While Apple's top-of-line iPhones have trended consistently upwards in technological advancement, size and price, there's remained a staunch group of users who long for the good old days of smaller phones and Touch ID.
Starting at $399, the 2020 iPhone SE brings back the look of the iPhone 8 — the bezels are back, Touch ID is back, the headphone jack is still gone. Also back on the menu is a smaller form-factor — while the new SE is not as small as the original SE, but it is noticeably smaller than the iPhone 11.
So is the SE a phone worth buying in 2020? Here's what reviewers have to say.
At The Verge, Dieter Bohn is impressed, noting that the only real functionality you'll be giving up with the SE is killer low-light photography:
The iPhone SE shines a bright, clarifying light on the entire smartphone industry, putting even Apple's own top-end phones in sharp relief. What are you paying for when you spend $800 or $1,000 or even more for a phone? The list turns out to be more about niceties than necessities. As I write this, I have an iPhone 11 Pro, Galaxy S20, OnePlus 8 Pro, and Pixel 4 XL within arm's reach. Each has a multicamera system, an advanced biometric identification system, and a big, nearly bezel-less OLED display… Is all of that worth the cost? Sure, for a lot of people. Is any of it necessary? Other than low-light photography, there's virtually nothing that I do on those $1,000 phones that I can't do equally well on the iPhone SE.
[Read more at The Verge]
The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern also finds some disappointment with the camera relative to more expensive models, sees no reason to spend more on an iPhone in the near-term:
The SE makes you wonder what good reason there is to pay $1,000—or even $699—for an iPhone at all. In the next big iPhone release, Apple will try to sell frequent upgraders on 5G connectivity, according to reports, but 5G won't be mainstream for a long time. Yep, time is on your side, SE buyers.
[Read more at Wall Street Journal]
CNBC's Todd Haselton agrees that the phone is a killer deal, and notes you won't be sacrificing speed or power:
The iPhone SE is capable of running the same powerful games and apps as Apple's most expensive iPhones, and it will be supported by Apple's new software many years into the future. I played a few games, including the new "Beyond Blue" game in Apple Arcade, and Sky: Children of Light. They run just as well as they do on my $1,400 iPhone 11 Pro Max, just on a smaller screen. Given Apple's history of supporting older iPhone models, you can expect the new iPhone SE to last you at least three years before it starts feeling outdated
[Read more at CNBC]
One other shortcoming — despite the smaller screen, the SE's battery life sputters a bit:
A smaller phone body also means a smaller battery. This iPhone SE has essentially the same size battery as the iPhone 8; thanks to a much more efficient processor, the SE's battery should perform better than the iPhone 8's. And yet, relative to larger iPhones—the "Pro" or "Max" models, the iPhone XR, my iPhone 11—the iPhone SE's battery life is middling… Streaming an hour-long yoga video on YouTube, which would reduce battery life by about 15 percent, meant I'd likely have to plug the phone in again before the day's end. Streaming the same video on iPhone 11 drained the battery five percent.
[Read more at WIRED]
But on the plus side, going back to Touch ID is a blast, writes CNET's Patrick Holland:
Having used Face ID for the past couple years, it's a strange and familiar feeling to set up and use Touch ID. It's like going from an automatic transmission back to a stick shift. But in the right car, stick shift can be a blast. I forgot how much I missed the home button and how it makes interactions and navigation less fussy than swipes and holds. I tap and hold to pay for purchases instead of angling my phone to get Face ID verification. A speedy double-tap shows recent apps. Though Face ID has its own benefits, the home button is still as satisfying to use as it was back in the day.
[Read more at CNET]
Engadget's Chris Velazco wouldn't buy it personally, but absolutely recommends it:
It is the best budget smartphone out there… It goes without saying that this very specific version of the iPhone won't make sense for some people, and that includes me. For fans of small phones, though, or for anyone who wants a phone that's as practical as it is powerful, the iPhone SE is as good as it gets.
[Read more at Engadget]
And at CNN, Jacob Krol says you'll be getting the full iPhone experience for an incredible price:
Fair to say, there is a lot to the second-generation iPhone SE and, at $399, it's delivering unprecedented value for a midrange phone. And that's the biggest thing about this smartphone: No matter what feature you're using, it inherently feels like an iPhone in every way.
[Read more at CNN]