iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: So Close!

With the iPhone SE and the iPhone XR being the least expensive options in Apple’s current iPhone lineup, you’re bound to wonder which one you should pick for yourself. Well, I’ve used both these phones extensively to help you decide which is the right phone for you.

iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: Build Quality

Build Quality iPhone SE vs iPhone XR

When it comes to the in-hand feel and the construction, both these phones are very similar and yet worlds apart. On the similarities front, both these phones have glass on the front and back and a matte finish aluminium frame making a glass and aluminium sandwich. The material and finish on both the metal and the glass feels exactly the same on both these phones. Both of them have a single camera on the back with the flash to the right of the camera on the SE and below the camera on the XR. On the differences part, the iPhone SE is mostly targeted to users of compact phones. It is much slimmer, much smaller and much lighter than the iPhone XR which honestly looks like a giant in front of the tiny iPhone SE. Sure the 2020 iPhone SE is significantly bigger than the 2016 OG iPhone SE but it is still a very small phone by today’s standards. So, if compactness is of importance to you, the iPhone SE gets the clear win here. 


Also read: Best clear cases for iPhone XR

iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: Display Review

Display Review iPhone SE vs iPhone XR

Let’s flip over to the displays now. Of course, the SE is a recycle of the iPhone 8’s design so we have thick bezels on the top and the bottom along with a home button. The iPhone XR, in comparison, has a much newer design with an edge to edge display. The bezels on the iPhone XR are generally considered to be on the thicker side but that’s simply not the case when you put it next to the 2015-esque bezel design of the iPhone SE. Since both of them have very similar display technologies aka LCD and same PPI, the only true difference comes because of the size. Now, of course there are a lot of advantages to having a larger display with more space for gaming, multimedia, reading so of course the XR has this big advantage over the SE. If you are not adamant on getting a compact phone, there is just no comparison here. The display design on the iPhone XR looks more modern and gives a better experience. 

iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: Performance Review

Performance Comparison iPhone SE vs iPhone XR

Let’s talk performance. The iPhone SE has the A13 processor that the iPhone 11 has which is a generation newer than the A12 on the iPhone XR. Both these processors are extremely powerful and everything you throw at them, they take it like a champ. Be it regular day-to-day use or intensive games or Garage Band or video editing softwares, performance is similar on both these devices which is to say both are as fast as you could possibly want. Of course, the differences will start to show up 1 or 2 years down the line. See, no matter how powerful they are right now, they are bound to lag after some time. And the iPhone XR will start to slow down sooner because it has a generation older processor that is powering a larger display with more pixels compared to the iPhone SE which has a newer processor powering on a smaller display. So if you’re planning to use your phone for a long, long time, perhaps you should keep this in mind.


Also read: iOS 13 vs iOS 14

iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: Camera Comparison

In terms of optics, both iPhones sport a single 12MP camera on the rear which is very uncommon these days. The lens modules have an f-stop of 1.8 and 2.2 on the rear and front cameras respectively on both iPhones. Let’s find out how these devices perform out there. 

Detailed Camera Comparison iPhone SE vs iPhone XR


  • Pictures shot on both the devices are very similar in terms of HDR processing and overall color rendering.
  • There is a slight difference present when it comes to noise processing and color temperatures. The iPhone SE produces stills which have better noise processing and less artifacts. On the other hand, the iPhone XR shoots pictures with a slightly wider field of view and warmer color temperatures. 
  • One interesting finding is that, even though the iPhone SE uses the iPhone 8’s 2-year-old camera module, it produces somewhat sharper images compared to the pictures shot on iPhone XR credit for which goes to the better image processing on the A13 chip. 
  • The portraits out of both the devices look amazing with decent subject separation. Although, the XR has the edge (pun intended) when it comes to subject separation accuracy.   
  • Both devices shoot 7MP stills and portraits from the front cameras. The iPhone SE gets more points for accurate skin tones and noise processing. On the other hand, the iPhone XR produces sharper selfies. 
  • There is no dedicated night mode present on both the devices so low light performance is pretty average on both iPhones.  
  • In short, the rear camera performance is very similar in both devices with only minor differences.


  • The video department specs are identical for both the devices. Both the iPhone XR and SE can shoot videos in 4K up to 60fps from the rear cameras and in FullHD up to 30fps from the front camera. 
  • Video performance is very similar on both the devices. If I had to nitpick, the videos shot with the iPhone SE have better dynamic range and OIS performance. 

Both the iPhones offer very similar camera performance and user experience. Therefore, I’d call it a tie. At the end of the day, it would come down to personal preference. If you prefer to shoot on a larger screen, the XR is the right iPhone for you and if you prefer a more compact smartphone, then the iPhone SE should fit in nicely. 

iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: Battery Life 

Talking about the battery, there is just no comparison here. The iPhone SE definitely has the poorest battery life out of all the iPhones that are on sale today while the iPhone XR has one of the best. Apple advertises the iPhone XR as a battery champ and for good reason. It just lasts immensely long no matter what you throw at it. The iPhone SE on the other hand gives okayish endurance which nosedives to downright bad levels once you switch to more processor-intensive tasks. When it comes to the battery life, it couldn’t be more obvious that The iPhone XR is the clear winner. 


Also read: Best fast chargers for iPhone XR

iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: TouchID vs FaceID

When it comes to biometrics, things get a little more subjective. See, for me personally, these days I prefer TouchID because the masks get in the way of FaceID. But at the same time, I cannot simply deny the simple convenience of the FaceID experience where you just wake up your phone and start using it because it looks at your face and unlocks by itself. You don’t have to do anything to unlock your phone. It just works. But honestly, these are just very nitty-gritty details. In real life, I would be happy with either of the two. 

iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: Call Quality

Signal reception was actually better on the iPhone SE in my experience. The actual call quality was pretty much the same on both these phones but the iPhone SE held on to cellular reception better than the iPhone XR. 

iPhone SE vs iPhone XR: Which one should you buy?

iPhone XR vs iPhone SE Which one should you buy

To conclude, if you’re in the market for a new iPhone and want the best value option, is it the iPhone SE or the iPhone XR. Well, how important is a compact phone to you? Because if compactness is not a big deal, then the answer couldn’t be more obvious. For a drop in the processing power, you get a more modern design, larger display and better battery life. 


Of course, the iPhone XR is not a small phone especially when compared to the SE. So if you are someone who prefers small phones, you already know the answer. 

Check iPhone XR Price on:

Amazon (US): https://amzn.to/2UlYiMY 

Amazon (India): https://amzn.to/2QOxUsS 

Check iPhone SE Price on:

Amazon (US): https://amzn.to/3lPV7Zv 

Amazon (India): https://amzn.to/2ETI20O 

Amazon (UK): https://amzn.to/2Z9Qi3p 

Rohan Bhateja
Rohan Bhateja

Vagabond who loves technology, ranting and brooding.