I wish $400 Android phones were this good

I wish $400 Android phones were this good

We are the Android Police, and Google’s cell working system is our raison d’être, our bread and butter, essentially the most important and integral a part of our website’s very existence. Nonetheless, it would not exist in isolation. Apple’s iPhones proceed to dominate the US market, and the brand new iPhone SE may need a few of us questioning if the grass is any greener with iOS as of late. That is subjective, and I can not actually reply that for you. However I can say that the 2020 model of the iPhone SE pushes its $400 price ticket additional than any mid-range Android telephone.

We reviewed the 64GB mannequin in Stormtrooper White.

Design, {hardware}, what’s within the field

Bodily, the 2020 iPhone SE is nearly equivalent to the iPhone 8 — you’ll be able to even use the identical instances, so in the event you’re seeking to decide up one of many costly leather-based ones, you need to snag an iPhone Eight case someplace on clearance. The iPhone’s basic design is ubiquitous, so I will not rehash it right here, however there are a couple of advantages that bear repeating.

As with OnePlus’ telephones, you get a {hardware} change that flips you right into a silent/vibrate mode. The house “button” is not truly a button within the conventional sense, both. Just like the iPhone 7/8, it would not truly transfer. As an alternative, Apple’s crazy-good haptics simply make it really feel prefer it does. I’ve by no means skilled that function earlier than, and I completely like it. You may also tune it to be barely weaker or stronger, in the event you like.

It additionally has a glass again, which helps with wi-fi charging. Whereas I want it was matte/etched glass, that is in all probability going to finish up in a case, the place it will not matter. That is sort of a pity, on condition that Apple’s industrial design is so good.

See that bevel on the face of the aluminum physique, the place it meets the display? It’s completely that dimension all the way in which across the display — immaculately exact design. 

Apple’s {hardware} high quality right here is stellar, with a precision in match and end that some Android telephones which value twice as a lot nonetheless do not method — which I frankly resent. All the things suits collectively meticulously and precisely, with no gaps, warp, or the smallest piece even the slightest bit misplaced. Eyes closed, this does not really feel like a $400 telephone in any respect. Though I do actually just like the machined plastic Google went for with the Pixel 3a, the iPhone SE is unarguably, bodily nicer — and it is IP rated, the Pixel is not.

Total, nothing concerning the {hardware} screams mid-range, regardless that the $400 price ticket does, with one exception: The display. It is high quality, however the whole lot about it feels antiquated in 2020. The scale and determination are objectively low, with a dated 16:9 facet ratio, chonky bezels, and a lowish 326 PPI. The truth that it is older {hardware} from the iPhone Eight would not offend me — Apple’s IPS shows are fairly good, well-calibrated, and distinction is not an issue, even at night time — however the Pixel 3a finagled a 441 PPI OLED show with a better decision and extra trendy facet ratio, and the Pixel 4a seems set to beat it there as nicely. Numbers and acronyms apart, meaning the Pixels have larger, sharper screens with higher distinction.

Outside display visibility is ok. Although I want it acquired brighter, even in direct daylight, its 600+ nits of brightness had been acceptable. I am additionally completely bought on the advantages of the True Tone ambient coloration temperature matching, which tunes the display’s coloration stability to match your setting. It is a development that Apple began, and which Android gadgets just like the Pixel four and OnePlus Eight Professional have additionally picked up, and it is nice on the iPhone SE.

If you may get previous the display (which is a respectable “if”), there’s one final potential concern: There is no headphone jack. Whereas that is a battle we have long-since misplaced within the flagship area, it is extra of a normal function on mid-range gadgets, and even Google’s Pixel 3a has one, as will the upcoming 4a. “Braveness” or not, some people contemplating a telephone at this value level is likely to be upset on the omission.

Apple’s commonplace wired Lightning connector earbuds that it comes with are offensively respectable, however you aren’t getting a 3.5mm headphone adapter dongle — which might have been a pleasant contact. Exterior the same old Apple sticker/guarantee playing cards and twisted wire SIM ejector device, you get a USB Kind-A to Lightning cable and a paltry 5W charger. Some would possibly settle for that given the value, however is a little bit of a joke when another $20 charger beats it. It fees sooner when utilizing Apple’s 18W charger.

Software program, efficiency, and battery

We’re an Android-centric website, with principally Android-using readers, and meaning iOS is extra of a hurdle to clear than a profit. Even with the most recent model of iOS 13, that is still true. Whereas it is one factor to make use of iOS on a secondary machine like a pill — the place, frankly, it is your only option — making the change from Android is a harder promote.

iOS remains to be limiting in the event you’re coming from Android. The iPhone dwelling display feels prefer it stepped proper out of Apple’s keynote again in 2007 — besides it is 2020. All of your apps are simply type of dumped on your property display, the place you must shuffle them off into folders or cover those you employ much less on different pages — with out the comfort of an app drawer sorted as you prefer it for monitoring them down later. It additionally lacks actual widgets, in the event you occur to make use of any. However, there is a pane on the left of the house display you could load with mediocre widget-like approximations.

