iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone 11: What's the difference (and should you upgrade)

iPhone SE 2020 in white
iPhone SE 2020 in white (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone SE (2020) might be a newer phone than the iPhone 11. However, that doesn't mean it's better in terms of hardware and features. Still, the former is Apple's latest budget phone, and it's worth checking out regardless. When it comes to your choice, it mostly comes down to whether you feel the extra features on the iPhone 11 are worth the additional cost. Much but not all of the differences between the two come down to the camera options. So which one should you get (or should you upgrade)? Let's find out.

iPhone SE 2020 vs. iPhone 11: let's break it down

With the significant improvements to the camera system on the iPhone 11, you might think the choice is clear, but not everyone needs the advanced camera for the $300 price increase. To see what's the same and what's different between the two, let's break down the specs.

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Header Cell - Column 0 iPhone 11iPhone SE (2020)
Starting price$699$399
Screen size6.1-inches4.7-inches
Face ID?YesNo
Battery performance- Video playback: Up to 17 hours
- Video playback (streamed): Up to 10 hours
- Audio playback: Up to 65 hours
- Video playback: Up to 13 hours
- Video playback (streamed): Up to 8 hours
- Audio playback (wireless): Up to 40 hours
Display- Liquid Retina HD display
- 1792‑by‑828‑pixel resolution at 326 ppi
- 1400:1 contrast ratio (typical)
- Retina HD display
- 1334-by-750-pixel resolution at 326 ppi
- 1400:1 contrast ratio (typical)
ProcessorA13 BionicA13 Bionic
Camera featuresDual 12MP
Ultra Wide and Wide cameras
wide-angle camera
Night modeYesNo
Slo-mo front cameraYesNo
Zoom options2x optical zoom out; digital zoom up to 5xDigital zoom up to 5x
TrueDepth Camera features- 12MP
- Animoji and Memoji
- 4K video
Portrait Lighting effectsNatural
Stage Mono
High-Key Mono
Stage Mono
High-Key Mono
Water-resistanceIP68: 2 meters/30 minutesIP67: 1 meter/30 minutes

Camera 1 vs. Camera 2

The iPhone 11 features dual 12MP Ultra Wide and Wide cameras. By contrast, the iPhone SE (2020) only offers a wide-angle camera. This difference means the former includes optical zoom out, night mode, and auto adjustments. The larger device is also the one that features a TrueDepth camera, alongside Animoji and Memoji. By contrast, the iPhone SE (2020) only offers a FaceTime HD 7MP camera.

Despite this, the two iPhones also have similar camera features. For example, they both offer portrait Lighting with six effects and optical image stabilization. You'll also find True Tone flash with Slow Sync on both models and 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, and 60 fps.

Price over features

As noted, the iPhone SE (2020) is now Apple's budget handset, while the iPhone 11 is the mid-priced model. For the extra $300 on the iPhone 11, you'll receive dual rear cameras, a front-facing TrueDepth camera, and Face ID (versus Touch ID). The more expensive model also includes a better display, more battery life, and increased water resistance.

The iPhone 11 is available in five colors, while the iPhone SE (2020) only comes in three. Both are available in black, white, and (PRODUCT)RED.

iPhone SE 2020 vs. iPhone 11: Who should buy each?

If you're in the market for a budget iPhone, by all means, get an iPhone SE (2020). It features the same chipset as the more expensive model, the same amount of storage, and a fantastic 12MP wide-angle camera.

If you're looking for extras such as Face ID, a larger, better display, and more camera features, the iPhone 11 is the one for you. Yes, it's more expensive than the iPhone SE (2020), but it's also cheaper than the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

We recommend protecting your investment by buying one of the best iPhone 12 cases or best iPhone SE (2020) cases.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.