What you don't get with the new iPhone SE

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2020
Apple's new low-cost 2020 iPhone SE second generation is a remarkably good value for all it gives you. But, to get to that $399 price point, you forego many key features that distinguish the iPhone range.

The iPhone SE (right) is exceptional, but it doesn't have the Face ID, cameras, or screen quality of other models
The iPhone SE (right) is exceptional, but it doesn't have the Face ID, cameras, or screen quality of other models


The new iPhone SE has one particular killer feature that you will come back to again and again as you compare it to other iPhones. It's cheaper. If you're buying brand new and direct from Apple, the iPhone SE is $200 less than its cheapest rival.

That is such a significant difference that it must make the iPhone SE the only iPhone some people can afford. Even if you can comfortably stretch to a more expensive iPhone, too, then this price difference is enough that it's got to make you weigh up what is really worth your money and what is not.

For although the new iPhone SE is an extremely attractive combination of features as well as price, it does not have every feature you may be used to in an iPhone. And these missing features could either make you consider a more expensive model, or they could contribute to your deciding that you'll stay with whichever iPhone you already have.




You don't get TrueDepth and Face ID

Touch ID is as impressive today on the new iPhone SE as it was when it debuted on the iPhone 5S back in 2013. It's fast, secure, and as well as quickly unlocking your phone, it lets you quickly pay for goods or services with Apple Pay.

This technology is seven years old, though, and as of the launch of the iPhone SE, precisely one iPhone in the entire range has it. All of the rest of Apple's current lineup uses Face ID and for the most part, that is better. Much better.

Face ID is more secure, harder to hack, and since the original generation of it in the iPhone X, has become faster than Touch ID. Right now with the coronavirus we are having the issue that faces with a mask can't reliably be recognized, but in general use, glancing at your iPhone has become much faster than pressing your thumb onto a button and waiting.

Plus, there are people who find that Touch ID is unreliable. That can be because of the cases that their employers require them to use, it can be because your finger is damp or sweaty. Whatever the reason, Touch ID can frustrate people who don't find any difficulty with Face ID.

So for convenience, speed, and security, Face ID is a strong reason to buy a different iPhone. Your choices are the iPhone XR starting at $599, the iPhone 11 at $699, iPhone 11 Pro at $999, and iPhone 11 Pro Max at $1,099.

To save you counting, those prices range from $200 to $700 more than an iPhone SE. In other words, for the price of an iPhone 11 Pro, you could buy two iPhone SE models and have change enough over to get a case.




Screen size

This is one area where the iPhone SE, as good as it is, is lacking whichever way you look at it. If you're someone who loves the older, smaller, 4-inch display, then the 4.7-inch one of the iPhone SE is more of a difference than it sounds. It's the difference between being able to work the phone entirely with one hand, and not.

Then if you do like larger screens, as so many people do, then have to see the 4.7-inch iPhone SE display as being paltry. Both the iPhone XR and the iPhone 11 have 6.1-inch screens, while the iPhone 11 Pro has a 5.8-inch one.

Even those don't really compare to the larger models, or what used be known as the Plus ones. The current iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 6.5-inch screen -- and that's now your only choice for a larger form factor. The iPhone SE has really only replaced the iPhone 8, but its launch saw the larger iPhone 8 Plus vanish too.

The iPhone 8 Plus was actually bigger, physically, than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, but it's perhaps not a great loss to the lineup because that larger case held a comparatively smaller screen. The iPhone 8 Plus had a 5.5-inch display in a chassis that was slightly bigger than the iPhone 11 Pro Max with its 6.1-inch one.

That old iPhone 8 Plus was also substantially bigger than the iPhone 11 Pro, running to 6.24-inches by 3.07-inches compared to the newer iPhone's 5.67-inches by 2.81-inches.

The reason that even the 11 Pro can have a smaller chassis yet a larger screen is down to how the newer phones have an almost edge to edge display. The iPhone 8 Plus, and the new iPhone SE, both have old-style thick bezels around the screen.

You can still buy an iPhone 8 Plus from resellers where it will typically cost around $499, or about $600 less than the only other large-scale model, the iPhone 11 Pro Max.




Screen resolution

The iPhone SE is repeatedly said to be the old iPhone 8 with new internal hardware, but actually its screen goes back much further than that. In terms of physical size, resolution and technology, the screen in the 2020 iPhone SE is almost the same as that of the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S from 2014/15. The sole difference is that the iPhone SE's version supports True Tone so it alters color levels depending on your surroundings.

In the six years since the iPhone 6, though, displays have moved on. They're edge to edge, or nearly, and instead of the old LCD display panel, many of them use OLED. This technology provides a better black and overall an improved contrast.

