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Apple iPhone SE review

Apple's budget-beating iPhone SE is definitely a product of its time – if that time was 2017.

fl apple iphone se 2020
Last updated: 16 May 2020

CHOICE verdict

If you want to replace your Apple iPhone 6 or 6s then the new iPhone SE will feel like a great upgrade. If you have an original iPhone SE with 4-inch display and are happy with it, don't upgrade – the new SE is not the diminutive smartphone you may expect. It's a good first iPhone for anyone on a budget, but not an automatic upgrade for all iPhone owners.

Price: from $749
Contact: www.apple.com/au/iphone-se/

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The display, is exactly the same as the iPhone 8 with a faster processor and support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard, but no 5G mobile network support.

Budget beating iPhone

Apple tends to release their iPhone mobiles at a premium price and drop the price only when the next iPhone is announced. That's how Apple iPhone owners on a budget buy their next iPhone. For example, the Apple iPhone 8 is the latest iPhone to be officially discontinued by Apple but is now available at a heavily discounted price from non-Apple retailers such as Officeworks.

Occasionally Apple have been known to introduce a new model that is more affordable on release, in an attempt to appeal to people on a budget wanting something new without needing the latest and greatest technology and features. The iPhone 5c (which was a colourful version of the 5 released in 2013) and the original iPhone SE (released in 2016) are examples of this affordable introduction to the world of the iPhone.

The new iPhone SE is Apple's latest iPhone aimed specifically at the entry-level user. So is it any good, and should you upgrade your current iPhone?

Speed bumps, familiar design

Unlike the original iPhone SE with a 4-inch display, the new iPhone SE has a larger 4.7-inch display and in terms of design and screen quality is identical to the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7.

The new iPhone SE has the same high performance A13 chip used in the more expensive iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, although the RAM for the new SE has been reduced from 4GB to 3GB which means a drop in performance when using lots of apps.

Pricing for the iPhone SE starts at $749 for the 64GB version but for an extra $60 you can get the 128GB version which is much better value. The largest capacity option is 256GB at $999.     

Compared to current smartphone design, the new iPhone SE is decidedly dated, with a home button and black bars at the top and bottom of the display instead of the full screen display shown on the latest mobiles.

Support for the latest wireless networking standard (Wi-Fi 6) and wireless charging are welcome features, although it doesn't come with support for the increasingly important 5G mobile network.

The built-in stereo speakers produce well-balanced sound and the fingerprint scanner integrated in the home button works very well.

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The latest generation processor and photo filters breath some life into Apple's most affordable large display smartphone.

Camera performance

As with the iPhone 8 it replaced and the older iPhone 7, the iPhone SE has a 12MP main camera and a 7MP front or selfie camera. The video quality using the HD is good, as is the photo quality under favourable lighting conditions. However, low light performance was less impressive with some noticeable image noise.

Battery life and durability

The 1821mAh battery delivered almost 20 hours of use with maximum brightness in our robot test cycle and took almost 150 minutes to carry out a full charge using the supplied charger, although you can expect better performance if you buy the optional 18W fast charger. As with the iPhone 8 and The iPhone 7, the IP67 certification for water and dust protection was confirmed as it passed all our immersion and drop tests.