Affordable power

iPhone SE (2020)

Still solid

iPhone 8

The iPhone SE packs iPhone 11 performance into an iPhone 8 form factor. Its smaller size makes the iPhone SE great for one-handed use, something that Apple's more modern phones tend to miss. It's got a great camera, even if it is only a single-sensor affair, while the variety of colors brightens up an otherwise-dated design.

From $399 at Apple

Pros

  • Performance like an iPhone 11
  • Great for one-handed use
  • Great battery life
  • Excellent camera
  • More storage options

Cons

  • Only one camera
  • Dated design

The iPhone 8 was released about two-and-a-half years ago and is still a reasonably capable device, and at an even lower price than the iPhone SE. That being said, its A11 system-on-a-chip is starting to show its age just a little bit, and next to the iPhone SE's vibrant red color option, the iPhone 8's color selection is looking a little stale.

From $449 at Best Buy

Pros

  • Still a fairly capable phone in 2020
  • Same size display as iPhone SE

Cons

  • Starting to show its age a bit
  • Older processor chip
  • No Portrait Mode

The iPhone SE is essentially an iPhone 11 with the body of an iPhone 8 and the camera of an iPhone XR (in fact, it's a better camera than the iPhone XR). So it's cheaper than the iPhone 8 and has a better camera and a better processor. The choice seems pretty clear.

Break it down now...

The iPhone SE outclasses the iPhone 8 in every respect, and for a lower price. It's got a better processor, and a better single-lens camera than even the iPhone XR thanks to the improved signal processor.

iPhone SE (2020) iPhone 8
Price From $399 From $449
Colors White
Black
(PRODUCT)RED
Silver
Space Gray
Gold
Battery Performance Talk time: Up to 21 hours
Internet: Up to 12 hours
Video playback: Up to 13 hours
Audio playback: Up to 40 hours
Talk time: Up to 21 hours
Internet: Up to 12 hours
Video playback: Up to 13 hours
Audio playback: Up to 40 hours
Display 4.7-inch Retina HD display
1334x750 pixels at 326 ppi
1400:1 contrast ratio
4.7-inch Retina HD display
1334x750 pixels at 326 ppi
1400:1 contrast ratio
Processor A13 Bionic A11 Bionic
Storage 64GB
128GB
256GB
64GB
256GB
Camera features Rear: Single 12MP sensor, f/1.8 aperture
Front: 7MP sensor f/2.2 aperture
Rear: Single 12MP sensor, f/1.8 aperture
Front: 7MP sensor f/2.2 aperture
Slo-mo front camera Yes No
Portrait Lighting effects Natural
Studio
Contour
Stage
Stage Mono
High-Key Mono
N/A
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi 5
Water resistance IP67: 1 meter/30 minutes IP67: 1 meter/30 minutes

If you're looking for a low-cost iPhone, get the iPhone SE. It has the performance of the latest-generation iPhone, with a smaller screen that's easier to use in one hand. While it only has a single-lease rear camera system, it's still an excellent camera, complete with Portrait Mode.

According to Apple, the iPhone SE's A13 system-on-a-chip has a CPU 1.4x faster than the iPhone 8's A11, while the GPU is twice as fast as the older model. Cellular speeds are up to 60% faster, with Wi-Fi speeds up 38% over the iPhone 8.

If you still want an iPhone with Touch ID, the iPhone SE has it. Ditto the familiar design that Apple's been using since the iPhone 6 in 2014. It has the same 4.7-inch Retina display as the iPhone 8 and has three storage options. It's also more readily available: with the launch of the iPhone SE, Apple has discontinued the iPhone 8.

Bottom line

The iPhone SE isn't flashy. It's not supposed to be. The 'SE' could stand for "Steady Edition." It's a reliable, powerful iPhone at a reasonable price for people looking for just that. It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of more recent iPhones like Face ID or Night Mode, but it's the no-nonsense iPhone experience that a lot of people need. It also doesn't hurt that it should receive updates for the same amount of time as the iPhone 11 lineup, which probably means updates for the next several years.

Comparatively, the iPhone 8 has a slower processor, less advanced camera system, and it costs more. It's also not available from most retail outlets.

Though the iPhone 8 is still a great phone, the 2020 iPhone SE has just enough features to make it worth upgrading.

A low-cost powerhouse

iPhone SE (2020)

Don't pay full price for full power.

Packs the power of an iPhone 11 in the body of an iPhone 8. Easy to use in one hand, the camera system on the iPhone SE can still support Portrait mode with a single lens.

Solid performer

iPhone 8

Get the iPhone SE instead.

While still a good phone for those who have one, the iPhone 8 is beginning to show its age. It has a worse processor and camera color selection, and it's more expensive, to boot.

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