Time for a Travel Technology piece… one admittedly I didn’t want to write, this time focusing on the Apple iPhone SE (2020 edition).
- Price as reviewed: £469
- Configuration: (Product)Red, 128Gb storage
Why do you need yet another phone? (Yes. I can hear my mother say this, far away…)
I’ve been daily-driving an Apple iPhoneXS for the past year and a half – and I’ve got to admit, it’s been one of my favourite Apple phones to date (with the cameras winning me over).
However, on Friday 5th June, everything changed when it slipped from my hand.
Yes. The words that came out were not good, with the OLED display going plop.
Whilst this device has AppleCare on it, I am working out in the field every day at the moment. As such, mailing it in for repair then arranging for it to be returned is going to be a royal pain up the backside. At the time of writing, Apple Stores in the UK were closed, so that isn’t an option for me.
I needed a next day solution – and fast. I also wanted something that could retain value (in case I chose to dispose of it after the old Xs is repaired), as well something familiar to use.
Now, I could have gone Android and got away with a lot of things – however, I am rather tied into the Apple EcoSystem for lots of different things and reasons. And as much as I love configuring things, I just like stuff to “just work”
And Apple’s products fit into that category when I’m not wanting to be an IT Wonk or spend hours selecting the right launcher, the right email app and so on.
In many respects, all I want to do is to be able to transfer the data from one phone to another, and have it “just work”.
With time not on my side, I needed a phone the next day – that meant skipping most of the usual 3rd party retailers. It also means skipping the second-hand market (where an old iPhone 7/8 would have done the job nicely).
So, with my options being to what I could get on the Apple Store, I took a look around.
As this is a “temporary” phone, I don’t need all the bells and whistles of the iPhone 11 range. Rather, some decent storage, a usable screen and a familiar interface would do the trick nicely. Thankfully, Apple released a phone for laggards like me: The iPhone SE (2020 Edition).
If you think this looks like an iPhone 8… then well done. Your powers of observation serve you well.
Inside, it has updated internals (mainly the Apple A13 processing unit – the same that is in the iPhone 11/11Pro range). It drops support for FaceID for TouchID (which in these times.. isn’t a bad idea). However, it does trade these features for a 1,900mha battery – which is small for these days.
It has the classic 4.7″ screen and design that served Apple from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 8.
In the Apple product stack, this is the bottom of the pile, taking the place of the iPhone 8 (which it replaces). It has a single 7-megapixel front camera, and 12-megapixel rear camera (with these taken from the iPhone 8).
The Apple iPhone SE 2020 Edition comes in three colours – white, black and red.
Your writer went for the red (as he isn’t seeded with review units or such), and comes with three capacity options
- 64Gb – £419
- 128Gb – £469
- 256gb – £569
I went for the mid-end unit (coming in at £469) with the sweet spot of 128Gb of storage – which is about how much space I’m consuming on my old device (well – actually more, but I find paying an extra £100 for 128Gb more storage to be not required at this time).
And in Red. Because Red is lucky. Also, it makes Apple donate funds to COVID-19 Charities (as opposed to AIDS charities).
Meeting the requirement of next-day delivery, Apple thankfully uses couriers who ship items out on Saturdays. Which is one of the few days of the week I’m at home, rather than in the field.
And £469 later…
Thankfully, the phone arrived the next day – around 26 hours I ordered it.
With the iPhone SE arriving at the flat, let us see what we have here for fun and games.
Let’s do the unboxing bit, as everyone loves an unboxing.
In the box:
- The iPhone SE 2020
- A Lightning Cable
- EarPods (wired)
- A rather underpowered 5w/1a charger (compared to the fast chargers I have…. everywhere else… even on power banks).
- SIM Removal Tool
The red for this edition is rather sharp on the case back, but black on the glass front.
Being from the same cut as the iPhone 8, it has
- No buttons on the top
- A Power button on the side with the SIM tray
- A lightning port at the bottom (and yes, that means no headphone jack. You’ll have to invest in some Bluetooth Headphones, AirPods or use the included EarPods with a Lightning connector)
- and volume rockers on the left-hand side.
Powering it on, we’re greeted with the usual Apple welcome and onboarding process. This time, I chose to migrate the entire phone over.
And thankfully, after an hour and a half – the contents of the old iPhone Xs had been migrated to the SE.
