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Compared: iPhone 8 versus iPhone SE

Left: the new iPhone SE. Right: the iPhone 8

Now that it's finally here, you can make a practical decision about whether to buy the new iPhone SE — or seek out the old iPhone 8 while it still exists. They are very similar, yet each has benefits over the other.

If you've been waiting for a new iPhone SE for years, then you're now in luck. The long-awaited new phone has been so long awaited for two key reasons, and while it really only satisfies one of those, it offers new benefits that make it a particularly good iPhone.

It's been waited for because this was hoped to be the cheaper iPhone and of course it is that. It is more economical, and starting at $399, it's more so than you might have expected Apple to do.

The other hope that many people held onto was that a new iPhone SE would retain the size of the original one. The world may have moved to ever larger screens, but they already had back in 2016 when the first iPhone SE was launched. Then as now, if that smaller size appeals to you, it appeals to you a lot.

With that gone, then, there's little physical difference between the new iPhone SE or the old iPhone 8. If you're in the market for the most economical iPhone, then these are now your choices — or they are for the moment. We've been expecting Apple to remove the iPhone 8, but even so it will remain available for some time and the price is likely to drop wherever you buy it.

What will tempt them or you to upgrade, is down to what the iPhone SE provides for your money. It's about what you gain or lose by buying it over the iPhone 8.

2020 iPhone SEiPhone 8
Base price$399$449
White, Black, PRODUCT(RED)Space Gray, Silver, Gold (also PRODUCT(RED) at times)
Capacity64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB
Screen4.7-inch Retina HD 1334x740 at 326ppi4.7-inch Retina HD 1334x740 at 326ppi
Wireless chargingYesYes
Wi-Fi 6YesNo
Brightness625 nits625 nits
Dimensions5.45 inches (138.4mm) by 2.65 inches (67.4mm) by 0.29 inch (7.3mm)5.45 inches (138.4mm) by 2.65 inches (67.4mm) by 0.29 inch (7.3mm)
Rear camerasSingle 12MP WideSingle 12MP Wide
Front camera7MP FaceTime HD with 1080p video at 30fps7MP FaceTime HD with 1080p video at 30fps
BiometricsTouch IDTouch ID
ProcessorA13 BionicA11 Bionic with Neural Engine
Battery lifeVideo playback up to 13 hoursVideo playback up to 14 hours
Water resistanceTo a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutesTo a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes

What the 2020 iPhone SE delivers

The physical dimensions of the new iPhone SE are the same as the iPhone 8, so there is no benefit in size, or weight. The screens are the same too, with both having a 4.7-inch Retina HD screen, which means a resolution of 1334x740 at 326ppi. One unexpected feature of the new SE is that it comes with the same EarPods with Lightning Connector.

Otherwise, if they look the same, though, these two phones do not act the same. The new iPhone SE has dual-SIM support — and it also has Wi-Fi 6. The latter means that the new iPhone 6 SE will work faster, if you have the right internet connection.

It will run faster anyway, because the iPhone SE has an A13 Bionic processor instead of the iPhone 8's A11 Bionic one. This means that the SE has the same processor as the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

As expected, the iPhone SE has 3GB RAM compared to the iPhone 8's 2GB RAM. The amount of RAM is less important in iPhones than in, say, Android, because iOS is so well optimized.

Even so, more RAM should mean better performance, and it will mean that the iPhone SE will last for many years. That's a consideration both because of the wanting what you buy today to last you, but also because of what will be supported by Apple for longer.

Right now the iPhone 8 runs iOS 13 and it is likely to be able to run iOS 14, but at some point, all iPhones reach their maximum version of iOS. And simply by virtue of having been released three years later than the iPhone 8, the iPhone SE will be supported for longer.

What the iPhone 8 delivers

This may not sound like a serious benefit, yet it is — you can buy the iPhone 8 right now. The iPhone SE's shipping date isn't exactly far off, but the iPhone 8 can be had right now, and maybe even today.

We are talking days in the difference, ultimately, and if you wait those same days for the iPhone 8, you're likely to see it for ever lower prices at resellers.

Now at long last, however, you can make an informed decision about exactly what these different phones provide. And now you can order the one that's most useful to you.

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