Before Apple finally went ahead and launched the long rumoured iPhone SE 2 – now officially called just the iPhone SE – for $399 on April 15, it was among the most anticipated iPhone since almost three years. Though the launch was like a bolt from the blue it was a very muted affair without any of the fancy on-stage unveilings that Apple's famous forever since Steve Jobs first unveiled the original iPhone back in 2007.
The watered-down launch was pretty much expected given the current coronavirus pandemic situation, but the iPhone SE second gen had already gathered enough pre-launch hype since the last couple years to get all Apple fanboys and tech enthusiasts excited. It has been ruling the rumour mills since 2018 with several leaks and renders suggesting a super-compact budget iPhone with the latest processor and a "refreshed design."
The iPhone SE 2020 design rumours
Many early leaks suggested the iPhone SE 2020 will come with an iPhone 11-esque full-screen design with the FaceID notch up top but in the ultra-compact footprint of the original iPhone SE, which itself is basically an iPhone 5 or 5S with the internals of the iPhone 6s. Other more recent leaks suggested a design with a flat frame or a flat edge design reminiscent of the original iPhone SE. But when the most anticipated budget iPhone SE was finally revealed, all those expectations were put to rest.
Apple's tried and tested iPhone design from 2016
The 2020 iPhone SE came with the ever-so-familiar design which has helmed the iPhones from iPhone 6 to iPhone 8. In fact, the iPhone SE 2020 looks exactly like the iPhone 8, complete with the rounded edges, the thick bezels on the top and bottom, the "iconic" TouchID Home button and the same glass back design with wireless charging support. It seems quite obvious that Apple took the saying "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" quite seriously with the new iPhone SE.
It also won't be wrong to say that it is the exact same iPhone 8 outer shell, save for the Apple logo which now sits in the centre like on the newer iPhone 11 series and the absent iPhone text below it. Apart from that the white coloured iPhone SE 2020 now comes with black bezels upfront, rather than the white bezels on the white iPhone 8, which is a good combination.
iPhone SE 2020 teardown
However, the iPhone SE 2020 is not the iPhone 8 in terms of performance. It is, in fact, closer to the iPhone 11 in that aspect since it comes with the A13 Bionic chip that powers the current iPhone models - iPhone 11 and the flagships iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. And, everybody knows the performance is not determined by a phone's external hardware, but rather by what's inside.
A recent teardown of the new iPhone SE by a Japanese YouTuber revealed that the SE's internals, which like the externals, are the same as the iPhone 8's design-wise, including the wireless charging coil, the battery, the placement of the screws holding everything together and even the "inverted L" shaped motherboard design, except that it now houses the A13 chip instead of the A11 Bionic on the iPhone 8.
Same display as the iPhone 8
The YouTuber not only shows the similarity in design and structure of the internals but goes on to swap the components starting with the display which comes with the same resolution as the iPhone 8's.
He swaps out the displays of both phones and connects the display of the iPhone SE 2020 to the iPhone 8 and not only does the display light up but it also functions normally, which means the display is universal between the two models. This also suggests they can be interchanged and it could be possible that Apple may have used the surplus iPhone 8 displays on the new SE.
Similar battery but...
Although the battery is the shape and same capacity as the iPhone 8 at 1821mAh, the connector pins are different. The iPhone SE's connector is similar to the newer one found in the iPhone 11. So, the batteries are not universal.
Camera from the iPhone 11
Next up, the teardown video shows that the rear 12MP camera module on the SE is the same size as the iPhone 8, but the iPhone SE has the sensor from the iPhone 11 since it doesn't work when the motherboard of the SE is swapped with that of the iPhone 8. This means the iPhone SE's advanced rear camera needs the A13 chip's processing prowess to work.
Motherboards can be swapped too
The iPhone SE still powers on regardless of the motherboard being swapped with that of the iPhone 8's despite the different processors – A13 vs A11 - and everything works normally including the touch input, speakers, and Taptic engine but the rear cameras don't.
The front camera not working problem can be sorted by swapping the displays, but the rear camera doesn't seem to work at any cost which goes to say that the camera is certainly different. Apart from these three differences namely the processor, the modified battery connector, and the rear camera sensor, the rest of the iPhone SE is basically the iPhone 8.
The iPhone SE's main USP is its price
What works for the iPhone SE 2020 despite sporting an outdated 2016 design is the price tag of $399 which gives you what is perhaps the fastest and most powerful smartphone processor currently and the insanely colour accurate main camera of the iPhone 11, albeit without the wide-angle lens.
The iPhone SE 2020 offers a great starting point for anyone who wishes to move to Apple's ecosystem and give iOS a try or for upgraders who are coming from the original iPhone SE, iPhone 6, 6S, iPhone 7 or even the iPhone 8 who don't see any problem with the bezels and outdated design, and still love TouchID, but want a faster performing phone.
In the end, it all boils down to personal choice. Whether you want a modern-looking, multi-camera sporting, 6-inch plus full-screen display clad, 4000+ mAh battery powered Android smartphone with a decent mid-range Snapdragon 6 series or 7 series processor or a tried and tested premium iPhone design with the latest and greatest processor and a colour-accurate camera which can still do better videos than most flagship Android smartphones.