Camera Comparison: 2020 iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8 and iPhone 11 Pro

Apple last week launched its new 2020 iPhone SE, a low-cost $399 smartphone that features ‌iPhone‌ 8 components upgraded with the same A13 chip available in Apple's flagship iPhones. We did a full hands-on video back on Friday, but we took the weekend to see how the ‌iPhone‌ SE's camera measures up to the ‌iPhone‌ 8 and iPhone 11 Pro.


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Based on an iFixit teardown that looked at the base camera hardware, the ‌iPhone‌ SE is using the same camera sensor as the ‌iPhone‌ 8, a 12-megapixel lens that features an f/1.8 aperture and a 28mm focal length, narrower than the 26mm focal length of the 12-megapixel wide-angle in Apple's flagships.


Though equipped with ‌iPhone‌ 8 hardware, the ‌iPhone‌ SE has more advanced photographic capabilities that are enabled by the powerful A13 Bionic chip inside, such as Portrait Mode and Smart HDR, so for the most part, the ‌iPhone‌ SE's camera quality is superior to the ‌iPhone‌ 8 but inferior to the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro.


When it comes to photos with good lighting (aka, bright lighting indoors or out), all three iPhones put out similar, decent images because there's not a lot of work needed behind the scenes for improvement. The ‌iPhone‌ 8 and the ‌iPhone‌ SE photos are a little bit warmer than the cooler ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌ images, and you can see that what's coming out of the ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌ is a bit crisper, which is no surprise.


The ‌iPhone‌ 8 struggles with highlights being blown out or overexposed in some situations, and that's where you can see the Smart HDR in the ‌iPhone‌ SE shine. While the ‌iPhone‌ SE was fine in bright lighting, it definitely struggled in low lighting conditions compared to the ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌.


Both the SE and the ‌iPhone‌ 8 had a hard time with low lighting situations, but the ‌iPhone‌ SE's images came out a bit better because of the A13 chip. The ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌ has Night Mode, a feature not available on the ‌iPhone‌ 8 or the ‌iPhone‌ SE, so it of course vastly outperformed the ‌iPhone‌ SE in photos with poor lighting.


The ‌iPhone‌ SE features Portrait Mode much like Apple's higher-end iPhones, but it's the first of Apple's iPhones to entirely rely on software to generate Portrait Mode images and Portrait Lighting features. Since the ‌iPhone 11‌ and 11 Pro have two and three cameras, respectively, their hardware-based Portrait Mode images come out better, but the ‌iPhone‌ SE does a respectable job.


Portrait Mode in the ‌iPhone‌ SE is limited to people because the neural network that powers the feature needs to detect a person to blur out the rest of the image. It's not going to work with pets, food, or other objects like it does on the ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌.

Because the ‌iPhone‌ SE's Portrait Mode is using 2D images to create a depth map, there's a unique ‌iPhone‌ SE feature - you can take a Portrait Mode photo of a photograph that already exists. It doesn't work great all the time, but it's an interesting way to jazz up some older photographs and add background blurring.

Like the ‌iPhone 11‌ and 11 Pro, the ‌iPhone‌ SE supports 4K video at 60fps, which is an impressive feature for a $399 smartphone. A video comparison between the ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌ and ‌iPhone‌ SE showed little difference in quality. Both looked great and the optical image stabilization worked well.

The ‌iPhone‌ 8 doesn't support 4K video at 60fps so we compared using 4K video at 24fps, and again, image quality was similar, but stabilization on the ‌iPhone‌ SE seemed to be better and the audio quality is superior.

The ‌iPhone‌ SE has a plain 7-megapixel front-facing camera that also supports a software-based Portrait Mode, which is not available on the ‌iPhone‌ 8. The front-facing camera is fine, nothing spectacular, but it works well enough for FaceTime and selfies and was comparable to the front-facing cameras of the ‌iPhone‌ 8. The ‌iPhone‌ SE doesn't support the wider angles available with the front-facing camera on the 11 Pro, and the 11 Pro selfies looked a bit better.


For videos with the front-facing camera, both the ‌iPhone‌ 8 and the ‌iPhone‌ SE had a hard time with bright lights, overexposing the video the entire time. The ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌ did a much better job.

It's worth noting that the ‌iPhone‌ SE also supports QuickTake for both the front and rear-facing cameras. QuickTake lets you hold down the camera button when in picture taking mode to quickly capture a video without the need to swap over to video mode.

