
Apple

After four long years, Apple has finally released the second-generation iPhone SE. At just $399, it has the iPhone 11’s internals in an iPhone 8’s body, and features the iPhone XR’s camera. Yeah, it’s pretty great—but is it for you?

An iPhone 11 Pro in an iPhone 8 Body

Apple has done an impressive job of stuffing the components of the $999 iPhone 11 Pro into an iPhone 8 body and delivering the results for just $399.

Four new iPhone SEs in black, white, and two in red.
Apple

Before we go any further, though, let’s take a look at all the new features and benefits of the second-generation iPhone SE:

  • A $399 price tag: Even with all the upgrades, Apple managed to keep the cost the same as the original iPhone SE. The new version comes is available in Black, White, or Product RED.
  • A13 Bionic chip: It has the latest A13 Bionic system-on-chip, which is Apple’s fastest yet.
  • 12 MP single camera: Apple claims this is its most advanced single-camera system on an iPhone. It’s on the back of the SE.
  • Portrait mode: Even with a single-camera system, you can still take photos in Portrait mode from both the front and back cameras. As there isn’t a telephoto lens, A13 Bionic’s Neural Engine does the depth mapping. However, this means it will only work on people, not pets or objects.
  • 4.7-inch retina display: Because this is essentially iPhone 8 hardware, you get a 4.7-inch retina HD display with a 1,334-by-750-pixel resolution at 326 PPI. It also supports True Tone and the P3 color gamut.
  • Touch ID: There’s no Face ID sensor, but you do get the trusty, second-generation Touch ID. It’s fast and reliable.
  • Haptic Touch: Apple has removed 3D Touch from all new iPhones in favor of Haptic, and the SE is no exception.
  • Wireless charging: This is a big advantage for a phone at this price point. Thanks to its glass back panel, you can wirelessly charge the new SE on any Qi charging station.
  • Dual SIM: The SE also includes eSIM support. This means you can add an extra cell connection to your iPhone and use it for calls, messages, and data.
  • 64 to 256 GB: Apple has finally stopped skimping on base storage options. You get a respectable 64 GB even on the $399 SE. The 128 GB version costs $449, while the 256 GB version comes in at $549.
  • IP67: The new SE is water-resistant for up to one meter for 30 minutes.

All this hardware comes in the same external shell as the iPhone 8, with the same big bezels at the top and bottom of the screen.

RELATED: Where to Order the New iPhone SE

Should You Upgrade?

After looking at that rap sheet, you might be excited to buy the new iPhone SE. If you’re using an iPhone older than an iPhone 8 and want a comparatively inexpensive upgrade, you can probably buy the iPhone SE and call it a day.

However, if you have a modern iPhone X or XR, we recommend sticking with that. While you would get a slightly faster processor, you’d lose the better screen, newer design, and Face ID.

But perhaps you really miss the iPhone 8’s smaller form factor and touch ID. Maybe you only upgraded to one of the latest models for the faster internal hardware. In either of these cases, the new SE is for you.

Let’s consider some other reasons why you might want to upgrade from an older phone.

Improved Performance

Thanks to the A13 Bionic chip, the CPU in the new SE is 2.4 times faster than the old SE. The graphics are up to four times faster, as well. You won’t have any performance issues on the iPhone SE for years.

The Upgraded Camera

A girl in a green poncho.
Apple

While the new iPhone SE only has a single camera, it’s a pretty good one. The 12 MP sensor comes with an ƒ/1.8 aperture. It’s the same sensor that’s in the iPhone XR and XS. However, paired with the Neural Engine and the new Image Signal Processor in the A13 Bionic chip, it’s even better.

This means you can take stunning pictures and portraits on the new SE. The camera also supports 4K video capture at 24, 30, or 60 FPS with optical image stabilization. If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 6, this is going to be a big improvement.

Smaller Size

The old iPhone on the left and the new SE on the right.
Left: First-generation iPhone SE. Right: The new iPhone SE. Apple

Sadly, the second-generation iPhone SE doesn’t have the same iconic design as the four-inch, first-generation model. However, it’s still nowhere near as big as the iPhone 11 or Android phones, like the OnePlus 8 or Samsung S20.

The new iPhone SE size comparison with iPhone 11.
Apple

If the iPhone 11 is just too big for you, go with the SE. It has the same footprint as the iPhone 8—even cases for the 8 will fit the new SE.

Future-Proofed Internals

The original iPhone SE shipped with iOS 9 back in 2016, and it still receives the latest iOS 13 updates in 2020. The second-generation SE should get prompt iOS updates until 2024, so your phone should get the next four major installments of iOS.

If you buy the iPhone SE, you won’t have to worry about future updates for a couple of years (at least until the next version of the SE ships).

RELATED: The Best New Features in iOS 13, Available Now

The Price

We already mentioned the best reason to upgrade above, but it bears repeating. For just $399, you get a new, modern iPhone with that latest speedy hardware and a great camera. Sure, you won’t get Face ID or an edge-to-edge display, but you can get (or keep) your foot in the door of the Apple ecosystem.

This means access to iMessage, a huge collection of awesome apps and games, and iCloud. If you’re switching from an old Android phone, the iPhone SE is a great option.

A Good Package Deal

iPhone showing game play
Apple

Even though it might feel like Frankenstein’s iPhone to some, the SE is a good package deal for the right person. The features you miss out on, you also miss out on paying for.

The 2018 iPhone XR still costs $200 more than the new SE, and it has a slightly slower processor and worse camera. On the iPhone 11, you get a great camera with a stellar night mode, ultra-wide photos, great battery life, and Face ID, but it costs $300 more.

Once you start doing the math, the choice becomes simple. If you’ve had your iPhone for more than three years (that battery must really be worn down), and you’re ready for a new one that doesn’t cost $999, the iPhone SE is the one for you.

If you want a bigger screen and Face ID, look for deals on the iPhone XR or 11. We also recommend looking at used or refurbished models.


Ready for a new MacBook? Check out why the 2020 MacBook Air is the best new laptop for most consumers.

RELATED: Why You Should Buy the 2020 MacBook Air

Khamosh Pathak Khamosh Pathak
Khamosh Pathak is a freelance technology writer who specializes in tutorials. His work has also been published on iPhoneHacks, Zapier's blog, MakeUseOf, and Guiding Tech. Khamosh has seven years of experience writing how-tos, features and technology guides on the internet.
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