Who Should Upgrade To The New iPhone SE And Why?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 04/22/20 •  10 min read

In September of 2019, Apple released its flagship product, the iPhone 11. Given its popularity and incredible power, should you upgrade to the new iPhone SE, and is it worth it?

The iPhone SE was built to look like the iPhone 8, but it outperforms the iPhone Xr. If you have an iPhone 6, 7, or even an iPhone 8, purchasing the new iPhone SE is a solid investment. However, if you have an iPhone Xr, you might want to wait until the release of the iPhone 12 before upgrading.

Apple claims that the iPhone SE “feels fluid, whether you are launching apps, playing the latest games, or exploring new ways to work and play with augmented reality.” We are going to take a deep hard look at that claim, specifically the overall design, implementation of Touch ID, the display, overall performance, battery life and see if the camera is all that it claims to be. After making a thorough review, we will then see if this iPhone worth investing in, and who should make that investment.

The Design of the iPhone SE

The brand new iPhone SE looks very much like the iPhone 8, given that it is the same size and shape as the iPhone 8. In fact, the new SE will work with all iPhone 8 cases. Those who are familiar with the iPhone 6, 7, and 8 will feel right at home with the iPhone SE, because it is smaller and lighter than the iPhone 11 and even the iPhone 11 Pro.

Of course, it is larger than the original iPhone, but that is primarily due to the fact that both the software and hardware required to run efficiently requires more physical space, hence the difference in size between the original iPhone SE and the new iPhone SE.

The iPhone SE is comprised of the 7000 series aluminum coupled with chemically hardened glass just like the iPhone 8. You might think that it would scratch just as easily as the iPhone 8, but for some reason it seems to be more scratch resistant. Unfortunately, the iPhone SE is just as slippery as other iPhone models that don’t sport the frosted glass found in the iPhone 11 series. This would have been nice added touch, but we are probably only going to see that on the high-end models moving forward.

Apple did remove the word, “iPhone” from the center back and replaced it with the Apple logo. That logo really stands out when viewing it in black, white and my favorite, red. On the front of the phone, regardless of which color you choose for the back, the front only comes in black. Different, but nice.

Is Touch ID Better on the New iPhone SE?

The new iPhone SE ships with the 2nd generation Touch ID, which is more sensitive and offers a faster response than the original iPhone SE. The pressure sensitive button means that there are no moving parts which is really nice because that means that the button won’t wear out over time. It’s a win-win. It’s faster, and won’t wear out over time.

It does not come with Apple’s pressure sensitive 3D touch technology like the iPhone 8 did. In stead, it uses Haptic touch like the iPhone Xr and the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max.

It uses time rather than pressure, a long press rather than firm press. 3D touch is still faster than Haptic touch, but there is hope for improvement as the software evolves over time. Even so, the 2nd generation Touch ID responds quickly when attempting to unlock the phone.

On that note, as I right this article, everyone is quarantined in their home, and when they go out to the grocery store to buy food, they have to wear a mask. Touch ID is perfect for such a time as this. You can unlock your phone with your finger, not your face.

How Does the Display Compare to Other iPhone Models?

The iPhone SE has a screen display of 4.7 inches and screen ratio of 16×9, which is the same ratio you would find on an HD TV, but with a thick black bar on each side of the SE screen.

The iPhone SE sports an LCD display, not an OLED like you’ll find on the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, 11 Pro and the 11 Pro Max, which allows for HDR (High Dynamic Range) videos to play. The iPhone SE will allow you to transmit HDR to an HDR TV, but the output won’t look as nice as what the iPhone 11 Pro offers.

OLED displays do offer darker blacks and offer brighter displays. They do. But somehow, Apple has managed to get their LCD’s to work so well, that you just might not be able to distinguish the difference unless you were to compare the iPhone SE to the iPhone 11, side by side. The brightness that the OLED is the dead give-away, but again, you would probably only notice that if you were to compare models side-by-side.

Some people prefer the LCD display over an OLED display because they find that the LCD screen tends to be easier on the eyes when viewing for extended periods of time.

What About Performance?

The iPhone SE uses the same A13 bionic chip as the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max. This is not a watered down version of the chip, it’s the exact same chip. In other words, you are getting all the power found in the iPhone 11 series in the new iPhone SE.

The advantage here, is that in a few years when Apple has released newer versions of the operating system, and assuming that software developers will make their applications more robust, requiring more system resources, you will do just fine.

To the point, purchasing the iPhone SE is an investment in your future. You won’t be playing “catch up”, rather, the competition will need to catch up to what this phone delivers.

The fact that Apple is powering this phone with the A13 Bionic chipset will ensure that this phone will hold its own 4 years from now. The value of the phone will become more and more apparent the closer you get to the 4 year mark.