All in all, the ‌iPhone‌ SE's camera does produce pictures fairly similar to the pictures produced by the ‌iPhone‌ 8, but the A13 chip is doing a lot in the background to make those photographs look better. The ‌iPhone‌ SE also isn't too far off from the ‌iPhone 11‌ and ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌ when it comes to images taken in bright lighting, but that's where the similarities end.


It's a single-lens camera rather than a dual or triple-lens camera so it doesn't have the versatility enabled by additional lenses, there's no optical zoom, software-based Portrait Mode is not as good as hardware-based portrait mode, and there is no ‌Night Mode‌ to use for low light images.


The ‌iPhone‌ SE is a passable camera of course that's going to take great every day shots, but those seriously interested in better ‌iPhone‌ photography should take a look at the ‌iPhone 11‌ over the ‌iPhone‌ SE.

Image from MacRumors reader oVerboost

If you want to see more great photos taken with the ‌iPhone‌ SE to see just what it's capable of, make sure to check out the MacRumors forums where new ‌iPhone‌ SE owners are sharing their pictures.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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Halide Does Deep Dive Into iPhone SE’s Software-Based Portrait Mode

Though it is a budget device with a single-lens camera, the iPhone SE features support for Portrait Mode, enabled through the powerful A13 chip in the smartphone.


It is the first of Apple's smartphones to offer Portrait Mode photos created entirely with software techniques rather than hardware, which prompted the developers behind popular iOS camera app Halide to take a deep dive into how it works.

The ‌iPhone‌ SE is equipped the same camera sensor as the ‌iPhone‌ 8, based on a recent teardown done by iFixit, but its camera can do more because it's using "Single Image Monocular Depth Estimation," aka generating Portrait Mode effects using a 2D image.

As Halide developer Ben Sandofsky points out, the iPhone XR is also a single-lens camera with Portrait Mode support, but the ‌iPhone XR‌ gets depth information through hardware. That's not possible on the ‌iPhone‌ SE because the older camera sensor doesn't support the feature.

Halide has discovered that unlike other iPhones, the ‌iPhone‌ SE can take a picture of another picture to attempt to develop a depth map. The app was even able to take a photo of an old slide film, adding depth effects to a 50 year old photo.

A picture of a picture and the resulting depth map from the ‌iPhone‌ SE

The ‌iPhone‌ SE's Portrait Mode is somewhat limited because it only works with people, which is due to the neural network that powers the feature. When a Portrait Mode image without a person is captured, it fails in various ways because it can't create an accurate estimated depth map.

The ‌iPhone XR‌ also limited Portrait Mode to people alone, and using Portrait Mode with other objects requires upgrading to one of Apple's more expensive phones.

According to Halide, depth maps on the ‌iPhone‌ SE (or any phone with Portrait Mode) can be viewed by using the Halide app and then shooting in Depth mode. Halide's full breakdown of the ‌iPhone‌ SE's Portrait Mode can be read over on the Halide website.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Tag: Halide
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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PSA: iPhone SE’s Haptic Touch Doesn’t Work With Notifications

Customers who have purchased the new 2020 iPhone SE have found a surprising missing feature - Haptic Touch does not work with notifications.

On the 2020 ‌iPhone‌ SE, long pressing on a notification in the Notification Center or on the Lock screen does not appear to bring up rich notification options to allow ‌iPhone‌ SE users to interact with incoming content.

Rich notifications accessed with ‌Haptic Touch‌ on an iPhone 11 Pro

There have been complaints about the missing feature on Reddit and the MacRumors forums. From Reddit:
I received my SE yesterday and very quickly realized that ‌Haptic Touch‌ is not supported on notifications. I am not seeing this reported anywhere, haven't seen one review mentioning it, no video I watched mentioned it. ‌Haptic Touch‌ works for peek and pop, and on icons on the home screen but if you are on the lock screen or Notification Center and try to long press an email to archive, or a text to quick reply you are out of luck.

On the 6S-XS 3D Touch was the solution, with the XR and 11 series ‌Haptic Touch‌ was the replacement, but this is the first non ‌3D Touch‌ phone to be released where all the features of ‌Haptic Touch‌ are not fully baked into the OS
With Haptic Touch-enabled devices like the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, long pressing on a notification in the Notification Center or the Lock screen brings up interactive options based on the app sending the notification. An Apple News notification, for example, brings up options for reading the full story, sharing a story, or saving for later, while an email app might offer options to reply and delete an incoming message without needing to open the app.

