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    Long-term review: Apple's iPhone SE is the people's phone in the year of the pandemic

    Long-term review: Apple's iPhone SE is the people's phone in the year of the pandemic

    Long-term review: Apple's iPhone SE is the people's phone in the year of the pandemic
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    By Sahil Gupta   IST (Published)

    Multiple smartphones have been released in 2020, but as we approach the launch of the iPhone 12 it is worth taking a look at one phone in particular which sneaked up on everyone and is particularly outstanding.
    I'm talking about the iPhone SE 2020, which was launched in March this year. Since the start of the year, many phones have come and gone, but the iPhone SE has kind of become my favourite this year. So much so that at times I ditched my iPhone 11 for the iPhone SE. The iPhone SE brought an old school charm and compactness of form, which was particularly enchanting for me. It is a phone that is bereft of many bells and whistles that people are used to on modern smartphones like a massive screen or massive battery or really complicated multi-camera systems. In fact, by modern standards, it looks rather Jurassic, given it uses the same design as the iPhone 8 from 2017 which was a derivative of the iPhone 6 design from 2014.
    I do realise it is controversial to say that the iPhone SE is arguably the best premium smartphone of the year so far. In fact, I believe it may even beat the iPhone 12 that many expect to be the next best smartphone.
    I think the magic of the iPhone SE starts all with its rather compact size. It is diminutive by modern standards. It feels supremely tiny when put up against a brand new flagship behemoth like the Galaxy Note 20 ultra.
    This is where you kind of forget the need of having so many complicated cameras as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has. The single 12-megapixel camera on the back of the iPhone SE is good enough by modern standards regardless.
    It takes great photos when given good lighting more or less on par with the iPhone 11, which many consider the king of smartphone photography. It can take incredible portrait mode photos, better than the iPhone 11 thanks to on-device machine learning because everything is propelled by the same A13 Bionic chip.
    And its compactness allows one to take photos with ease, rather than fumble about a massive gargantuan Hulk of a phone like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. This is where you forget the need for such complicated cameras. For most people, the iPhone SEs rear camera is more than good enough. Add to the mix the rich wealth of apps on Apple's App Store which can make up for the lack of a dedicated night mode when you look at an app called NeuralCam then you do realise certain things go beyond just specs.
    The fit and finish of the iPhone SE is quite sublime compared to many phones. Take for example the OnePlus 8, which costs upwards of Rs 40,000 while the iPhone SE is a little less than that. The OnePlus 8 doesn't have IP 67 water and dust resistance, but the iPhone SE has that so you can take that phone in a pool -- technically speaking. The aluminium and glass finish also feels superior when compared to some other phones.
    After using the iPhone SE as more or less my primary phone for the last five to six months, I can say that I've dropped the phone a couple of times and yet there is not a single scuff mark on it. I can assure you the same isn't true of the OnePlus 8, Mi 10 Galaxy S20 Ultra and other phones that I have tested in the last six months.
    For all the chest-thumping that Android smartphone manufacturers do with dollops of RAM and the latest and greatest Snapdragon processor, there is simply no phone that can keep up with the iPhone SE thanks to that A13 Bionic SoC.
    Apple's chip wizards in Cupertino have made such a prodigiously powerful mobile chipset that it is almost two years ahead of the latest and greatest that you can get on Android these days. Imagine the A13 Bionic is the same chip that was debuted with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models.
    So now that we are approaching October, again we have a chip on an iPhone SE, which is around a year old and pretty much two years ahead of the latest chip that you see on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or the Asus ROG Phone 3. But what really matters is what you can do with this chip and that's where the wealth and breadth of the App Store comes with and also the general firepower of the iPhone.
    Moreover, the iPhone SE supports an app like double-take that allows you to fire both the front selfie and rear cameras simultaneously at 4K resolution and it does not break a sweat while doing so. This is extraordinary computing capability as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, firstly cannot do the same thing, and even while shooting in 4K at 60 frames per second, it heats up like a toaster.
    Using an app like the Luma Fusion, I can edit high-quality 4K videos as if I was doing it on a top-end iMac. And let's not forget the gaming credentials of iOS and the iPhone. You don't only get a phone that has access to Apple's own game subscription service Apple Arcade, but you also have access to the best mobile game repository on a phone that can give you graphics that are of the PlayStation 3 level. Despite the lack of complicated multi-camera systems, this chip enables the iPhone SE to shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second at a quality and performance level that you don't see any other Android phone. This makes the iPhone SE pretty much the best video camcorder released in 2020.
    Let's not forget the fact that iOS is a very simple to use operating system and a very secure one. Apple's support for iOS is quite exemplary. Currently, the iPhone SE is on iOS 13.7, but soon it will be upgraded to iOS 14. The iOS 14 represents a huge leap in terms of user interface design for iOS which makes it slightly more like Android; more customisable and more fun to use. But that's not the end of the road for the iPhone SE in terms of software updates.
    If one goes by Apple's track record considering the iPhone 6S is also getting iOS 14 then one should assume that the iPhone SE will get the latest iOS updates for at least 4 more years. Now that's an incredible value and you don't see that level of long term value from an Android smartphone.
    There are multiple other features in the iPhone SE that many forget. It has some really clear and powerful dual-stereo speakers and you don't see that on most other phones. Even though this phone does not support face ID that Apple popularised with the iPhone 10 it does get a touch ID that remains the benchmark for fingerprint recognition on a smartphone. And as a diminutive that 4.7-inch LCD screen remains one of the most colour accurate screens that you will ever see. The level of brightness and great viewing angle switch makes it great for viewing content even though it's quite tiny.
    Many people will argue the battery life of the iPhone SE is a bit of a deal-breaker by modern standards, but in my experience, that was not the case. I consistently clock around 5 to 6 hours of screen time on this phone and the battery lasts for upwards of 12 hours on a single charge. I believe this is above average battery life and when you couple it with the fact that the battery size is very tiny and it supports 18-watt fast charging, you can use up this device very quickly within an hour for a full days use and get the convenience of wireless charging which by the way is again missing on phones like the OnePlus 8.
    Today, you can get the iPhone SE for little over Rs 35,000 in India and that too the 64 GB version of the phone which is not a bad deal. If you want more memory then you can get up to 256 GB on the iPhone SE for around approximately Rs 50,000 which makes it a great value considering this phone will get updates for actually three to four years.
    In my view, the iPhone SE represents great value for someone who is in the market for a high-end smartphone because it is easy to use, easy to handle, it’s really well built does everything superbly in terms of performance and will last you a long time.
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