I did have to put the content on the phone on a diet straight away – with certain apps deleted (such as the Apple iLife suite) apps I wasn’t using and some duplicates of old photos – the phone did fill up straight away.
With about 4Gb of working space out of 128gb… I was set to go.
It’s an iPhone? What do you expect it to be? iOS whilst mature is still very much a “love it’ usable for its simplicity or hate it for the lack of customisation.
Whilst the LCD is a step-down from the OLED display I’m used to (with crispy blacks), it’s not detrimental in day to day use, with apps loading quickly, data streaming down.
The A13 Processor used helps the device in load times, whilst allowing some of the portrait mode tricks that other iPhones can do.
The screen, whilst not HD is more than good enough to bing watch Youtube and TV on, whilst games like Pokemon Go and Minion Rush play reasonably well thanks to the processor. It is dimmer than the OLED screens in the iPhone X/Xs/11 range.
TouchID is a welcome thing in these odd times. Since I’ve been wearing masks since early April every day, lowering a mask to make a FaceID transaction has been not optimal. Having TouchID back is a very welcome thing to have
And if there was one thing I would bring to the Apple high-end line for 2020 – its a touch sensor that just works…. like TouchID. Whilst FaceID is good, it’s by putting a mask on, you defeat the benefit of it.
The battery is… well. Oh, dear… this could have been a lot better, to be honest.
The rated 1821mha battery does this device no favours at all, with me hitting the red-line after 3/4 a days usage. Yours may vary – but this is time to carry a battery bank with you.
Thankfully, it will charge off a fast charger happily, and for those of you with wireless charging mats in your home or place of work – the phone is happy on these too.
But the included charger?
It won’t do you any favours. Get one from Anker or something that outputs 2.1A at the wall (and I understand this phone also supports USB-C Power Delivery for really rapid charges).
The charger in the picture is wrapped up. And that’s how it is going to remain as its too slow to charge anything.
Whilst the camera module is straight out of the iPhone 8, that is no bad thing at all. It seems Apple has applied the logic from the iPhone 11 down to this camera, for some nice shots
Evening performance isn’t too bad, even if it lightens the greys a bit too artificially for my liking and need a little exposure reduction to bring out the tones in the image.
Although it facepalms heavily in the dark. Evening and night photography isn’t this phones strong point compared to other devices I’ve used.
Have I installed a case and screen protector on it?
Well, the day the device arrived, I headed to Poundland to get a screen protector and case.
Anything to avoid a scratched screen or back.
So, is the iPhone SE 2020 worth it?
It depends where you’re coming from.
If you’re working through the Apple phone stack:
- iPhone SE/6/6s/7 and before – Yes – you’ll notice the difference
- iPhone 6 Plus/7 Plus – A tougher call, as this will not have the screen estate you’re used to. Consider the Xr or 11 instead.
- iPhone 8 – Not really – the improved processor will help, but it is very much like 8 in many respects
- iPhone X/Xs/Xr/11 – Move up the product stack if you can… unless your phone is broken, you’re wanting to repair the old phone and can live with a lower specification phone for a month or two until the shops reopen, and you can get your device serviced.
If you are considering the iPhone SE 2020 Edition as an iPhone 8 refresh – you’re on the right track. That’s not to say its a bad phone – far from it. The real let down is the battery life.
If you are moving to from an older iPhone, and don’t want the face detection – this is your best bet for a while.
My version of it was £469 on an outright purchase (with AppleCare £79 extra – I skimped on that this time as hopefully, I won’t be using this phone after 60 days). You can get it for £30 a month or so on a contract if that’s your preferred way of paying for a handset. It’s also available with the Apple purchasing plan for £16.99 a month upwards (depending what capacity and if you want AppleCare).
Whilst it is a “budget” iPhone, it will get a long period of software updates (remember iPhone 6s upwards is still supported by iOS – that’s nearly 5 years of software support at this juncture – I would imagine you’ll get that level of support for many years).
Put it like this. I might flip this phone, I might gift it. But it’s a phone that I like, in a familiar form factor that will be hard to let go for in some respects… if it wasn’t for the battery life.
And more than capable phone in a tight spot.
PS: If you’re reading this, you may have got this content via a third party who did not licence this text, the images and so on.
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