In our testing, we were not able to long press on a notification to view these interactive options, as the long press functionality did not work. We also tried on an ‌iPhone‌ 8, which the ‌iPhone‌ SE is based on, but we were able to get the rich notifications to work on that device, which has ‌3D Touch‌.

While ‌iPhone‌ SE users cannot long press on notifications on the Lock screen or in the Notification Center, there does appear to be a ‌Haptic Touch‌ option when pressing on an incoming notification when the ‌iPhone‌ is in use.

A Reddit user called Apple Support and was told there was no software update planned to fix the behavior, but Apple Support can be unreliable when it comes to information about new hardware releases.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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iPhone SE Teardown: 3D Touch Chip Removed, iPhone 8 Camera Sensor, and More

iFixit has published its full teardown of the new iPhone SE, confirming that the device has many similar or identical components as the iPhone 8, including the display, battery, cameras, Taptic Engine, SIM tray, and more.

The new iPhone SE appears to have the same 12-megapixel rear camera sensor as the iPhone 8, with the benefit of the A13 chip's improved image signal processor, as Rene Ritchie mentioned earlier this month. The device's front-facing 7-megapixel camera sensor also appears to be identical to the one in the iPhone 8.

From left to right: iPhone SE, iPhone 8, iPhone XR

While the new iPhone SE and the iPhone 8 have virtually identical display assemblies, Apple has removed the 3D Touch module from the iPhone SE. iFixit even tested the new iPhone SE with an iPhone 8 display and found that 3D Touch still did not work, suggesting that the feature is disabled at the software level on the device.

The teardown also confirms reports that the new iPhone SE has a 1,821 mAh battery capacity, identical to the iPhone 8.


The new iPhone SE has been available to order on Apple.com since April 17 and began arriving to customers on April 24. Pricing starts at $399 for 64GB of storage, with 128GB and 256GB options available for $449 and $549 respectively.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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iFixit Details Which Parts Can Be Swapped Between the iPhone 8 and iPhone SE

iFixit today shared a new report detailing which parts from the new iPhone SE can be replaced with those from the ‌iPhone‌ 8. This comes just days after a teardown video shared on Thursday by a Chinese YouTuber also highlighted many of the similarities between the two devices.

‌iPhone‌ 8 (left) and the new ‌iPhone‌ SE (right) via iFixit

The report mentions that the 2020 ‌iPhone‌ SE's cameras, SIM tray, Taptic Engine, and the display assembly are all swappable with ‌iPhone‌ 8 parts. However, it is worth noting that True Tone functionality will be lost with any ‌iPhone‌ screen swap without access to a screen programmer.

The report also mentions that although some parts are very similar between the two devices, they aren't interchangeable. The home button is not interchangeable, so iFixit recommends substituting an aftermarket version of the home button or going directly to Apple in the event of a repair. The batteries on the ‌iPhone‌ 8 and ‌iPhone‌ SE look identical, but the report notes that the ‌iPhone‌ SE's battery logic board connector differs from that in the ‌iPhone‌ 8 and the two won't fit together.

iFixit was overall impressed with how the new ‌iPhone‌ SE uses several parts that many repair shops already have. iFixit's full teardown of the 2020 ‌iPhone‌ SE is currently in progress and is set to debut on Monday.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Tag: iFixit
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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Hands-On With the New Low-Cost 2020 iPhone SE

The iPhone SE had its official launch day today, with the first orders arriving to customers this morning. We picked up one of the new (PRODUCT)RED ‌iPhone‌ SE models and checked out the design and features in our latest YouTube video, which is worth watching if you're thinking of making an upgrade from an older ‌iPhone‌.


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Despite the "‌iPhone‌ SE" name that hails back to the original ‌iPhone‌ SE that was released in 2016, the new ‌iPhone‌ SE looks identical to an ‌iPhone‌ 8, which means it has a larger 4.7-inch display than the 4-inch display included with the original SE.


At 4.7 inches, the ‌iPhone‌ SE is now Apple's smallest ‌iPhone‌, which may be a disappointment to some users who preferred the 4-inch form factor. The ‌iPhone‌ SE's design is one that Apple first introduced in 2014 with the ‌iPhone‌ 6, so this is a six-year-old form factor, and compared to newer iPhones, it's dated, but Apple has added some design tweaks to make it seem fresher.