The house display does have these snazzy numbered indicators which sort of function notifications, however not all apps use the counters for a similar kinds of issues, so you will in all probability find yourself ignoring them exterior particular apps. Sadly, they’re generally the one visible indication you might have exterior the Notification Middle of pending notifications, although — extra on that later.


The in-page search workflow in Safari, for instance, is obnoxious, and it is laborious to seek out by yourself — only one instance of iOS making issues tougher by making them easier. (Replace: I am informed it is also accessible within the Share menu, which is equally clear given the identify/objective.)

Many apps additionally really feel sort of simplified on iOS. Whereas some builders load up iPad OS pill variations of their apps with extra difficult interfaces and extra simply accessed instruments, many iOS builders hold their apps for telephones easy. For some people, that is a blessing, however in the event you truly admire menus loaded up with extra superior options in Android, it is a curse. It makes discovering particular instruments a nightmare — in the event that they’re nonetheless there, they’re hidden away in actually unintuitive locations. Monitoring down apparently “area of interest” issues (like in-page textual content search in Safari, for instance) could be obnoxious with out a straightforward three-dot menu full of goodies solely a single faucet away.

iOS’s Notifications are additionally years behind Android. When you don’t see them are available in, you get no ongoing visible indicator that they’re ready for you up within the standing bar. Nevertheless, your iPhone is actually glad to constantly let you know who your provider is, simply in case you forgot. (I suppose provider promoting is extra essential to Apple than its buyer’s well timed communications or productiveness.) Whereas it’s also possible to see them not directly through the crimson notification badges on the house display, you will in all probability ignore most of them as a result of so many third-party apps use these incorrectly — after some time, they will simply mix in, and you may’t see them in the event you’re in one other app, anyway.

Notifications additionally don’t have anyplace close to the pliability in the case of actions that they do on Android. And, they are a ache to individually dismiss, with totally different actions relying on the path you drag — you both must do an unintuitive (and annoying) way-too-fast fling left, or drag and faucet to dismiss them one by one.

You’ll come to resent the whole lot about notifications on iOS in the event you’re coming from the long run Android. On this work-from-home period, it is one of many platform’s largest drawbacks — you’ll miss stuff.

“Reachability” is an annoying function that shrinks your lockscreen’s notification space. It is apparently on by default and approach too simple to set off by accident; You may need to flip it off. 

Utilizing an iPhone for the primary time since 2012 this final fall/winter, I used to be surprised at how unstable it had develop into. Whereas iOS 13 has gotten higher with time, and it reveals better stability for me on the iPhone SE now, I nonetheless see extra app freezes, crashes, and basic software-related points on iOS 13 than I’ve on any current Android machine. Huge-name apps would completely lock up or stutter in a approach that interfered with regular use in all probability as soon as each different day for me on iOS, although that not often occurs to me anymore on Android.

Even when you may get used to all these adjustments, iOS nonetheless suffers from different, long-standing platform limitations that may be deal-breakers. You’ll be able to’t actually change Safari because the default browser, so that you’ll use it it doesn’t matter what: In-app browsers are all Safari, and third-party browsers are simply Safari with a pores and skin. Third-party keyboards are additionally third-class residents, and also you’ll be compelled again to Apple’s keyboard for issues like password entry fields, which is completely ridiculous. Apple must significantly relax on the platform’s near-anti-competitive restrictions — they don’t seem to be serving to anybody.

Some people coming from Android can adapt to those sorts of limitations on iOS, however it’s going to nonetheless imply giving up on Google’s deep providers integrations in alternate for Apple’s — and, more often than not, Apple’s aren’t nearly as good. I used to be capable of get by, however I am unsure everybody that is used to Android can.

There may be one large profit to iOS although, and that is updates. Apple will in all probability help this telephone for the subsequent 5 years — and possibly longer. When you decide up some used or older Android flagship at round this value, you will be fortunate to get a yr of safety updates.

When you can abide iOS, the iPhone SE is upsettingly snappy. Whereas I did discover some stutters in a couple of apps, the A13 Bionic is a really fast chipset, even when it is allegedly underclocked for the iPhone SE (a rumor which could not be true). Video games had been quick, fluid, and fairly. I even acquired my first solo cell Fortnite victory on the SE — I normally lose when enjoying on a telephone. All the things, from beginning apps to a bit of sunshine photograph modifying, was as quick or sooner than the most recent Android telephones.

Bluetooth audio efficiency was okay. I did expertise a few stutters and drops in dense, radio-congested environments, although. I additionally observed that music would blast from the telephone for a cut up second after turning off headphones generally, which was annoying.

Battery life is inconsistent, starting from 6-Three hours of lively use for me earlier than it offers up the ghost. I am fairly gentle on my gadgets, so I normally acquired nearer to five hours of screen-on time from a given cost. When you do something intensive like play demanding 3D video games, it’s glad to suck that tiny 1,800 mAh cell dry even sooner. The telephone additionally will get fairly toasty when fast-charging, or in the event you do tremendous intensive stuff. Not less than it tops up shortly in the event you spring for the 18W quick charger.