It's not as if the difference is even close. Where the iPhone SE has a contrast ratio of 1,400:1, the iPhone 11 Pro provides 2,000,000:1. No question, the screens on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are better than that on the iPhone SE. They're also brighter on the iPhone 11 Pro, at 800 nits instead of 625 nits on the iPhone SE.

As clear as these differences are when either you hold the iPhones next to each other, or you downgrade, there's no other way you'd even see the SE screen as a problem. It is clear, bright, and sharp, and if the other models are clearer, brighter, and sharper, that doesn't make the iPhone SE screen unusably poor.

Cameras are an issue

This is another area where there's no comparison whatsoever. The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max come with a triple camera system on the rear, and all three are lenses are excellent. They're 12MP and provide seamless switching between their Wide, Ultra Wide, and Telephoto cameras.

The iPhone SE has one camera on the back. It is a 12MP camera, and it is Wide, but it's one camera and that's your lot.

Except that of course all iPhones also have a front-facing camera. Here the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are better than the iPhone SE, or any other model for that matter. The front or selfie camera on an iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max is a 12MP one that's as capable of shooting 4K video as the rear cameras.

With the iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max, and exclusively with these phones, you can shoot videos equally well from front and back. If you're making a YouTube video where you're talking to the camera, this is a difference that means you can watch yourself on the phone screen to make sure you are framed correctly throughout. It means you can use a Teleprompter app right there with the selfie lens.






For the iPhone SE, you get just a 7MP front or selfie camera. It's fine. We've had worse. But the difference is noticeable, and this camera is really just for video calls.

That said, the iPhone SE does improve dramatically on the old iPhone 8. Its camera includes portrait lighting effects previously not seen on this size of phone.

Where Apple expects you to come from

Apple has long maintained a comparison page on its website where you can select up to three iPhone models and read the basic specifications of each to compare. With the launch of the iPhone SE, though, it has gone further and created a dedicated Why Upgrade page to comparing that new phone with certain others.

As well as a side by side listing of specifications, this comparison page explains what differences you'll actually feel. So, for instance, if you choose to compare the new SE to a iPhone 8, it will first tell you that there is a difference in the processor.

The iPhone SE has an Apple A13 Bionic chip which, the comparison explains, means the phone is "much faster when launching apps, exploring AR, or sword-fighting on motorcycles." It then lists specifics, saying that the speed of the A13 Bionic processor is between 1.4 and 2 times that of the A11 Bionic in the iPhone 8.

Nobody's going to trade in an iPhone 11 Pro Max for an iPhone SE. But you could very well be undecided between the iPhone SE and the iPhone 11, or the iPhone XR. Fortunately, we can help you out, though.

Upgrading doesn't always mean improving

Just as Apple is assuming you're upgrading from an old iPhone, we're making a similar presumption. And there is one last feature that might mean you instead choose to stay with whatever you've got.

For with the introduction of the iPhone SE, and the dropping of the iPhone 8, every model in Apple's current line up uses Haptic Touch. We've lamented before about Apple abandoning the older 3D Touch, but it's never coming back, and the only way you'll have it is if you hold on to an older iPhone.

Yet as much as we can rip apart the new iPhone SE for what it doesn't have, and what other iPhones do, ultimately your buying choice is always going to be a compromise. As well as picking a model you can afford, there are issues over what features matter to you.

And while we do again and again keep coming back to how the iPhone SE starts at just $399, it's not going to be a hit just because it's the cheapest iPhone available. The iPhone SE is going to be a hit because it's a truly superb combination of price and performance.



Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
gatorguy

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,311member
    It’s a good phone for the price.  Some people just want a fast device that makes calls and uses the BookFace.  
  • Reply 2 of 19
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,110member
    Yeah, we get it, the author wants all the bells and whistles along with a cheap price. Ain’t gonna happen buddy.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,406member
    Another thing the phone lacks is 5G.   That may not be a big deal here, right now, in the U.S. since we are dragging our feet.   But in China where 5G is proliferating both in coverage and phones, in a survey of 350,000 people, 60% said they would not buy the phone.

    But, even here, sometime during the expected life of the phone that absence will become a big deal.
  • Reply 4 of 19
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,406member
    I find it strange that Andrew Wiliam considers FaceID as merely a different way of unlocking the screen and separates it from having a full face screen sans bezels.

    To me, eliminating the bezels and putting a big screen in a small phone is the primary benefit of FaceID.

