Let’s just say that the iPhone 5 design language was the most timeless of all, but thanks to modern apps, the 4in size is just too small to live with. Hence, the second generation of the SE has adopted the skin of the iPhone 8.

The 4.7in screen size now provides the bare minimum screen real estate to view and edit things like Google Docs or iMovie. Picking up a phone as thin and light as the iPhone SE hits home. You are instantly transported to an era where the smartphone was simply a tool, not your entire life.You slip it into your pocket and somehow forget about it. It doesn’t tug on your trousers, making you subconsciously pull it out and keep fidgeting with it. Thankfully, inside its svelte 2017 body, the SE also sports the brains of the iPhone 11. Power comes courtesy of the A13 Bionic chip, 2020’s gold standard that has trumped almost every Android phone, even with the fastest Snapdragon 865 chipset.

You’ve heard this enough, but in this “new reality”, no facial scanner will work as quickly or reliably as a fingerprint scanner, so Touch ID, welcome back. What’s not so great is that modern apps really demand a bigger phone, not just for the screen size, but more importantly, a bigger battery. This is an area where the iPhone SE still feels like 2017, not in a good way. Yes, charging anxiety is back! Starting off at 100% at 9 a.m., it was time to juice up the 1820mAh battery by 6 p.m. with the usual string of daily apps and light gaming for a few minutes. Going outdoors for the whole day without a power bank won’t be the wisest thing to do for an SE owner.

It may be the cheapest iPhone but certainly feels as well built as their flagships. The all-black front is the only way to tell it apart from an older iPhone 8, if you’re into pub talk, and the Product (Red) version looks especially sharp in this aesthetic. But what makes it feel as premium as the iPhone 11 is its quality of glass and overall build. Faultless. 

Seamless from front to back, water and dust resistant, and now the glass back also supports wireless charging with any Qi-certified fast chargers up to 30W.

The biggest sacrifice you'll make is the single-lens camera system, but it is the best single-cam on any iPhone. You'll still get Portrait mode (for humans only), excellent video with stabilisation and in bright scenes, we couldn't find much difference in quality between the SE and iPhone 11, which, at its price, is amazing!

iPhone 11 Pro (left) iPhone SE (right)

iPhone 11 Pro (left) iPhone SE (right)

iPhone 11 Pro (left) iPhone SE (right)

iPhone 11 Pro - HDR (left) iPhone SE - HDR (right)

iPhone 11 Pro - Selfie (left) iPhone SE - Selfie (right)

Sharpness, contrast and detail are all intact in daylight shots and the only slight variation between the SE and the iPhone 11 Pro was due to the LCD vs OLED screen. The iPhone 11 Pro churns out brighter pictures with slightly better dynamic range, but then again, it also costs almost three times as much! Since the A13 Bionic is powerful enough to run the calculations needed for Smart HDR, even difficult compositions like a dark room and a bright day outside looks great through a window. The 7MP front cam comes short compared to the iPhone 11 Pro (obviously), but on its own, it displays passable dynamic range although details tend to appear softer than the artificially sharpened Android competition.

What we did miss was Night Mode and the screen real estate to meaningfully watch an episode of Too Hot to Handle. For a lot of us, even the keypad feels a bit crunched  in these times of texting over talking. Although the screen seems small at 4.7in, what you notice is the high brightness, sharpness, colour accuracy and the corner-to-corner reachability. The photos you take will be processed with smart HDR and the Retina display supports HDR and Dolby Vision. But the display and the back does tend to heat up fairly quickly if you’re recording 4K video or playing a graphic intensive game for more than 10 minutes.

Of course, where the SE absolutely shines is in everyday tasks with multiple apps, switching with blistering speed and never slowing down, regardless of how many active apps you have open. The swiftness with which you can go about your basics is what makes this such a crowd favourite, and with the powerful new chip on board, it becomes a wonderful little phone that works for most people who don’t need mega-sized phones for their human-sized hands.

Verdict

Shipped with the latest iOS13 version, the SE comes with the promise of updates for years to come, without slowing down. The A13 chipset ensures that AR and camera improvements remain a constant too. There have been affordable iPhones before, like the original SE, but besides sharing the same processor as the regular line of iPhones, it didn’t offer much. This one, though, seems more rounded (no pun intended). Better camera, better screen, better image processing pipeline, wireless charging and all this under ₹40,000 if you’re an HDFC patron. That gives it a better chance of success than flagship Androids! The assured nature of iOS and things “just working” if you have an Apple ecosystem, the lack of any bloatware or slowing down over time and the hand-feel of the iPhone SE is definitely a huge draw. Just make sure you keep the expenditure of an extra power bank in mind.

Stuff says... 

IPhone SE review

All the phone most of the people will ever need. Great budget device that will ‘just work’ without burning a hole in your pocket
from
₹42500
Good Stuff 
Size and screen quality
Camera in bright conditions
Touch ID actually is a welcome back
Bad Stuff 
Battery life isn’t all-day
Keyboard feels crunched for modern apps
Body can heat up considerably