The second-generation, $399 iPhone SE looks like an iPhone 8, but it has many of the capabilities of the $699 iPhone 11. That could be a winning combination in a year when many Americans will be increasingly strapped for cash. So what do you lose compared with the iPhone 11 and other currently available models? Let’s break it down.
Current iPhones Compared
In my mind, the most important difference between the iPhone SE and other current models is in the camera. The night mode Apple introduced with the iPhone 11 series is a big jump forward in low-light photo quality, and it isn’t available on the iPhone SE (or the iPhone XR, for that matter).
In addition, if the iPhone SE has the optics from the iPhone 8, its main camera may not perform quite as well with backlit scenes, or settings with dramatic differences in lighting. That’s still a question, though, especially because Apple says the SE has better high dynamic range processing than the iPhone 8 does.
The iPhone SE lacks the iPhone 11’s second, wide-angle main camera, and has a lower-resolution front-facing camera—7MP with 1080p video, as compared with the iPhone 11’s 12MP camera with 4K video.
The iPhone SE is also much smaller, with less screen real estate. Of course, plenty of people might consider that a plus! At 2.65 inches wide, the iPhone SE is a lot more manageable in one hand than the 2.98-inch-wide iPhone 11.
Check out the chart above to see the difference in specs between most of the current iPhone models in Apple’s lineup. Note that the LTE speeds in this chart are mean US speeds for the month of March for that device from Speedtest Intelligence, run by Ookla Speedtest, a sibling company of PCMag.com. iPhone SE speeds are estimated based on guessing that the phone uses the iPhone 11 chipset and iPhone 8 antennas.
We haven’t tested the iPhone SE yet, but ultimately your decision will come down to price. If you can’t afford to spend $599 or more on a new Apple phone, the second-generation iPhone SE looks like a compelling alternative with relatively few compromises, especially compared with the iPhone XR.
iPhone SE vs. Older iPhone Models
How about upgrading from an iPhone 6/6s or iPhone 7? These are the users that Apple would really like to see buying the iPhone SE.
The new iPhone SE provides a big bump in camera capabilities from the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, as well as a much stronger processor, water resistance, faster charging, and likely better Wi-Fi and LTE performance.
The differences are slimmer when upgrading from the iPhone 7, but wireless charging, fast charging, portrait mode, and a more powerful processor are all marks in the iPhone SE’s favor.
I’d also pay attention to how long we think these phones will be supported. The iPhone 6 no longer gets operating system upgrades. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 are likely to only get upgrades for one or two more years. The iPhone SE, meanwhile, will probably get new features for at least four years. That makes it an appealing choice.
For more, see our story on whether you should upgrade to the iPhone SE. And if you aren’t entranced by the phone’s design, check out our list of iPhone SE alternatives.