The iPhone SE 2020 is Apple’s most affordable “new” iPhone, and it yet, it could be the phone of the year. Take a minute to absorb this notion. At its core, Apple’s new phone, which launches in the maelstrom of a lockdown — is an iPhone XR redone with the brains of the iPhone 11 packed inside the body of an iPhone 8. There is some really old stuff, there is some new stuff and there is some old stuff that people have loved about iPhones which weren’t there in the recent models.
At Rs 42,500, it also becomes the best value for money premium smartphone in the market no-matter-what any competitor does. As hard to digest that maybe, especially for a product by a company known for expensive gadgets — it’s a reality. That also means “this phone” is a HUGE problem for almost every phone that is in striking range of its price — as it invites direct comparison with an iPhone which for many is akin to taking a knife to a gunfight.
The competition is varied — some older Samsung Galaxy S10 models will be around 30% slower while newer phones like the OnePlus 7T Pro would have a delta of around 20%. Phones based on Qualcomm’s latest chip — the Snapdragon 865 would be around 15% slower.
And this is not even talking about the GPU capabilities, the on-device AI prowess delivered by Apple’s neural engine and battery performance gains Apple has made with the new chip design and its 7nm manufacturing. This also doesn’t talk about the advantages of vertical integration — the fact that the A13 Bionic was designed for iOS 13 that powers these devices rather than a chip like the Snapdragon 865 which will go on hundreds of devices with differing specifications, builds of Android and manufacturer customisations.
The iPhone SE 2020 is going to steamroll every new Android phone in performance. That’s the Apple performance advantage — simple as that. It’s the reason even Google wants to design its on silicon. Games will look better, faster and cooler while more applications resource intensive as they may be will sing on this hardware. It also helps that because it is not using an insanely large screen at a humble HD resolution — this phone is likely to have even more performance than Apple’s own flagship iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models because of it driving fewer pixels.
Talking of this archaic 4.7-inch retina display on the iPhone SE — there are advantages of using this old technology. It not only allows Apple to reuse parts from the iPhone 8 and make a more affordable phone, but it also opens up a huge market. Since the iPhone 6, many people have complained that the screen of the iPhone has become too large. When Apple launched the first SE model based on the iPhone 5s, it struck pay dirt because people loved the small size. Today, it is almost impossible to find a premium smartphone with a large screen which wasn’t the case 4 years ago. This doesn’t only make the iPhone SE 2020 unique, it makes it very desirable.
In the age of face masks, the return of Apple’s super-secure Touch ID is a welcome change. Again, Apple’s implementation is known to be more secure and equally as fast as the optical in-display scanners that have been on Android smartphones for a while. It helps that Apple can tap-in to existing technology that it was the hero feature of the iPhone 5s, remains a redrawn advantage for its cheapest phone in 2020, 7 years on.
For Apple, an older model becomes their cheaper model — this is the beauty of the supply chain management that messers Cook and Williams have conjured over their multiple decades at Apple. This was one of the less sexy secret sauces to the juggernaut that fed off Steve Jobs’ brilliance.
This genius even shows up on the camera of the iPhone SE. It borrows the 12-megapixel single-camera tech from the iPhone XR but enhances it with the processing of the iPhone 11. At its worst, this camera will be just about as good as the iPhone XR, which was a hell of a camera and can hold its own with the best even today. At its best, this will be a camera system which will be as good as the iPhone 11 minus the flashy features like the wide-angle lens, zoom and night mode.
At the same time, Apple’s cameras are known to be miles ahead on the video to their Android rivals. The difference is light and day. The iPhone SE can now shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second which is a feature that only came to the Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8 Pro in 2020. Going by history and the reviews of these to the aforementioned phones, Apple’s is going to be better at capturing video and audio. Apple even reuses the 7-megapixel front-facing camera
OnePlus kickstarted the “flagship killer” phenomenon by arming its smartphones with the best hardware to the teeth with cut-throat pricing has graduated to not being a flagship competitor with the OnePlus 8 Pro which broke cover earlier this week. The iPhone 8 competes very well while being $500 lesser in USD terms. Its lower-end model looks shakier against the iPhone already — with the iPhone being potentially faster, cheaper, superior in cameras and security — one hasn’t even talked about the fringe features that the flagship killers skim upon, yet the “cheap” iPhone doesn’t.
Yes, I’m talking about things like wireless charging, dual stereo speakers, IP67 water and dust resistance, a fully aluminium chassis, best in class haptics, latest WiFi standards and glass body offered in old school yet elegant design. All of these features are afterthoughts on modern Android phones while these are standard fare on the cheap iPhone SE.
And then there is the software support which is a constant bone of contention with Android phones. The iPhone SE runs iOS 13 which is nothing earth-shattering but the fact remains Apple’s track record of a balance between performance and feature updates is incredible. iOS 13 also runs on a 5-year-old iPhone 6s — while the latest build of Android 10 isn’t even there on the 50% of the phones that were launched last year. Apple’s updates also improve the performance of the hardware as the products are planned in such a way. That’s also the reason why these phones are armed with such stupendous processing power — so that they can handle whatever new Apple has in the pipeline, even multiple years later.
Unlike an Android phone which may be even more expensive than an iPhone SE will get obsolete in just a year or two, this iPhone will not. There is some real value to be had in not having to upgrade every year or so. In the long run, the iPhone comes out to be cheaper. Almost every long time iPhone user doesn’t upgrade their phone as fast as an Android user; the churn and vanity is less apparent.
It is stuff like this which has made Apple’s brand so iconic. And that brand commands a premium. And that premium converts into incredible resale value, in the case you’re not satisfied.
This is why the new iPhone SE doesn’t spell doomsday for every wannabe flagship killer of a phone but also some of the big boys like the OnePlus 8 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S20. In the post coronavirus world more so — people shouldn’t be upgrading phones every year, they shouldn’t hogging for incremental improvements or fringe benefits like a quad HD screen on a phone or theoretical 5G capabilities and they certainly shouldn’t be spending upwards of Rs 50,000 for a phone even if that includes Apple’s own iPhone 11 models. At 42,500, a return to the good old times is welcome with a phone that nails the basics and how.
This spells doom for OnePlus as it has been riding on the high of the OnePlus 7 and 7T series last year which propelled it to the apex of India’s growing premium smartphone segment at the expense of Apple and Samsung. However, by the last quarter of the year it was clear Apple had regained its mojo with a record-breaking quarter for the iPhone 11 models — this will further push people towards Apple as oddly, the iPhones seemingly are getting cheaper while OnePlus’s gadgets are becoming more expensive. Seems like the world has literally gone upside down.