The reviews for the new iPhone SE are in. They are, overall, positive, mostly noting the good tech specs of the device alongside its enticing price point. There are though some additional elements that are worth reflecting on, like the lack of FaceID.

The new range of iPhone SE devices

Joanna Stern: The iPhone SE is ‘For People Who Don’t Like New iPhones’

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Joanna Stern said:

The iPhone SE is a great phone. It just isn’t meant for those of us who upgrade our phones every year or two.

She said that lots of people have contacted her who continue to use old iPhones. These users like some of the older features like TouchID and prefer the smaller form factor. They want to upgrade their device, but can’t or won’t pay for a top-end model. The iPhone SE is “appealing to those who still like their older models and don’t want to mortgage their home for a phone the size of Nebraska,” Ms. Stern notes.

Elsewhere, the review notes the other benefits the iPhone SE brings with it, notably a decent camera and a powerful new A13 processor. One downside – apparently the battery life isn’t that great compared to Apple’s higher-end devices. Also, check out her video review. We’re all handling lockdown in different ways.

John Gruber: ‘A Bit Frustrating… Astoundingly Good Value’

Over on Daring Fireball, John Gruber is slightly less positive. Again, he’s very impressed with the camera and processing power that is on offer for the price. However, he prefers the way users can interact with the iPhone X and later devices i.e. those with FaceID:

Once you get used to the post-iPhone-X interaction model, there’s no going back. A week with the new SE has not shaken my belief that the X-style interaction design is superior. Not one iota.

Beyond that, it seems Mr. Gruber’s biggest issue with the new iPhone SE is the lack of screen real-estate compared to other models. But, as he notes:

No one considering an iPhone SE is unaware of its size. SE buyers are either buying one despite its smaller size or because of it.

Marques Brownlee: ‘iPhone SE might be the most important thing Apple’s made this year.’

In his video review, Marque Brownlee describes the iPhone SE “as one of the most important phones in a long time.

This video is quite nice because it takes you through the unboxing process and the tech specs. Another fan of the A13 chip, he says the “performance overhead is insane.”

Matthew Panzarino: ‘ A Great Phone for Millions of People’

Not unreasonably, Techcrunch Editor-in-Chief Matthew Panzarino notes:

There was some general sentiment of shruggery about Apple producing a phone out of their “spare” parts.

Like John Gruber, Mr. Panzarino misses FaceID but he does think that while the device is small, it’s “not too small.”  Furthermore, and you may be noticing a theme by now… he says that the new iPhone SE is “super value for the price, just smashing really. And a damn good phone.”


To summarise, all the reviews I’ve read or watched think the 2020 iPhone SE is a great device at the price. It’s got a decent camera, a powerful chip, and will appeal to people who don’t want a ginormous device in their pocket/purse. It’s not for power users –  I don’t think any of the reviewers will be buying one for themselves – but it is going to be a very enticing offer for lots of other users. It is good that these reviewers, who tend to use high-end devices, have recognized the target market and how appealing the iPhone SE is going to be to that market.

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Also of note, from Gruber’s review – Face ID does not work when you are wearing a mask, Touch ID does. I’ve also read reports that Touch ID works while wearing nitrile gloves. Some may find that important in our current situation.