2020 iPhone SE vs iPhone XR – Battle of the Budget iPhones


After a lot of anticipation and wait, Apple has finally unveiled the all new 2020 iPhone SE (commonly referred to as iPhone SE 2).

Though the phone looks similar to that of the iPhone 8, the new iPhone SE is completely beefed up from the inside to resemble the iPhone 11 series in hardware configuration.

The presence of the A13 Bionic chip in the new iPhone SE makes it as powerful as the iPhone 11 series. Most people (including myself) are actually starting to wonder as to why they spent $999 on the iPhone 11 Pro in the first place.

However, it is kind of pointless to compare the 2020 iPhone SE with the iPhone 11 Pro as the iPhone 11 Pro is altogether a premium phone with tons of other features too. The new iPhone SE being a budget iPhone compares mainly to the iPhone XR as these two phones have identical hardware numbers.

iPhone SE 2020 vs iPhone XR – Which one has the better Camera ?

Though official pics from the iPhone SE 2 are yet to be out, the hardware numbers speak a lot about the camera performance.

The rear camera of the new iPhone SE is a 12 MP f/1.8 wide angle camera, which if you look at it is the same camera found in the iPhone XR. Now, Apple calls the 2020 iPhone SE’s camera as the best single-camera system to have ever made it to an iPhone. This statement necessarily means that the new iPhone SE will take slightly better pictures than the iPhone XR.

If both the iPhone XR and the iPhone SE have a similar camera setup, you must be wondering how the iPhone SE would take better pics of the two. The answer lies in the fact that a phone’s processor plays a pivotal role in post processing of photos.

The iPhone SE 2 has Apple’s latest and greatest A13 bionic chipset which is currently the strongest processor found in any smartphone. The 3rd generation neural engine and image signal processor of the new A13 bionic chip greatly contribute to the post processing feature of the camera thereby yielding slightly better photos than the XR. The camera feature in the iPhone XR still relies on the previous generation A12 bionic chip and second generation neural engine for post processing activities.

Though both the iPhone XR and the new iPhone SE support Portrait Mode with advanced bokeh and depth control, the portrait lighting in the new iPhone SE features three additional effects (Stage, Stage Mono, and High-key Mono) than the iPhone XR with only three effects (Natural, Studio, Contour).

2020 iPhone SE Portrait Mode

The new iPhone SE with its Next-Generation Smart HDR capability is expected to have better shadow and bright light details than the iPhone XR which still uses the previous generation Smart HDR feature. The Next-Generation HDR is actually the same HDR feature that you find in the iPhone 11 Pro.

iPhone XR Portrait Mode

The list common features in video recording for both the phones can be summarised as follows –

  • 4K video recording @24,30, or 60fps
  • 1080p video recording @30 or 60fps, and 720p recording @30fps
  • Extended dynamic range and 3X digital zoom
  • Stereo recording
  • 1080 Slo-mo video @120 or 240fps
  • Time lapse with video stabilisation, and few more

One additional video recording feature in the iPhone SE which is not present in the iPhone XR is 4K cinematic stabilisation. In the XR, cinematic stabilisation is restricted to 720p and 1080p videos.

Both the phones share a 7MP f/2.2 aperture front camera with Dynamic Range, Auto Image Stabilisation, retina flash, and burst mode. There is a slightly difference in the front camera features as well. The front camera of the XR supports 1080p HD video recording @30fps or 60fps whereas in the the iPhone SE, the front camera only supports 1080p HD video recording @30 fps.

Overall, though the 2020 iPhone SE and iPhone XR share most of the camera features, the new iPhone SE does have a few new tricks up its sleeve, and also the better camera experience among the two owing to the presence of the new generation A13 bionic processor.

If having a good camera smartphone is your only priority, then definitely the 2020 iPhone SE is the one to go for.

2020 iPhone SE vs iPhone XR – Performance

Both the iPhone XR and the 2020 iPhone SE are very fast devices than run on iOS 13. However, the 2020 iPhone SE will have a higher performance of the two as it hosts Apple’s latest A13 bionic chipset, and a thereby a new generation neural engine.

The difference between performance for these two phones on a day to day usage will be a bare minimum. But when you run memory intensive tasks such as video editing or while multi-tasking, you will find that the A13 is much faster than the previous generation A12.

Any discussion on performance is incomplete without mentioning battery life. In terms of battery life, the iPhone XR wins hands down. Whether its battery life for talk-time, video or audio playback, the iPhone XR is much ahead of the 2020 iPhone SE.

2020 iPhone SE vs iPhone XR – Design and Durability


The 2020 iPhone SE’s greatest drawback is perhaps its design. The phone looks exactly similar to the iPhone 8, and comes with a 4.7 inch IPS LCD display with a home button that carries the Touch ID. There are no visible changes to the exterior design of the iPhone SE from the iPhone 9 except that the Apple logo now sits in the center.

2020 iPhone SE

The XR, on the other hand has a 6.1 inch all screen LCD display with no home button. The XR’s screen is really big, and whether its reading e-books, browsing the internet, playing games or watching movies, the viewing experience in the XR is much better and less strenuous than the new iPhone SE. The XR also supports FaceID for unlocking. Most people actually prefer the FaceID over the touch ID as it is very convenient to use.

iPhone XR

Both phones being Apple are equally durable and are rated IP67, that is water, splash and dust resistant for 1 meter up to 30 minutes. Hence, when it comes to taking photos in a rough outdoor conditions, both phones offer the same permanence.

2020 iPhone SE vs iPhone XR – Which budget Apple iPhone should I buy?

The decision is quite simple – if you are a fan of Apple’s modern all screen displays, you should definitely go for the iPhone XR. The XR offers a great camera, satisfying user experience, and a very good battery life.

If you are interested in the traditional Apple design of having a compact phone with Touch ID instead of the Face ID, a slightly better camera than the XR, and a latest generation processor, then the 2020 iPhone SE at a much lower price tag is the one for you.