The new iPhone SE looks just like an iPhone 8.
The new iPhone SE looks just like an iPhone 8.
Image: Apple

Now is a strange time to release a smartphone. Millions have lost their jobs, and those of us who are able to work from home are encouraged to stay inside for the foreseeable future. Companies like Samsung and OnePlus have recently launched pricey flagships that are very, very good, but also very, very expensive. That’s a tough sell anytime, but especially during a pandemic. Yet a smartphone is still a necessity, and now buyers have another option: A new, top-of-the-line—and yet somewhat affordable—iPhone.

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Apple is rebooting the iPhone SE for 2020, though it doesn’t look like the pint-sized SE that was beloved by those of us with small hands. The $400 second-gen iPhone SE is a throwback, design-wise, to the 3-year-old iPhone 8, with a 4.7-inch Retina HD display, thick bezels, and a home button with Touch ID. But looks aren’t everything. By adding an A13 Bionic processor, the new iPhone SE will likely deliver performance on par with the much more expensive iPhone 11, where the A13 originated.

Touch ID would be a godsend right now.
Touch ID would be a godsend right now.
Image: Apple
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Like the iPhone 8 and original iPhone SE, the refreshed SE has a single camera lens on front and back. The 12-megapixel wide-angle rear lens gets a boost from the A13 Bionic chip, with the iPhone 11's next-gen Smart HDR for more detailed shots, Portrait Mode for people, and Portrait Lighting effects. (The front-facing lens can also shoot portraits.) The second-gen SE can also shoot 4K video at 60fps, with slo-mo, time-lapse, and cinematic video stabilization in both front and rear lenses.

Unlike the original SE, the newest iPhone is made of glass and aluminum and is capable of Qi wireless charging. It also comes with a higher base storage option, starting at 64GB and going up to 256GB.

Those holding out hope for all of these features in a phone smaller than 5 inches are out of luck though. The first SE tucked a 4-inch display inside a 4.87-inch-long body. The iPhone 8, the new SE’s twin, has a longer 5.45-inch frame. Apple has sold more than 500 million phones with 4.7-inch displays, so it makes sense to churn out more, but I wonder how many folks would go even smaller if the option was available.

When I first heard the rumors about the iPhone SE, I admit I was unimpressed. Why revisit the iPhone 8? It’s larger than some would prefer and lacks the impressive cameras on Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro lineup. But now it seems like the new iPhone SE was designed for this specific time. The price is right, especially if a retailer or carrier discounts that $400 by a few hundred bucks for a trade-in. I normally prefer Face ID to Touch ID, but now that I wear a mask when I go outside, I have to enter my passcode to unlock my phone and use Apple Pay at the grocery store. What I would give to have Touch ID back at this moment.

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The new SE is available to preorder Friday in black, white, and Product(RED), with deliveries beginning April 24.

Consumer tech editor, Gizmodo.

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