iPhone SE 2020 review: Excellent daylight shots, fast performance

The iPhone SE has the same 12-megapixel sensor and lens as the iPhone 8 but is a far better camera.
iPhone SE
iPhone SE
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It’s 2020 and smartphones are just getting bigger, bulkier and more powerful. When a company decides to launch a smartphone, it is usually two or three iterations of the same family. They'll be a standard model, and then a Plus, Pro or Ultra model to accompany it.

Apple decided to do something out of the ordinary for 2020. They decided to launch a compact smartphone. The iPhone SE for 2020 is a compact smartphone that takes you back a couple of years.

It’s got big bezels, a large home button and less screen real estate than about 99% of the smartphones launched within the last year or so.

It’s compact, inexpensive and running the latest iOS platform. Is it a phone worth buying in 2020? Let me answer that for you by breaking it down into the three types of people most likely to want an iPhone SE.

1. You’re already wedded into the Apple ecosystem

This is the most important reason of the three. If you’ve owned any Apple product or currently own any number of Apple products, then the iPhone SE will definitely appeal to you. Firstly, you already know the ins and outs of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Secondly, the look and feel, the haptic feedback and the Touch ID will all be familiar to you.

2. You’re after a compact smartphone

The iPhone SE takes all the most important bits from the iPhone 11 and cranks them into the body of an iPhone 8. It may be a dated design, but if compact is what you’re after, then there is no better deal in the market. It’s got the old-school Touch ID home button and a miniature 4.7-inch screen. To go with that, its got a premium all-metal and glass build, IP67 water resistance, and most importantly, wireless charging.

3. You’re in the market for a second smartphone to carry around

You already have a primary phone that you use on a daily basis. It’s being used for anything from binge-watching, gaming, taking notes, and much more. You're happy with your primary smartphone but need a second smartphone for your other mobile number or just to use in case your primary one’s battery dies.

That’s where the iPhone SE steps in. It’s not flashy and it definitely doesn’t have the bells and whistles. But for what it's worth, the iPhone SE is a fantastically small and well-rounded device. It’s great for calling, and easy to text on. It’s comfortable to hold and use one-handed, and the design is a familiar sight.

If either one or more of the three reasons listed above appeal to you, then the iPhone SE (2020) is the smartphone for you to get.

Performance: Fast!

I’m not going to go into detail about the power and performance because it shouldn’t matter if you’re after a phone like the iPhone SE. Just know that with the iPhone SE, you may be missing out on RAM as compared to Android counterparts but it won’t matter at all. iOS has better RAM management and even 3GB is enough to perform any task with aplomb.

Battery life: Nothing to write home about

If you look at the spec sheet for the iPhone, then you’d be pretty disappointed. Going down the list, the one item that stood out the most was the battery life. The iPhone SE features a paltry 1,821 mAh battery. The good part is that it lasts for just over a day on a single charge.

This is 2020 though and that is hardly acceptable. Hardly acceptable because this smartphone isn’t power-hungry like some of the other smartphones (here’s looking at Samsung and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra) in the market.

The A13 Bionic processor, coupled with the latest iOS 14 OS, helps the iPhone SE get through a full day and then some. Screen-on-time wasn’t great at just about four and a half hours per day.

While the iPhone SE is rated for 18W charging, there is only a 5W charger included in the box. The charging speeds are certainly slower than you’d like.

Camera: A pleasant surprise

Cameras are getting better and better with each new smartphone that comes to the market. These days, it is the camera that is the driving force to decide which smartphone is going to be your next purchase. The iPhone SE has the same 12-megapixel sensor and lens as the iPhone 8 but is a far better camera. How, you may ask? It’s thanks to the software and image signal processors.

The iPhone SE has the A13’s refined ISP and takes great advantage of it. In good daylight, the shots taken with the camera were fantastic. The dynamic range was very good. The colours were good and there was hardly any oversaturation.

The problem is when you try and zoom in. You lose a lot of details and you can tell that it is a low-resolution shot.

The SE though can shoot portraits, without the depth sensor, thanks to the neural cores in the A13. The portrait feature though works on humans using the default camera app. You can also shoot a selfie portrait, if that’s your thing.

Where the iPhone SE’s camera lacks is in the low-light situations. There isn’t any dedicated night mode, like that on the iPhone 11 and it shows. You’re stuck with the flash if you want some light in a dark scenario.

Video capabilities have been top-notch in iPhones and that doesn’t at all change with the iPhone SE (2020). The A13 Bionic chip with 4K 60fps along with great stabilisation, is a winning combination.

Some missing elements

If you’re going for a phone like the iPhone SE (2020), then you need to realise that you’ll be missing some features. None of them are deal breakers, if you’re after a compact phone, but it's worth listing nonetheless — Face ID, bigger battery, multiple cameras and OLED display. 

Verdict: Is the iPhone SE (2020) worth the money?

The answer is yes, unless you’re a hardcore Android user. Yes, especially if you fall into any of the three categories I mentioned above. It’s hard not to recommend the iPhone SE at its current price of Rs 37,900 on Flipkart. It’s cheaper than a lot of the new Android smartphones like the OnePlus 8.

The iPhone SE’s display is a little bit fragile and that’s something you’ll have to keep in mind. I managed to get a scratch in the display even though I never dropped the iPhone.

For Rs 37,900, you get 64GB of storage. That’s not bad at all. With software updates guaranteed for over three years, you’re in for a good ride with the iPhone.

The iPhone is an even better proposition if you’re already wedded into the Apple ecosystem. It may be hard to recommend for an Android user though, but as a second smartphone, it’s fantastic.

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