Almost three years later, Apple has opted to turn back the clock and play by its iPhone SE playbook. Stuff best of breed internals into a design template that we first saw with iPhone 6 in 2014. It’s almost like that favourite shoe with extra zing. The COVID-induced lockdowns have changed the way we use our smartphones. It’s probably why the timing of the second generation iPhone SE couldn’t have been better. Does this have all you need for a true blue iPhone experience and can it hold its own against Android flagships in the Rs 40,000 to 50,000 price band?
It’s almost magical to feel the SE in your hands, especially when you swap SIMs with an iPhone 11 Pro, like I did. At 148 gm, it’s over 20% lighter than the 11 Pro and a whopping 35% lighter than the formidable 11 Pro Max. If you’ve missed the simple joy of one-handed navigation, it’s back with the SE. The trade-off is a dated form factor that takes you back in time. The bezels are back, the 4.7-inch Retina IPS LCD display (750 x 1334 pixels / 326 PPI) is identical to the 2017 iPhone 8. If binge watching is your thing, then you might want to consider the iPhone 11 or the pricier 11 Pro. Colours are vibrant on the SE, thanks to the Retina HD display with True Tone that also supports HDR10 playback. Then there’s the other comfort zone – the home key and TouchID. It’s particularly handy if you have to keep unlocking your phone with a face mask.
Apple’s smartest play – just like with the 2016 iPhone SE, is to pack the 2020 SE with the best of breed A13 Bionic processor. It’s the same processor that powers the latest iPhone 11 trio. It’s significant for two reasons. The SE came mighty close to the 11 Pro in our tests and gaming experience. It’s just as zippy and delivers the same buttery smooth iOS experience. Staying with iOS, Apple usually guarantees five years of software updates. So, you get a processor that’s great for the long haul plus software updates and the durability of an iPhone at under Rs 40,000. The light form factor also comes with a trade-off – battery life. While the SE outperforms the iPhone 8 and 7, it’s still not in the same league the iPhone 11 or the XR. I just about managed a whole day with some camera use and about 45 minutes of videos aside from extensive data and calls.
The biggest surprise in the iPhone SE is the camera. On paper it’s the same camera as the iPhone 8 – a 12MP rear lens (f/1.8 aperture) and a 7MP selfie cam. Apple leverages the A13 Bionic chip that elevates the camera performance with computational photography. You get all the six portrait lighting modes and depth control. Portraits are terrific and images in ambient light were almost on par with the 11 Pro in our tests. It’s the lowlight photography where the 11 Pro has a huge lead and there’s no ultra-wide option that we’ve come to enjoy using on the 11 trio. Videos are terrific in ambient light too – the SE allows you to shoot 4K at up to 60fps.
There are other useful touches too, like wireless charging and an all-weather form (the device comes with an IPS67 rating – up to 1 metre for 30 minutes). The iPhone SE lands in the price band as fully loaded Android devices like the OnePlus 8 and the Mi10. While these devices might offer better displays and a more contemporary design, it’s not always a like-for-like comparison. The iPhone SE might be all the iPhone many users need. The light form factor and one-handed navigation takes you back to a time when smartphones were simpler to use.
The iPhone SE comes in three colours – white, black and (PRODUCT) RED and three storage variants – 64GB/Rs 42,500, 128GB/Rs 47,800 and 256 GB/Rs 58,300. There’s a Rs 3,600 instant discount on HDFC credit and debit cards.