Beyond the A13 Bionic chipset, the iPhone SE comes with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. This ensures that this phone will work with the latest and greatest routers available on the market today, and into the future.

For those who live outside of China, it comes with an e-SIMM and a real physical SIMM card. This can be very beneficial for those who find themselves traveling abroad a lot, or for those who change cell phone carriers frequently.

The speakers on the iPhone SE are stereo, unlike the dolby sound that comes from the iPhone 11 series, but this phone does offer gigabit LTE, providing the same LTE speeds offered in the iPhone 11 series.

How Much Battery Life Will the iPhone SE Deliver?

Apple states that you can expect to get the same battery life out of new iPhone SE as the iPhone 7, 8 and original iPhone SE did. That comes to about 13 hours of video playback. That pales in comparison to the 16 hours for the iPhone Xr, and 17 hours that the iPhone 11, respectively. But to be fair, those are larger phones with more battery capacity, given their physical size.

One grate advantage of the new iPhone SE over the original, is that this iPhone will let you charge wirelessly by placing it on a wireless charging pad. Another advantage of this iPhone is that it too, uses the same lightning cables and accessories as its predecessors.

As expected, it only comes with the 5 watt USB-A charger, but you could purchase a higher capacity charging block if you want, (or use one that you already have). Even if you neglect to charge the SE overnight, you will only loose about 3%, which is great.

How Does the iPhone SE Camera Compare?

The new iPhone SE has the same sensor and lens system that the iPhone 8 uses, the difference being, however, that the SE uses the image signal processor afforded by the A13 chipset. As a result, the SE comes very close to producing the same quality image that you would find in the iPhone 11. In fact, Apple calls this iPhone their best single camera system ever. That means that it takes better pictures that the iPhone Xr, and that’s saying a lot.

Portrait mode allows you to take advantage of depth control, even after you have taken the photo. You can also switch between all the portrait lighting affects, including Hi Key Mono mode, which is the iPhone Xr can’t do.

The new iPhone SE let’s you record video up to 4k, at 60 frames per second, but it falls short in the quality offered by the iPhone 11 series. Even so, it records exceptionally sharp video with excellent color consistency. For example, when filming in bright sunlight one moment, only for cloud cover to exaggerate shadows a moment later. Even then, you can expect excellent results.

Unlike the iPhone Xr, you can take quick videos by simply pressing and holding down the camera button to record those short video clips. No more fiddling with your phone to capture the next 15 seconds. Yes, it’s a great feature for those who can’t live without TicTok.

Does this camera deliver the same quality as the iPhone 11 series? No, but it also does not start at $699 either. It starts at $399. In fact, let’s take a minute to look at how much this device costs and see if the value is really there.

How Much Does the New iPhone SE Cost?

As I have already mentioned, this phone starts at $399 for the 64 GB model. But you can double the memory from 64GB to 128GB, for only $50 more. That’s a 128GB iPhone SE for only $449. This phone is $300 less than the iPhone 11. Granted, the iPhone 11 is a better phone, no question about it. But for a lot of people, the iPhone SE offers the best bang for your buck. Need I remind you that it has the same (identical) A13 chip as found in the iPhone 11 series?

When purchasing an iPhone SE, do yourself a favor and purchase AppleCare+ to ensure that your investment is protected. You can pay $79 up front or pay a whopping $3.99 per month for the same coverage. Seriously, this is a no-brainer.

Who is this iPhone for?

So, now that we have thoroughly looked this phone over, you are left asking yourself one question. Should I upgrade to the new iPhone SE?

The answer to this question entirely depends on what phone you currently have, and if your budget allows for the purchase of this new iPhone.

Let’s assume for a moment that you have an iPhone Xr. Should you “upgrade” to the new iPhone SE? Almost certainly not, and here’s why.

I understand that the new iPhone SE has an A13 Bionic chip, making it faster than the Xr. I also understand that it “technically” offers a better camera than the Xr, however, the iPhone 12 is just around the corner, and if you can wait just a little longer, (and your budget can afford it), you are probably going to be happier with the iPhone 12 and all that it has to offer. Here’s why. The upgrading from the iPhone Xr to the new iPhone SE is a small upgrade. However, upgrading from the Xr to the iPhone 12, is a huge upgrade.

Now, if you have an iPhone 6, 7 or even an iPhone 8. This is a SOLID upgrade, one that will probably last you for another 4 or 5 years before you need to replace it.

People who absolutely love Touch ID, will love this phone. Is it both fast and responsive. Perhaps this is the perfect phone for your parents?

Closing Thoughts

Apple has really outdone themselves with the release of the iPhone SE. It packs the most powerful chip into their most popular size at a very affordable price. If you want killer performance with a great camera, at an incredibly affordable price, this is the iPhone for you.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.