iPhone SE (2020) is an extremely important product for Apple in India, and we've finally got our hands on it. The launch of this new phone based on an old design, at (what Apple considers) the low starting price of Rs. 42,500, has set off a firestorm of comments from Gadgets 360 readers and viewers, and opinions are quite split. While Apple hopes to tempt buyers who couldn't otherwise afford an iPhone, the price is still too high for many people to stomach, and the iPhone XR doesn't cost that much more.
On one hand, we have the prospect of the class-leading Apple A13 Bionic processor, the slick iOS 13 with updates likely for years, Apple's ecosystem of services, and various other features that match the current-gen iPhone 11 (Review) and iPhone 11 Pro (Review). On the other, we have a dated design, small screen, and a single rear camera, all at three times the cost of a perfectly good Android phone.
The iPhone SE (2020) looks nearly identical to the iPhone 8 (Review), and in fact, the body has pretty much been recycled without anything other than colours to help you distinguish between them. Silver, Space Grey and Gold have been replaced by simpler White, Black, and (Product)RED options. All three have black front faces, which gives the White version an especially striking look. The glass back is the same, and thankfully so is the IP67 water and dust resistance.
More importantly, this phone is exactly the same size as the iPhone 8, with a 4.7-inch screen. It has the same thick borders above and below the screen, plus a capacitive home button with an integrated fingerprint sensor. Such designs haven't been seen in the Android world for many years now, even at the bottom of the budget tier, and so you might not feel that this phone is modern enough.
We were sceptical too, but the feeling disappeared as soon as we picked up the iPhone SE (2020) and turned it on. First of all, it's incredibly light and compact by today's standards, which feels refreshing. It weighs 148g and is just 7.3mm thick. It's very easy to hold and use in one hand and it wasn't too much of a stretch to reach the upper corners of the screen. This phone is also incredibly well built, with a satisfyingly premium feel and excellent grip. The edges are curved, the seams are perfectly machined, and the Apple feel is not diluted at all.
When we were using this phone, iOS 13 felt extremely snappy and responsive. Yes, the small screen is a constraint. We can't see ourselves truly enjoying games and videos like we are now used to on the 6-inch and larger screens of most current-day phones, which means that the CPU is likely to go underutilised – plus it's reportedly underclocked. Still, there are other use cases for it, which we will explore in more detail in our full review, coming soon.
Evaluating the iPhone SE (2020) isn't as simple as listing its features. Yes, the screen is small and low-res, but it has Apple's True Tone white balance adjustment feature and remarkable colour accuracy. Yes, it has only a single rear camera, but you get video stabilisation, depth effects and portrait lighting thanks to the A13 Bionic's machine learning capabilities. Yes, it's small and looks old-fashioned, but you get wireless charging and water resistance. These things are what set the iPhone SE (2020) apart from much less expensive Android phones that seem competitive.
There's also Apple's suite of services such as iMessage and iCloud, plus the promise of privacy, security, and major iOS updates for years. That's particularly valuable to users of older iPhones who need an upgrade and want to stay within the ecosystem. All added up, it isn't that hard to justify the price.
In India, the iPhone SE (2020) competes with the nearly-two-year-old iPhone XR (Review) which is now commonly discounted to around the same price or even lower when it goes on sale. We hope this means that the iPhone SE (2020) itself will sell for less than its MRP after some time. Precedent with the original iPhone SE and other entry-level models suggests that this might happen.
Our full review is coming up soon, and we'll evaluate the iPhone SE (2020) in terms of performance, usability, battery life, software, ergonomics, and much more, to help you decide whether it's worth spending money on. Do stay tuned to Gadgets 360.
Is iPhone SE the ultimate 'affordable' iPhone for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.