Like the ‌iPhone‌ 8, the ‌iPhone‌ SE is made from two panes of glass sandwiching an aluminum frame. The all-glass design allows for wireless charging, but it does make the phone more vulnerable to drops than earlier iPhones that had aluminum backs.


Design wise, the ‌iPhone‌ SE has thick top and bottom bezels, with all models featuring a black face plate that minimizes the bezel design better than the white face of some prior models. There's a Touch ID Home button, and along with being Apple's smallest ‌iPhone‌, the ‌iPhone‌ SE is also the only ‌iPhone‌ with ‌Touch ID‌ in the current lineup.

‌iPhone‌ SE vs. ‌iPhone‌ 8
Since it's the only ‌iPhone‌ with ‌Touch ID‌, it's the ‌iPhone‌ of choice for people who just don't like Face ID, and for those who want the familiarity of the biometric authentication method that they've used for years now.


Like its successors, the ‌iPhone‌ SE has no headphone jack and it does away with 3D Touch, adopting the Haptic Touch used in the newer ‌iPhone‌ models. With the loss of these features, though, it gains Qi-based wireless charging capabilities and fast charging, allowing it to charge from 0 to 50 percent in 30 minutes with an 18W+ power adapter and a USB-C to Lightning cable.


The new ‌iPhone‌ SE also has one of the best features from Apple's flagship devices - the A13 Bionic chip. It's the fastest chip ever in an ‌iPhone‌, and it puts the ‌iPhone‌'s CPU and GPU power on par with Apple's much more expensive iPhones. There's 3GB RAM in the ‌iPhone‌ SE, and the base model starts at 64GB, way up from the 16GB starting storage of some of Apple's older devices. For an extra $50, 128GB of storage is available, and there's also a 256GB storage tier for those who have a lot of photos or music.

When it comes to the camera, it's a little confusing. Apple isn't using hardware from the iPhone 11, and the SE appears to have the same single-lens camera as the ‌iPhone‌ 8, but with software improvements and computational photography techniques added by the A13 along with hardware tweaks, the ‌iPhone‌ SE takes better pictures than the ‌iPhone‌ 8 (and all of the older iPhones).


It has Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting capabilities for both the front and rear-facing cameras despite the lack of multiple lenses, plus it has Smart HDR, optical image stabilization, and other built-in software features that put out some crisp, vivid images that are close to on par with the flagship iPhones.


Photos aren't as good as the photos you get with an ‌iPhone 11‌ or 11 Pro because there's not as much versatility in focal length and there is no support for Night Mode. The ‌iPhone‌ SE struggles more in low and ultra-low lighting conditions compared to Apple's pricier iPhones.

When it comes to video, the ‌iPhone‌ SE can record 4K video at 60 fps, which is a killer feature in a smartphone at this price point. Videos recorded with the ‌iPhone‌ SE look great. We'll be doing an in-depth comparison between the cameras of the ‌iPhone‌ SE, ‌iPhone‌ 8, and ‌iPhone 11‌, so make sure to stay tuned to MacRumors for that video.


The ‌iPhone‌ SE sports Gigabit LTE (on par with ‌iPhone 11‌) and WiFi 6 support, and with the A13 chip, this is a phone that Apple has designed to work well for several years to come. It will get software updates right alongside the 2019 flagship models, and for those who have held on to an ‌iPhone‌ 6 or 6s for years, the ‌iPhone‌ SE is positioned to last just as long.

There are no bells and whistles with the ‌iPhone‌ SE, and it has an outdated design with ‌Touch ID‌, thick bezels, and single-lens camera, but it is a super fast meat-and-potatoes smartphone that's an incredible deal at $399. Have you picked up an ‌iPhone‌ SE? Let us know in the comments.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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iPhone SE Now Available as First Pre-Orders Delivered to Customers

The ‌second-generation iPhone‌ SE was announced last week, and with pre-orders taking place on April 17, the first deliveries of the new device have started arriving for customers around the world. Apple has also begun taking orders in several of its online regional stores.

Photo by MacRumors forum member Aneres11

The original ‌iPhone‌ SE was a budget 4-inch ‌iPhone‌ before being discontinued in 2018, but Apple revived the name this month with a new 4.7-inch model that looks like an ‌iPhone‌ 8 but has internals similar to those of the iPhone 11.

The new ‌iPhone‌ SE features an A13 Bionic chip, 3GB RAM, and a low starting price of $399. It's available in white, black, and red, and comes with 64, 128, or 256GB of storage.