All that thought-about, I can see battery life turning into an issue for most individuals inside a yr or two as capability diminishes over time. Nevertheless, Apple fees $50 for a battery substitute and $130 for a display substitute. (Be aware that uBreakiFix fees $70 and $110 for every for the Pixel 3a.) With Apple shops that may do repairs mainly all over the place and costs that low, it is not as a lot of a priority, however positively a quantity to issue into possession.

Digital camera

The iPhone SE has only one rear-facing main digital camera: A 12MP f/1.Eight affair that is presupposed to be equivalent (or, at the least, very related) to the iPhone 8’s. There is no wide-angle or telephoto to go together with it, which is not sudden at this value level.

In good lighting, the iPhone SE’s digital camera nails photographs, although I’m not personally a fan of a number of the subtleties of Apple’s processing. Edge sharpening feels overly aggressive and contrasty for me, and coloration is only a bit too saturated generally for my tastes. However, these are subjective and minor factors. I did discover that it acquired a bit hazy when lighting was at simply the appropriate angle, however it wasn’t a frequent drawback.

Be aware that each one iPhone SE samples had been captured in HEIC (the default format) and transformed to JPEG in Lightroom as a result of the web is not actually suitable with Apple’s favourite format. 

Whereas some cameras pressure an extreme HDR impact for exaggerated dynamic vary, I discover Apple’s method pleasantly restrained. Nonetheless, generally it crushes shadows only a bit greater than I anticipated, and it could overexpose scenes in a approach I do not like — however that is a perspective that is simply coloured coming from a Pixel’s relative under-exposure.

Extra objectively, I did discover the iPhone to point out muddier processing underneath indoor lighting than I anticipated, making unfocused areas a bit messy, fairly than accepting some delicate noise, which I might have most popular and which Google’s Pixels, together with the Pixel 3a, are extra keen to do.

Left: iPhone SE (2020). Proper: Pixel 3a. 

In low-light, the iPhone SE’s efficiency is much less constant. Whereas generally it is capable of brighten a very dim scene higher than a Pixel, I discover the Pixel beats it in the case of element and dynamic vary in tougher conditions. And when you bust out the Pixel’s Night time Sight, any edge the iPhone may need in brightening a super-dim scene is misplaced: The iPhone SE would not have Apple’s Night time Mode.

Left: iPhone SE. Center: Pixel 3a. Proper: Pixel 3a Night time Sight.

Frustratingly, generally the iPhone’s digital camera interface will suggest it is completed taking a photograph earlier than it truly is, so you will need to maintain nonetheless for a bit at night time even after it seems prefer it’s performed, as a result of it sometimes is not — otherwise you danger getting a blurry photograph.

Total, the Pixel 3a is a greater digital camera, however the iPhone SE remains to be no slouch, and most people will discover it high quality. Truthfully, the worst factor concerning the digital camera was the shortage of an influence button shortcut, such as you normally get on Android. Right here, double-pressing that button does exactly nothing, although it’s used for accessing Apple Pockets on “Contact ID”-less iPhones just like the 11. Nonetheless, as somebody that makes use of a digital camera extra typically than contactless funds, I want Apple would rethink an influence button digital camera shortcut — it is an awesome function.

Must you purchase it?

Nearly throughout the board, the iPhone SE beats the present Pixel 3a, which is our favourite mid-range telephone. It has an IP ranking, the Pixel 3a would not. It has a flagship chipset, the Pixel 3a would not. The SE has wi-fi charging, wonderful haptics, and ambient color-adapting True Tone. The Pixel 3a may need a greater digital camera, however that is only one level in its favor. In virtually each different metric the 2020 iPhone SE meets or exceeds not simply the Pixel 3a, however each different mid-range Android telephone on the $400 value — exterior the query of software program, anyway. And it seems just like the SE will in all probability beat Google’s upcoming Pixel 4a, too.

Truthfully, I am upset that there is not a $400 Android telephone that is as all-around good as the brand new iPhone SE, however Apple is simply capable of compete with its economic system of scale right here in a approach that Android producers cannot.

(I must also be aware, it is a totally different comparability exterior the US in different worldwide markets, the place Android telephones are cheaper and extra plentiful, and the iPhone is rather more costly.)

That mentioned, it is not for everybody, and iOS is a really robust capsule for a few of our readers to swallow. I am hardly an goal supply on the matter (simply test our website identify and URL), however I do suppose Android beats iOS in the case of performance in some ways. Nonetheless, that is distinctive {hardware} you are getting for simply $400, and never everyone seems to be so choosy about software program.

When you can settle for iOS, and the display or battery life issues do not trouble you, it is a excellent telephone.

Purchase it if

  • You want to present iOS a attempt.
  • You are on a finances however…
  • You desire a telephone with glorious efficiency and {hardware} (exterior the display, anyway).

Do not buy it if

  • Android is bae.
  • You desire a larger display/telephone.
  • Battery life is a excessive precedence.
  • You’ll be able to spend greater than $400

The place to purchase

The iPhone SE is on the market beginning at $399 on the retailers under:

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