Did yours truly purchase Apple’s new iPhone SE, released on April 24, 2020? Yes, I did! And, for perhaps the first time in Apple’s history, purchasing an iPhone versus an Android actually made sense to me from a financial standpoint as the frugal choice. In this article, I’ll give my 2nd generation iPhone SE review, discuss why I decided to purchase one, and share my research on where you can find the best deal on price with the new iPhone SE.
If you are currently happy with your mobile device and plan, then there’s no need to read further. I’m a big proponent of keeping what you’re happy with for as long as you can, versus frequent superficial upgrades on tech devices and similar items.
My iPhone SE 2020 Review
Apple summarizes the new iPhone SE with an apt description:
iPhone SE packs our most powerful chip into our most popular size at our most affordable price.
Essentially, what Apple has done here is taken the body of the iPhone 8 and the chip from the $999 iPhone 11 Pro and a few other nice upgrades and combined them into the 2nd generation iPhone SE, at a price tag of $399. It’s a compelling offering for the frugal minded consumer – which I am, of course. Here’s my iPhone SE review:
OS and Performance:
The new iPhone SE is powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic processor, which is the same chip used in the top of the line iPhone 11 Pro. Apple touts it as the “fastest chip ever in a smartphone”. I’m not sure if that is technically true, but the processor paired with iOS 13, feels extremely fast, and I’ve yet to see any performance lags.
- Body: the body of the phone is identical to the smaller sized iPhone 8. As with the iPhone 8, it relies on Touch ID to unlock (versus the newer Face ID). I personally prefer Face ID, but the post COVID-19 timing of a throwback to Touch ID was excellent and lucky timing. The body is constructed with glass and aluminum and feels rock solid.
- Screen: While the 4.7″ retina HD display is solid, it’s a bit under-spec’d and under-sized versus a lot of the newer devices on the market. I’m OK with the smaller size. Actually, I’m good with it – I’m not a big fan of the trend towards giant devices that can’t fit in your jean pockets and need 2 hands to operate most of the time. There is, however, some wasted non-functional space on the front of the device as it’s a box screen and not edge-to-edge.
- Camera: Similar to the iPhone 8, the new SE has a single camera lens on front (7MP) and back (12MP).
- Storage: the phone is offered up in 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB storage options.
- Battery: the battery offers 13 hours of video playback, which is solid, but light compared to the 20 hours in the iPhone 11 Pro.
You have 3 options on price, corresponding to the 3 different storage levels:
- 64 GB: $399
- 128 GB: $449
- 256 GB: $549
With the free cloud photo and music storage out there, I don’t see why anyone would need more than 64 GB, but to each their own.
A few additional nice features stand out:
- Portrait mode photos
- 4K video recording and stereo audio recording
- WiFi 6 and Gigabit LTE connection capabilities
- Audio sharing (to 2 Airpods/Beats connections)
- Dual SIM card capability (for work and personal use)
- Wireless charging
- Water resistant design
iPhone SE Summary:
The new 2020 iPhone SE does not have all of the capabilities of an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro – but at $300 and $600 less, respectively, it does a good job on threading the needle on capability for the price. I’m a fan.
Why I Decided to Buy the New iPhone SE
This past month our mobile carrier, XFinity Mobile, changed their pricing model. We had been early adopters of their 1st generation pricing and were able to get $0 per month for unlimited calling, texting, and 200 MB of data. Then, we were pushed to the 2nd gen pricing in April, the cost went up to $15/month (along with an increase to 1 GB of data and 5G service). Not a bad price, but it prompted me to shop around and also look at new phones, since the current device was a fairly slow Android that was a few years old and no longer receiving new Android OS updates.
Meanwhile, I had been using iPhones (as well as a MacBook Pro), at my employer’s expense over the last few years and had become an Apple convert. I appreciate the high quality hardware, the speed, and the reliability of their devices. And then there is the operating system. I had learned that Apple typically sends OS updates to its devices for 6+ years – while Android is 2-3 years tops. While you might initially pay more for an Apple device, you’re getting a high quality phone with the potential for a much longer life to it (and a higher resale value). OS updates will give you security and performance enhancements. Is there enough value in that to pony up the extra cash needed to buy an iPhone? In my view, not as much as there needed to be, until…
The new iPhone SE 2020 version was released on April 24th, for a retail price tag of $399 (64 GB). A new Apple device, with an updated processor, the long iOS shelf life, and a price of less than $400? That’s a dream for a discerning frugal consumer. I shopped around, while looking at mobile plans for the best overall deal (more on that in a bit) and was able to pre-order the device. Here’s what I found:
The Best Price Deal on the New iPhone SE
I looked across 10+ carriers to find the best deal on the new iPhone SE. There are a few cheap price offerings out there, on the surface, but the devil is in the details. You’ll almost always end up paying back in monthly service fees for pricey data plans. The 2 best price deals on the new iPhone SE that I’ve found that come with cost-efficient prepaid service, are:
- XFinity Mobile: ironic that as soon as I departed XFinity Mobile, they came out with the cheapest price on the iPhone SE. Through 5/17/20, they are offering $200 back on the new iPhone SE. Note that the $200 is pro-rated in the form of credits against your service over 24-months. As noted, XFinity Mobile plans start at $15/month for unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of 5G data and goes up from there. XFinity runs on Verizon’s network and you’re able to connect to millions of XFinity hotspots for free. Check out my XFinity Mobile review for more info on their service.
- Red Pocket: I was able to snag an iPhone SE flash sale at Red Pocket for $349 that came with 6 months of free service for unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB of data (valued at $84 total, or $14/month). This effectively brought my price down to a net $265. Today, Red Pocket is offering the phone for $349, with the same 6-months of free service. Your phone can be unlocked from Red Pocket at the 6-month mark. Red Pocket offers up prepaid service that piggybacks on all 4 of the major carriers networks.
Disclosure: XFinity Mobile and Red Pocket are 20somethingfinance affiliate partners. I’ve had service with both carriers, and recommend them for the flexibility offered with their money-saving prepaid plans.
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