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iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone 8: What's the difference (and should you upgrade)

iPhone 8
iPhone 8 (Image credit: iMore)

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). The iPhone 8 was released in 2017, and you cannot purchase a new device at retail anymore. The choice seems pretty clear.

iPhone SE (2020) vs. iPhone 8: Break it down now...

iPhone SE 2020 Lightning Port

iPhone SE 2020 Lightning Port (Image credit: iMore)

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

iPhone SE (2020)iPhone 8
PriceFrom $399From $449
ColorsWhite
Black
(PRODUCT)RED
Silver
Space Gray
Gold
Battery PerformanceTalk 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
Display4.7-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
ProcessorA13 BionicA11 Bionic
Storage64GB
128GB
256GB
64GB
256GB
Camera featuresRear: 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 cameraYesNo
Portrait Lighting effectsNatural
Studio
Contour
Stage
Stage Mono
High-Key Mono
N/A
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 5
Water resistanceIP67: 1 meter/30 minutesIP67: 1 meter/30 minutes

iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone 8: Comparison

iPhone SE 2020

iPhone SE 2020 (Image credit: iMore)

If you're looking for a low-cost iPhone, get the iPhone SE. It has the performance of an iPhone 11, with a smaller screen that's easier to use in one hand. While it only has a single-lens 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.

iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone 8: Bottom line

iPhone SE 2020

iPhone SE 2020 (Image credit: iMore)

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 many 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 only available as pre-owned. 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.

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.