Apple iPhone SE (2020) review

GSMArena team, 1 May 2020.

Design and handling

There are always two ways to look at an iPhone, especially one with such a controversial design as the iPhone 8, sorry, SE. It's either love or hate. It has been this way since the iPhones came into existence, even if specs, features, and prices do help fuel these two feelings, too. But one thing is undeniably true - this is not only the smallest iPhone available but one of the most compact smartphones on the market.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

Remember when we called the 6" Xiaomi Mi 9 SE one of the most compact phones and a remarkably pocket-friendly handset? So, we take those back - these titles belong to the iPhone SE now. Thank you, Mi, you may go now.

So, the iPhone SE (2020) is indeed quite small - it measures 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm and weighs just 148g - meaning it is 1cm shorter and 3mm narrower than the Mi 9 SE.

But if we are to compare the new iPhone SE to the old one, well, it's definitely grown bigger - 1.5cm taller and 1cm wider, to be specific. It also gained some 35g - a noticeable load if you are comparing those two directly.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

Well, the past couple of years did change the definition of the small smartphone, for the worse if you ask us, and the new iPhone SE is well below the current status quo.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 reviewiPhone 11 Pro, iPhone SE (2nd Gen), iPhone SE (1st Gen)

But as far as its design is concerned - it's modern but also, a remnant of our digital past. The iPhone SE (2020) uses the same Gorilla Glass panels and aluminum frame the iPhone 8 had back in 2017 - and even then this design was already three-years-old.

And as the most recent teardowns have revealed, Apple has recycled pretty much everything in the iPhone SE - from the hardware design on the outside to the components used inside.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

Still - a glass-sandwich body with a metal frame is the default phone design in 2020, so the iPhone SE is as current as possible looking at its bill of materials. Even better, it is IP67-rated for dust and water resistance - something that still many decide not to offer and yet, here were have it on a $400 phone.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

Then we look at the front and honestly, we can hear 2014 calling and asking its bezels back. The iPhone SE has large black bezels above and below its LCD screen, and for some of you, they will be too much of an eyesore to bear. We can get behind this, of course - not only the screen doesn't impress with the resolution, but it also makes you lose all that room to what - a Home key and earpiece?

Then again - the earpiece is one of the loudest speakers you can get on a smartphone today, one of two actually, and we are impressed with quality audio coming from the SE stereo speakers. The old 7MP selfie camera is around, now capable of selfie portraits, too.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

The Home key is also your Touch ID - a feature many missed when it got the boot on the iPhone X. It is the fastest and most convenient security measure, and on top of that - the Home key is also the better way to work with iOS than the current swiping mess.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

Sure, the bezels have the benefit of providing nice grip. Such a powerful small phone will need a proper grip for gaming, and the two non-screen ends provide that in buckets. You can rest your thumbs there comfortably and enjoy your gaming session hassle- and obstruction-free.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

The 4.7" IPS LCD screen is familiar - it's the same display we saw on the iPhone 8 with the so-called Retina 326ppi resolution. There are no notches, it's fully utilized by every app and games because of its native 16:9 aspect, it is bright and with excellent contrast and color reproduction. Small - it is. Bad - it is not.

One thing that's missing from the iPhone 8 display is the 3D Touch layer. Apple has ditched the 3D Touch sensors in favor of tap and hold gestures plus feedback from the Taptic Engine. It works almost the same, plus nobody was using the 3D Touch anyway.

The custom-made Gorilla Glass has 2D finish at the front and then transition rather seamlessly into the aluminum frame. The frame itself has a matte finish that provides for some grip and contains all ports and buttons.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

The silencer switch and the volume keys are on the left, while the power button and the SIM slot are on the right. The Lightning port, the speaker grille, and the mouthpiece are all at the bottom of the iPhone SE.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

The back of the iPhone SE, especially this red one, is as beautiful as it can get. Not having a multiple-camera setup makes for one of the cleanest and stylish rear glass panels we've seen in a while. It is also custom-made by Corning, with 2.5D finish.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

The main camera is protruding just a tiny little bit, and a thin metal ring surrounds it. Next, flush with the glass, is the dual-tone quad-LED flash. The iPhone SE barely wobbles on a flat desk, and that's only if you are tapping around the top left part of the phone.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

Finally, the iPhone SE is a joy to handle, easily operated with one hand, and it just disappears in pockets. The brushed frame provides enough grip, and even while fingerprint smudges accumulate on the glass with time, the oleophobic coating makes them easy to clean with a quick swipe.

Reader comments

I agree on battery and screen other then that every else no the a13 is beyond any android at the price and the stereo speakers are great I have the black iPhone de 2020 .

  • Sandy Tan

In my country (Indonesia),the price of Iphone SE 2020 128 gb storage is IDR 9 Million / US $ 600 ! That's why i always think twice to buy an iphone. The price is ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

Yup people forget what a phone is for?.........not doing dishes or making coffee!