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Apple iPhone SE 2020 review: A quiet hero powered by A13 Bionic

The Apple iPhone SE 2020

The Apple iPhone SE 2020   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

An iPhone for less than ₹50,000? We take a close look at Apple’s latest ‘budget-friendly’ smartphone, and let you know how it holds up

Amid the swirling rumour mill of the iPhone 12, Apple quietly launched the second-generation iPhone SE (Special Edition) which is clearly the brand’s crack at a budget-conscious device which still promises its trademark technologies.

When I received the iPhone SE, I was quite pleased at how light the package was. While most new smartphones these days are all about ‘bigger is better’ the iPhone SE, weighing at 148 grams, is a reminder of the appeal of a compact device.

The iPhone SE is a virtual clone of the iPhone 8 in terms of look and size, one of the better-performing models for its sturdiness in fluidity and power and its simple design. Both devices have 1334x750-pixel resolution at 326 ppi and 1,400:1 contrast ratio with 625 nits of maximum brightness. While the 8 has 3D Touch, the SE has Haptic Touch, which is based on a long-press on the screen, rather than the amount of pressure applied.

The Apple iPhone SE 2020

The Apple iPhone SE 2020   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

The device comprises aerospace-grade aluminium and durable glass design with an all-black front. Interestingly, the device’s materials are recyclable, according to Apple; 100% recycled rare earth elements in the Taptic Engine, using 100% recycled tin in the solder of the main logic board, the enclosure is made with recyclable, low-carbon aluminium, and 35% or more of the materials are recycled plastic in multiple components.

  • Dimensions & weight: 138.4mm x 67.3mm x 7.3mm; 148 g
  • Display: Retina HD display; 4.7-inch (diagonal) widescreen LCD; Multi-Touch display with IPS technology; 1334x750-pixel resolution at 326 ppi; 1,400:1 contrast ratio (typical); True Tone display; Wide colour display (P3)
  • Chipset & OS: A13 Bionic with third generation Neural Engine; iOS 13
  • Power & battery: Fast-charge capable: up to 50% charge in 30 minutes with 18W adapter or higher (sold separately); Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery; Wireless charging (works with Qi chargers); Charging via USB to computer system or power adapter
  • Camera: 12MP Wide camera; ƒ/1.8 aperture; Digital zoom up to 5x; Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control; Optical image stabilisation; LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync; Panorama (up to 63MP); Sapphire crystal lens cover; Autofocus with Focus Pixels; Wide colour capture for photos and Live Photos; Next-generation Smart HDR for photos
  • Video recording: 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps; 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps; 720p HD video recording at 30 fps; Extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps; Optical image stabilisation for video; Digital zoom up to 3x

iPhone SE users will be delighted with the comeback of the home button. It makes sense for Apple to retain this feature as the smartphone does not feature Face ID — due to the omission of the facial recognition-enabling True Depth camera — with Apple instead opting for the less costly Touch ID.

The boost of A13

One of the biggest selling points, aside from the relatively low price, is the A13 Bionic with an intuitive 8-core Neural Engine, as well as a new Machine Learning Controller to balance performance and efficiency. The A13 Bionic was introduced with the iPhone 11 series, a comparatively robust set of devices with many more features.

So how does it perform with the sleeker and minimal iPhone SE? As the device comes iOS 13-ready (you may need to update the software to the latest point-version), I observed a great difference in power consumption. The commonly-used apps — which, for me during the review period, were various games from Apple Arcade, Nike Training, the camera, and Home — were prioritised for more battery usage. This kept the device from over-heating, an issue I encountered occasionally with the iPhone X series and the iPhone 8. I played an hour of The Floor Is Lava and then 30 minutes of Doomsday Vault, and the graphics were glitchless while the battery held up well.

As expected, the iPhone SE would have Portrait mode with the six lighting modes, leveraged by the A13 Bionic’s intelligence. Apple has made a smart move to have the SE retain a single rear camera; the single 12 megapixel wide camera with ƒ/1.8 aperture. Thankfully, they have added the Quick Take feature, where you long-press the shutter button to quickly record a video. But do not expect the same as the X or 11 series, Night Mode and dual optical image stabilisation being two major features omitted in the SE.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 using Apple Arcade

Apple iPhone SE 2020 using Apple Arcade   | Photo Credit: Apple

By foregoing a complex design, the iPhone SE is a quiet hero — but we cannot realistically expect it to be Apple’s saving grace from a somewhat lacklustre last couple of years of sales in India. Despite the pandemic, though, the device has already grabbed a number of eyes because it is retains the simplicity of earlier iPhones, while proving to be a competitive device in the ‘under 50k’ segment. I imagine this would make for a great gift to a grandparent or as even a teen’s first phone, given its ease-of-use, suave look and high performance.

iPhone SE is available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB models in black, white and (PRODUCT)RED starting at ₹42,500. iPhone SE is available through Apple Authorised Resellers and select carriers.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 12:58:15 PM |

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