iPhone 12 vs iPhone SE (2020): Which Apple phone is best for you?

Check out the CPU performance, screen quality and in-built features of the Apple iPhone 12 vs Apple iPhone SE (2020)

Apple iPhone 12 vs Apple iPhone SE (2020)
(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone has long cemented itself as the one of the most popular smartphone brands in the world, and Apple’s world-conquering phone series continues to outdo itself with new models and competitive features, while making itself a regular of T3's best phones buying guide.

But which version of the Apple iPhone is right for you?

If you’re in the market for a new Apple device, then you’re in luck because we’ve compared two of the most popular models out there – the Apple iPhone 12 and the Apple iPhone SE (2020) – to see how they perform in the most important areas by comparison.


Apple iPhone 12 vs Apple iPhone SE (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

As one of Apple’s flagship devices this year, the iPhone rather unsurprisingly has a fantastic touchscreen to its name. The iPhone 12 received a welcome refresh in this department compared to the iPhone 11, with a lovely 6.1-inch 1170x2532 OLED screen. The iPhone 12 also boasts HDR functionality for ever higher quality streaming.

By comparison, the iPhone SE (2020) has a 4.7-inch (750 x 1334 pixels) widescreen Retina HD LCD screen with Multi-Touch functionality. It’s certainly not as impressive as the iPhone 12 but it’s better than many of the devices in the same price bracket, including support for features such as Dolby Vision and HDR10.


Apple iPhone 12 vs Apple iPhone SE (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

The camera is one of the few areas the iPhone hasn’t had many changes from its previous model, offering both a 12MP rear wide-angle and 12MP rear ultra-wide angle set of lenses. With a new processor specifically for reducing background noise and faster lens correction – making it ideal for low-light shooting – the iPhone 12 is a great smartphone for budding amateur photographers.

The iPhone SE (2020) has a single 12MP rear camera with phase-detection autofocus, a 5x digital zoom, a True Tone LED flash and more. It’s by no means a knockout when compared to its more powerful sibling, but for the price, it’s a more than capable bit of hardware for image & video capture.


Apple iPhone 12 vs Apple iPhone SE (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

As expected, the iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic processor is an absolute beast, delivering one of the smoothest and fastest iOS experiences in years. From running some of the most demanding gaming apps to simply shifting between menus is silky smooth – and the support for 5G certainly doesn’t hurt either!

The iPhone SE (2020) features the previous generation’s A13 Bionic processor but considering this was the same chip powering the iPhone 11 it’s hardly a poor choice of component. As a result, the iPhone SE (2020) provides a smooth and rewarding experience, especially for a device at this price point.


Apple iPhone 12 vs Apple iPhone SE (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

The battery performance of the iPhone 12 isn’t a huge upgrade from the iPhone 11, but this 2,815 mAh component should deliver a good 12 hours of use on a busy day – but considerably more if you’re more frugal. Even on 5G, you can expect around 10 hours or so of performance. It’s an impressive outing when you consider the sheer number of components that the iPhone 12 has to its name.

Unsurprisingly, the iPhone SE (2020) doesn’t have the most impressive battery, but this is to be expected for a ‘budget’ device. Its 1821mAh battery is still decent, but it won’t quite hold up if you do a lot of YouTube or Netflix watching. Expect around a day’s use on average but expect to charge it up regularly.


Apple iPhone 12 vs OnePlus 8 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

In terms of cost, you’re looking at somewhere around £699/$799 for the iPhone 12, which is competitive when you consider the cost of some of the Android devices competing in the same bracket. The iPhone SE (2020) will set you back around £350/$399, which is a little more than some other ‘budget’ smartphones, but it’s also one of the best models to ever enter this corner of the market with an impressive set of components.

Both the iPhone 12 and the iPhone SE (2020) offer very different experiences, but both come with that Apple seal of quality that sets them apart from their Android competitors. And while the iPhone SE (2020) rarely competes with its more powerful bigger brother, it’s nonetheless a very powerful and affordable device.

Dom Reseigh-Lincoln

Dom Reseigh-Lincoln has been writing for T3 for over half a decade now, covering everything from mobile phones and laptops right through to video games and gaming peripherals. Purveyor of an excellent beard, as well as some perpetually cheeky offspring, Dom likes to wind down in his spare time by listening to heavy metal.