On Thursday, Apple released an iOS 13.4.1 update for ‌iPhone‌ SE owners and other models that address an issue which prevented devices running iOS 13.4 from participating in FaceTime calls with devices running older versions of Apple's mobile operating system.


MacRumors readers have confirmed that models arriving to customers today have iOS 13.4 installed, so a day-one software update is highly recommended.

‌‌iPhone‌‌ SE owners can install the new update over-the-air tomorrow through the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings > General > Software Update.

Starting today, the new ‌iPhone‌ SE can be ordered from Apple.com and is also available from Apple Authorized Resellers and select carriers in the U.S. and more than 40 other countries and regions. Join in the discussion on the MacRumors iPhone SE pre-order forum thread.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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Teardown Video Compares New iPhone SE to iPhone 8

When it comes to design, the iPhone SE is identical to the ‌iPhone‌ 8, featuring a 4.7-inch LCD display, thick top and bottom bezels, a single-lens rear camera, and a Touch ID Home button.


Unsurprisingly, the ‌iPhone‌ 8 also looks a lot like the ‌iPhone‌ SE inside, as detailed in a teardown video by a Chinese YouTuber who has one of the devices on hand. The video, which has subtitles, was shared on Reddit earlier today.

There's an issue with the video thumbnail, but clicking above will still play the video

Most of the components of the ‌iPhone‌ SE are identical to the ‌iPhone‌ 8, but there are differences in the modem and WiFi chip, the battery connector (which is the same as the battery connector in the iPhone 11, and the flashlight setup. There's also a different rear camera module and, of course, a different processor as the ‌iPhone‌ SE uses the same A13 chip that's in the ‌iPhone 11‌ and 11 Pro.

Many of the components in the ‌iPhone‌ SE and ‌iPhone‌ 8 were able to function interchangeably, demonstrating just how similar most of the parts are. The front display of the ‌iPhone‌ 8, for example, can be swapped onto an ‌iPhone‌ SE and it fits perfectly.

The ‌iPhone‌ SE is priced at $399 and the first orders will begin arriving to customers tomorrow. We'll see an even closer look inside the ‌iPhone‌ SE once teardown sites like iFixit take apart one of the new smartphones.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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Apple Releases iOS 13.4.1 for iPhone SE Ahead of Launch

Apple today released the iOS 13.4.1 update for iPhone SE owners, suggesting ‌iPhone‌ SE models arriving to customers tomorrow will have iOS 13.4 installed and will need a day-one software update.


‌iPhone‌ SE owners can install the new update over-the-air tomorrow through the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings > General > Software Update.

iOS 13.4.1 was released for other iPhones on April 7 to address an issue that prevented devices running iOS 13.4 from participating in FaceTime calls with devices running iOS 9.3.6 and earlier or OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 and earlier. Release notes for the update are below:
iOS 13.4.1 includes bug fixes for your ‌‌iPhone‌‌.

- Fixes an issue where devices running iOS 13.4 could not participate in ‌‌FaceTime‌‌ calls with devices running iOS 9.3.6 and earlier or OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 and earlier.
- Addresses a bug with the Settings app where choosing a Bluetooth from the quick actions menu on the Home screen would fail.
The ‌iPhone‌ SE was announced last week, with pre-orders taking place on April 17. The first deliveries of the new device will begin tomorrow.
Related Roundups: iPhone SE 2020, iOS 13, iPadOS
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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iPhone SE Reviews: High-End Performance With Budget-Friendly Price

First impressions and reviews of the new iPhone SE are now out, with many praising the device's flagship performance at a budget-friendly price.

The second-generation iPhone SE has a similar design as the iPhone 8, including a 4.7-inch display and a Touch ID home button, but it takes a big leap forward in performance. Despite starting at just $399, the device is powered by the latest-and-greatest A13 Bionic chip, the same processor found inside the high-end iPhone 11 Pro.


The new iPhone SE can be pre-ordered on Apple.com in the United States and more than 40 other countries and regions. Pricing starts at $399 for 64GB of storage, with 128GB and 256GB options available for $449 and $549 respectively. The first deliveries to customers and in-store availability at select resellers will begin Friday, April 24.

Reviews



Video Reviews and Unboxings










With the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus now discontinued, the lower end of Apple's smartphone lineup now includes the new iPhone SE and the iPhone XR, released in October 2018. Thinking about upgrading? Read our comparison of the devices.
Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2020
Tag: reviews
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Buy Now)

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