In the summer of 2020, Apple released the new iPhone SE as its most affordable entry-point into the iOS ecosystem. Throughout the majority of 2020, the iPhone SE saw a drop in its price, eventually selling at a price of Rs 25,000 during the Flipkart Big Billion Days sale for a brief period of time. With an A13 Bionic chipset and a compact design, this is also one of the most powerful smartphones in its price range.
The proposition of the iPhone SE was appealing for me and I ended up buying one when Flipkart dropped the prices for the first time in August 2020. Since then, I have carried it around as my main phone (except for the three months with the iPhone 12). Given that this iPhone SE is going to stay around for another year, here’s a look at how this phone fares on a daily basis.
Six months with a 2020 iPhone SE
A compact phone is always easier to handle and nothing proves it better than the iPhone SE 2020. Recycling the compact design of the older iPhone 8 makes the iPhone SE a phone one-handed phone. Even with my small palms, all four corners of the display are always within reach. The TouchID patch makes for easier unlocks, especially while wearing a face mask. Moreover, handling a phone weighing 148 grams is a luxury after betting used to 200-gram behemoths.
Recycling the iPhone 8’s design gives the iPhone SE some class-leading benefits too. The IP67 certification for water and dust resistance is always a relief in dusty conditions I experience in Delhi NCR. Wireless charging is another benefit while doing an overnight battery refill. The strong haptic feedback system is another pleasure while doing daily phone tasks.
Not everything is fine with the iPhone SE though. The 4.7-inch display is small by all means and that somehow limits the phone’s usage. It is still a “big enough” display but after coming from phones with displays averaging at 6.3-inches, this feels cramped. It isn’t a pleasure to read, watch videos, or play games on this display. Despite having one of the best LCD displays, the smaller size is a letdown.
The smaller size also limits the battery capacity on the iPhone SE. Use it substantially and you may need a quick refill by the evening (provided you leave for the day with a full battery). The 5W charging adapter that I got in the box is slow and the new Apple 20W adapter does little to help, especially in comparison to the 30W systems most phones at this price offer.
The iPhone SE is fast by all means. The A13 Bionic was the best chip from Apple last year and even after the iPhone 12’s arrival, the iPhone SE doesn’t feel inferior to most Android flagships, even from 2020. Paired with iOS 14.4, the iPhone SE can do everything you can throw at it. Be it playing Call of Duty: Mobile, or editing a 4K video on iMovie, this is a phone that can do it all without showing signs of stress.
Choosing between iOS and Android is best left to personal preferences. As a long-term Android user, iOS seems restricting initially. However, once you settle in, this is an ecosystem that’s easy to live with. The widgets do make for a peppy homescreen experience while the new App Library is an easier way to shove less-needed apps away from attention. iOS apps have different levels of polish and certainly reliable when compared to their Android counterparts.
Another area where the iPhone SE shines is the camera performance. Despite using older generation hardware, the iPhone SE’s 12-megapixel single rear camera matches the Pixel 4a in terms of still photography and outdoes every phone in its price segment with its video shooting performance. Even the 7-megapixel front camera system consistently performs well. You get all of the portrait lighting effects on both the cameras.
Sadly, the iPhone SE misses out on a dedicated Night Mode, which means you are quite restricted in your approach to photography. Also, the lack of an ultrawide or telephoto camera hurts, especially when compared to similarly priced Android phones.
Is the iPhone SE worth buying in 2021?
The whole point of the iPhone SE is giving a glimpse of the iOS ecosystem with a package that works well enough as a complete smartphone. Gamers and performance seekers will surely appreciate the optimized performance, while shutterbugs will find the cameras on this iPhone SE certainly useful.
However, the compact dimensions of the iPhone SE is both a boon and bane. As easy it is to use, the smaller display limits the phone’s usage to a larger extent. Additionally, the battery life is unacceptable for a modern-day smartphone, especially when you are paying upwards of Rs 30,000.
Hence, if you are willing to cohabitate with compromises the iPhone SE 2020 puts up, you will enjoy using it. Those looking for an overall value will be better off investing in a similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite, or investing slightly more in the iPhone XR.