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iPhone SE (2020) vs iPhone XR: The differences explained

The more affordable models of the iPhone range compared

When it was released way back in 2016, the original iPhone SE was an immediate hit. Looks-wise, it returned to the iconic square edges and as it was so much smaller than other iPhones on the market, it was easier to handle and more pocket-friendly. That was a significant consideration for anyone with smaller hands, tight jeans or those who prefer to use their device with one hand (and change the world with the other).

Despite its classic aesthetic, the original SE kept up with its main competitors thanks to the super-fast processor inside. In 2016, it was the obvious ‘best of both worlds’ solution.

Four years later, and consumers now face a choice between the newly updated iPhone SE 2020, and the slighty bigger, slightly pricier iPhone XR. With some similarities, it’s got lots of people wondering: what’s the difference between an iPhone SE and an iPhone XR? And which one should I go for?  Especially if they’ve already ruled out the top of the range iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro.

If you’ve been questioning this yourself and hovering over Buy buttons, fear not. In this article, we’ll go through all the little details to help you decide which one is best for you.

iPhone SE and iPhone XR
iPhone SE and the bigger screen, slightly pricier iPhone XR

Size and weight | The XR is the bigger of the two

The first thing to note is that the XR is indeed larger than the SE. At just under 151 millimetres, the XR is 28 millimetres longer. It’s 75.7 millimetres wide as well, compared to the SE’s 58.6-millimetre width.

The XR is significantly heavier, which won’t come as much of a surprise given the larger size. The SE is 113 grams, but the XR is 194 grams. That is an increase of over 50%, so it’s something to consider if you prefer a lighter phone.

Screen | 4.7″ vs 6.1″

As you might expect from a larger phone, the iPhone XR has a bigger screen, at 6.1″. In fact, it’s a third bigger than the SE 2020. It’s got an LCD display but still stretches to the edge of the device. That means you get more screen without a mega chunky device.

The SE opts for a smaller screen to fit it’s smaller overall size, with a 4.7″ display, the same as the iPhone 8.  Which you prefer is down to personal preference – some people prefer looking at a larger display, others prefer the fact that a smaller screen means a more pocket-friendly phone.


To accommodate the larger screen, the XR has no Home button, just like the pricier iPhone 11. This is, of course, the way mobile device design is heading. Apple has kept the Home button for its updated iPhone SE 2020, like it did for the iPhone 8, but for anyone who prefers the sleek, button-free modern look, then the XR wins here.

With a Home button, Touch ID remains the access point for the SE, while the button-free XR is unlocked by Face ID. Again, this may simply come down to a matter of taste – some people prefer to have an actual physical button available.


Ah, the camera: an all-important consideration for almost every smartphone user. Both of the models have a 12-megapixel rear camera, but the XR displays a lot of benefits the SE 2020 does not.

One of the big differences between the two is that the front camera is significantly better. In the SE model, there is a 1.2-megapixel camera, whereas the XR boasts a 7 megapixel one.

The smart HD tech inside the camera means you will be able to shoot better photos under low light conditions. For portraits or feature photos, you will be able to add depth of field even after the photo has been taken. This results in a more professional-looking photo.  However, given the iPhone SE has the new A13 processor inside (compared to the A12 on the XR), the actual differences you see aren’t that huge.  The iPhone SE also now packs Portrait mode so you can get those cool looking shots with a blurred background.

When it comes to video recording, you won’t see too much of a difference. It remains largely the same, at 4K for both models. If you’re shooting professional-grade videos, you’ll need to take a look at one of the more advanced models, but 4K does the job perfectly well for everyday video content.

Battery life

The battery life in the XR model is almost twice as strong, which many people will love. That said, if you’ve never had an issue with the battery life of your SE, it may not be a concern for you.  You’re still likely to get a good day’s use out of the SE.

As an example, you’ll get about 13 hours of non-streaming video playback from the SE, compared to 16 hours with the XR.  When it comes to audio, that translates to up to 40 hours of music playback on the SE, compared to 65 hours on the XR.


Here’s where it gets really interesting.  The iPhone SE, being the newer model of the two, has Apple’s new A13 processor inside. This is the same processor used in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. This means it’s got the latest chip for running apps and games, and keeping things zipping along.

The XR, being a year older, includes the A12. There’s not a massive amount of difference between the two, but given that the SE is the lower-priced of the two models, it’s an impressive feat. The A13 is about 10% faster than the A12 and needs less power to run it (up to 40% less according to Apple).

Extra features and final thoughts

Undoubtedly, one of the XR’s attractive qualities is that it packs a lot of advanced technology into a device that does not cost quite as much as the other new iPhones, like the iPhone 11. Edge-to-edge display and Face ID are now in such high demand that Apple has made the decision to include them even in their more accessibly priced XR.

When it comes to comparing the iPhone SE 2020 with the iPhone XR, there’s not really a lot in it, although you’ll pay slightly less per month for the SE on a pay monthly contract. Much of your decision will come down to personal preferences. So based on the information we’ve collected here, you may find yourself enjoying the familiar design of the SE 2020 or the more advanced features and bigger screen of the iPhone XR.

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