Apple iPhone SE review (2020): Great phone, even better price

Lynne M. Centeno

In use

If you’re looking to spend about $400 or $500 on a smartphone and are open to using Android and iOS, you’re spoiled for choice. There’s a version of Samsung’s Galaxy A51 with four rear cameras and 5G support for $499. OnePlus’s very good OnePlus 7T packs a super-smooth 90Hz display and a great customized Android build. Hell, TCL will soon release a trio of seemingly solid phones, one of which is 5G, and all under $500. You get where I’m going here. The thing to remember is none of those smartphones — or any other in this price range — uses the highest-end processors available to them. Except for the iPhone SE.

Apple used its A13 Bionic chipset, which is the very same slice of silicon powering the company’s most expensive smartphones. Needless to say, you’re not going to be left wanting for power. If anything, squeezing a processor package this powerful into a $400 phone feels like, well, the best kind of overkill. If you want more detail about the architecture of the A13 Bionic and how it compares to older Apple devices, you should check out our iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max review. Retreading that ground seems unnecessary here — all you really need to know is that the iPhone SE can handle damn-near anything.

I’ve played graphically intense games, I’ve jumped between apps like a crazy person, I’ve converted 4K videos to 1080p. Put another way, I’ve done my best to try to throw this thing for a loop, but the iPhone SE just shrugged everything off. Again: This is $1,000 performance in a $400 body — it’s basically the polar opposite of something like Motorola’s Razr. The SE is no style, all substance.

The A13 Bionic also gives the iPhone SE a lot of performance headroom for iOS to grow into. And you’ll probably need it. Remember the original iPhone SE? It received the iOS 13 update last year. That means it got four years of software updates — some admittedly better than others. I like Samsung plenty, but its long-standing policy is to offer just two years of major Android software updates for its phones. Google’s Pixels are a little better since they get “at least” three years worth of updates, but still: Apple’s track record is the best of the lot.

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