iPhone SE vs iPhone 11: What's the difference?

iPhone SE (2020)

iPhone SE (2020)

Credit: Apple

Even if the new iPhone SE does feature the same A13 Bionic processor found in last year's iPhone 11, it'd be a mistake to treat that as the only detail that matters. If you're comparing the two, it's just one piece of the larger puzzle. Ultimately, there are a number of key differences between the two that you'll want to be aware of if you're looking to decide between the two for your next upgrade.

First of all: there's the obvious stuff. 

Display & Camera

The iPhone 11 has a much larger 6.1-inch screen on the front and a much more powerful dual-lens camera setup on the back. If you're someone who likes to take the prettiest photos possible for your Insta-fans, then this might be the reason for you to consider spending a little bit extra on the more expensive option. 

Credit: Apple

The single-lens camera on the back of the new iPhone SE might match the iPhone 11 for megapixels but it's got one less lens - which means you're probably not going to get the same degree of flexibility or fidelity. For the shorthand spiel on why multi-lens cameras are usually better, click here.

Another difference worth noting here is the type of screen on offer. The iPhone 11 has a Liquid Retina display with thin bezels while the new iPhone SE has a more conventional Retina HD display. Both screens tout 326-pixels-per-inch.

Biometrics: FaceID vs TouchID

Then, there's the difference in biometric tech. The iPhone 11 supports Apple's FaceID tech. The new iPhone SE doesn't. Instead, it relies on Apple's older TouchID system through a fingerprint sensor. 

This is, from both a security and ease of use perspective, something of a step backward. However, if you find the idea of your phone scanning your face to be a little uncomfortable, it's unlikely to be a deal-breaker for you. For more on how Face ID works, click here

Design and Features

The iPhone SE (2020) is available in a range of colorsCredit: Apple
The iPhone SE (2020) is available in a range of colors

In terms of design, this thing looks much more like a classic iPhone than the iPhone 11 does - which takes its cues from the paradigm-shifting iPhone X.

Still, If you don't care for big phones, the iPhone SE looks to be one of the best small phones we've seen in years. In a world where smaller phones usually don't get the features of larger phones, Apple's latest looks to break the mold. It promises to pair up access to Apple's iOS ecosystem, wireless charging and water resistance with a distinctly mid-range price-point.

Battery Life

The other big question mark here is battery life. Apple claim that the new iPhone SE will get you up to 13 hours of video on a single charge. In comparison, the company claim that the iPhone 11 delivers 'all day battery' life. 

Credit: Apple

Though the language is imprecise, it seems safe to assume that Apple's 2019 affordable iPhone will deliver more usage per charge than its 2020 counterpart.

We don't necessarily know for sure that Apple are using the same sized battery found in the iPhone 8 for the new iPhone SE. However, the company's estimate of 13 hours of video playback does put it more-or-less in line with the 2017 device for battery performance. With that in mind, it seems likely that the new iPhone SE won't offer the distinctly improved battery life delivered by Apple's 2019 crop.

iPhone SECredit: Apple
iPhone SE

Our Verdict?

If having a small phone matters more to you than having one with decent battery life and FaceID, then the new iPhone SE looks like a bargain at $749. However, if you want better optics, a larger screen biometrics and improved battery life, then last year's iPhone 11 might be the way to go.

In our full Australian review of the new iPhone SE, we found that "The new iPhone SE is an indulgent return to what was but a sobering reminder that even what’s old is new again has limits."

"It’s deliciously easy to break Apple’s latest flirtation with budget buyers down into straightforward math. An iPhone 11 processor plus an iPhone 8 design plus AI camera magic is probably going to equal a good time for those who don’t expect anything more."

This article was originally published in April 2020 and updated in January 2021.

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Fergus Halliday
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