    NOBODY wants a big phone.
    EVERYBODY was a big screen.


    edited April 2020 BeatsStrangeDays
  • Reply 5 of 19
    This looks like a good phone and a great value, and should be a helpful catalyst in their push towards a higher ratio of services-to-hardware revenue, which would be especially important in a difficult economic period. 
    dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 19
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 2,031member
    Another thing the phone lacks is 5G.   That may not be a big deal here, right now, in the U.S. since we are dragging our feet.   But in China where 5G is proliferating both in coverage and phones, in a survey of 350,000 people, 60% said they would not buy the phone.

    But, even here, sometime during the expected life of the phone that absence will become a big deal.
    I would be happy if this just had a QualComm 4G modem in it.    I wasn't expecting 5G.   I'm wondering if iFixit will do a tear down.   I'm really expecting this to have one of those crappy INTEL modems that Apple is probably trying to unload as cheaply as possible.
  • Reply 7 of 19
    Does this SE have the 2-antenna or the 4-antenna MIMO setup (from the AppleInsider article about the class action lawsuit) ?
  • Reply 8 of 19
    horvatichorvatic Posts: 144member
    Comparing the top of line phone with the SE2 is silly. Everyone knows the 11 Pro specs are going to be vastly better. Apple is giving the people who can't afford the Pro a choice of something that has great features at a great price and looks good too. Sure not all the bells and whistles of the Pro but like others have said that ain't going to happen at this low price point. The size of the phone also matters to people. Not everyone wants a huge phone or uses even a quarter of the features and for these people the SE2 is a great buy that they will be very happy with. Good for Apple to give and option like this for those people.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 19
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,286member
    I find it strange that Andrew Wiliam considers FaceID as merely a different way of unlocking the screen and separates it from having a full face screen sans bezels.

    To me, eliminating the bezels and putting a big screen in a small phone is the primary benefit of FaceID.

    NOBODY wants a big phone.
    EVERYBODY was a big screen.



    Everyone wanted a big screen in the palm of their hand. No one asked for an iPhone 8s. People are just defending the decision because Apple.

    Of course FaceID is more expensive which is why we were willing to downgrade the camera to a flat one flush with the chassis and a standard LCD. 3D touch is already gone and no need for 5G in this iPhone.

    I did notice A13 is across all advertised iPhone lineups now and would hope Apple TV is next.

    "iPhone 11 Pro called. It wants it's chip back" was a brilliant line.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 19
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,307member
    This has to be thought through if coming from a 7 or 8 Plus type iPhone.  I bought my wife an iPhone xR thinking it was a major upgrade for her and at first she loved it.  Then on a walk she took a load of photographs of flying herons on our lake.  She had zoomed in and all the pictures came out looking awfully pixelated due to the digital zoom.  I had failed to realize the lack of a second camera would make such a difference after her iPhone 7 Plus where the same shots would have all come out well.  I had assumed being so much newer than the 7 Plus the single camera would be better but it's not how good the camera is rather simply not having that second one with the longer focal length lens I guess.  Now she hates the xR and I will have to get an 11 model.  I fear many will find the same scenario playing out of they go from a 7 or 8 Plus to the SE and use the camera a lot.  There is no such thing as a free lunch lol.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 19
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,144administrator
    horvatic said:
    Comparing the top of line phone with the SE2 is silly. Everyone knows the 11 Pro specs are going to be vastly better. Apple is giving the people who can't afford the Pro a choice of something that has great features at a great price and looks good too. Sure not all the bells and whistles of the Pro but like others have said that ain't going to happen at this low price point. The size of the phone also matters to people. Not everyone wants a huge phone or uses even a quarter of the features and for these people the SE2 is a great buy that they will be very happy with. Good for Apple to give and option like this for those people.
    But yet, that comparison is by far our most requested.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 12 of 19
    M68000M68000 Posts: 334member
    Besides the newer A13, it includes some other things, one of which is e-sim to allow use of 2 phone numbers.  This could be great for travel right?  This phone will do well.  If they come out with a “plus” model of this it would be an off the charts value in a phone.  Many who love the 8 plus would no doubt seriously think about getting a plus version ASAP.  But perhaps Apple won’t offer a plus because it could cannibalize sales of more expensive phones that mostly feature more expensive oled screens and that face id sensor stuff?  Wonder if margins are the same across the whole line now.
  • Reply 13 of 19
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,144administrator

    Does this SE have the 2-antenna or the 4-antenna MIMO setup (from the AppleInsider article about the class action lawsuit) ?
    2x2, and like before, Apple is explicit about it.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 14 of 19
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,043member
    horvatic said:
    Comparing the top of line phone with the SE2 is silly. Everyone knows the 11 Pro specs are going to be vastly better. Apple is giving the people who can't afford the Pro a choice of something that has great features at a great price and looks good too. Sure not all the bells and whistles of the Pro but like others have said that ain't going to happen at this low price point. The size of the phone also matters to people. Not everyone wants a huge phone or uses even a quarter of the features and for these people the SE2 is a great buy that they will be very happy with. Good for Apple to give and option like this for those people.
    But yet, that comparison is by far our most requested.
    Agreed, using the same processor practically begs for it.  Not silly at all.

