iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone XR: What's the Difference (and Should you Upgrade)

iPhone XR in yellow
iPhone XR in yellow (Image credit: iMore)

The iPhone SE (2020) was made for the Touch ID lovers and the small phone advocates that have been clamoring for some like the original iPhone SE for years. It's basically an iPhone 8 —same size and form factor — that has the new and shiny A13 Bionic chip inside, making it widely more powerful. The good news is the iPhone SE (2020) still has essential features like Qi wireless charging compatibility and an IP67 water-resistance rating, so even though you give up features like Face ID and the use of the TrueDepth camera, you're not missing much else.

The iPhone XR is still the cheapest way to get Face ID and the TrueDepth camera on an iPhone, so if you want to be able to use Animoji and Memoji, or you care about portrait mode photos from the front-facing camera, the iPhone XR delivers. It's also available in a wide variety of colors.

The nitty-gritty details

We know that when you're comparing different iPhone models, you want to ensure you get the best iPhone you can. If you're looking for a new iPhone with a limited budget, you'll be very interested in what the iPhone SE (2020) vs. iPhone XR has to offer you. The most significant difference between the new iPhone SE (2020) and the iPhone XR is mostly going to come down to the difference in the form factor. The TrueDepth camera and the bigger iPhone XR design just allow a few more features that the iPhone SE will have.

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Header Cell - Column 0 iPhone SE (2020)iPhone XR
PriceStarting from $399Starting from $499
Screen4.7-inch Retina HD display6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD display
ChipA13 BionicA12 Bionic
Rear cameraSingle 12MP wide-angle cameraSingle 12MP wide-angle camera
Front cameraFaceTime HD (7MP with 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps)True­Depth (7MP with 1080p HD video recording at 60 fps)
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256 GB64GB, 128GB
Unlock iPhonevia Touch IDvia Face ID
Wireless chargingYesYes
Water-resistanceIP67 (maximum depth of 1 meter up to 30 minutes)IP67 (maximum depth of 1 meter up to 30 minutes)
BatteryUp to 13 hours of video playback and 40 hours of audio playbackUp to 16 hours of video playback and 65 hours of audio playback
Portrait modeYes, via rear cameraYes, via both rear and front cameras
Fast-charge50% in 30 minutes with 18W adapter or higher (sold separately)50% in 30 minutes with 18W adapter or higher (sold separately)

Obviously, the biggest differences come from the iPhone SE's lack of a TrueDepth camera, but there are a few small differences you may want to take note of when making your decisions.

The iPhone SE (2020) comes in three storage capacities — 65BG, 128GB, and 256GB — whereas the iPhone XR only is available in the first two options. If you're the type of person that loves to have as much space as possible, the iPhone SE (2020) may be a better option when you're looking for an upgrade.

While the smaller form factor of the second-generation iPhone SE makes it much easier to use in one hand and fit properly into pockets, it sacrifices some battery life. The iPhone SE (2020) is rated to have the same battery life as the iPhone 8 did, and while Apple never releases the exact battery size, estimates from teardowns of the iPhone 8 have put the battery at 1,821mAh. That's quite a bit smaller than the iPhone XR, which has been estimated to be around 2,942 mAh. If you use your phone heavily throughout the day, the iPhone SE's smaller battery could maybe feel a little restricting.

Making the choice

When it comes to upgrading from the iPhone XR to the iPhone SE (2020), it really depends on how much you want Touch ID. Although the A13 Bionic chip is newer and has better performance than the iPhone XR's A12 Bionic chip, it's very unlikely you would notice much difference better them at all. Outside of that, most of the features are pretty similar, and the iPhone SE doesn't bring anything to the table that the iPhone XR doesn't.

If you've been hanging on to your iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 because you haven't wanted to part ways with Touch ID or the smaller phone size, then upgrading to the iPhone SE (2020) is a no-brainer!

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.