    In fact when the original SE came out, there were slight performance improvements over the 6S flagship at the time, namely a bump in battery capacity (they shared the same processor back then).  It'll be interesting to see what shakes out this iteration.
    edited April 2020
  • Reply 15 of 19
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,274member
    Article doesn't mention Night Mode. This is a killer feature IMO, so worth mentioning.
  • Reply 16 of 19
    In terms of physical size, resolution and technology, the screen in the 2020 iPhone SE is almost the same as that of the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S from 2014/15. The sole difference is that the iPhone SE's version supports True Tone so it alters color levels depending on your surroundings.
    This is not true. There are at least three differences between the 6/6s display and the new SE. Like the iPhone 7 it has a P3 wide color gamut display, and like the iPhone 8 it has an increased maximum brightness of 625 nits (vs 500 for iPhone 6-7) and True Tone, as you noted. These add up to a more significant difference than described in the article.
    jovian.fry@gmail.comGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 17 of 19
    In terms of physical size, resolution and technology, the screen in the 2020 iPhone SE is almost the same as that of the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S from 2014/15. The sole difference is that the iPhone SE's version supports True Tone so it alters color levels depending on your surroundings.
    This is not true. There are at least three differences between the 6/6s display and the new SE. Like the iPhone 7 it has a P3 wide color gamut display, and like the iPhone 8 it has an increased maximum brightness of 625 nits (vs 500 for iPhone 6-7) and True Tone, as you noted. These add up to a more significant difference than described in the article.
    omg, THANK YOU!!!
    i also saw this, and it was really bugging me
    and YES, i am one of those people 🧐🤷🏽‍♂️
  • Reply 18 of 19
    FatmanFatman Posts: 513member
    There’s a segment of people that like the smaller screen/body, and there’s a (much larger) segment that likes a cheaper phone price. This is an attempt to straddle both. It’s compelling because of its mashup of the latest tech (processor, WiFi6) ... with some old (screen, design). One thing it will accomplish ... is to help developers ... by killing off screen resolution support for anything less than 720. I believe once those that love their original SE upgrade to the new SE, they will realize that the extra pixels added (17% wider) will make their experience with iOS a better one. They will learn to hold it and put in their pockets just fine.
  • Reply 19 of 19
    shaminoshamino Posts: 471member
    From what I've been reading (on other forums).  There are two categories of users interested in the SE2:
    • Users looking to upgrade an existing SE.  Many of them really like the small size of their current phone and don't like the fact that the SE2 is bigger.  For them, point number 2 (smaller screen size) is seen as an advantage, not a disadvantage.
    • Users looking to upgrade an old phone but don't like the higher cost of the 11.  For them, comparing the two is perfectly reasonable, especially since they have the same processor.
    Additionally, many people (myself included) really like Touch ID and a physical home button.  I'm sure I could quickly get used to a phone without them, but this is another case where that "drawback" is going to be seen as an advantage by many.  Especially those who still have phones with home buttons.

    Regarding screen resolution, it's important to compare apples to apples (no pun intended) here.  We all know that larger screens have more pixels, but how does the SE2's 4.7" screen (1334x750 pixels - 326 ppi) compare to other 4.7" screens?  It's identical to every 4.7" iPhone screen Apple has shipped: the 6, 6s, 7 and 8.  So again, not really a disadvantage but what I would expect to see on a 4.7" screen.  Sure, maybe you could pack more pixels into the 4.7" screen, but why would anyone want to?  At 326 ppi, you're already well into "retina" territory.  More pixels won't improve image quality, but it would raise the cost and impact power consumption.

    I see little point in criticizing the SE2 for reasons that boil down to little more than "it's not an 11."  Especially when the differences are obvious at first glance to anyone who sees it.

    IMO, the only criteria mentioned in the article that isn't self-obvious is the camera quality.

    I would also like to see information about internal differences.  Is that A13 SoC the same one used in an 11?  Or is it different in some way?  Clock speed?  RAM?  Other differences?  And what about connectivity?  Wi-Fi bands/features?  Cellular bands/protocols?  These aren't in Apple's press release so I don't expect to learn about them until units start shipping, but they are going to be important points for users in that second category who are trying to decide between a $400 SE2 and a $700 11.
Sign In or Register to comment.