Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs iPhone SE: choose your mid-range phone champion

How the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and iPhone SE compare in all the most important ways

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs iPhone SE
(Image credit: Samsung / Apple)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs iPhone SE (2020) battle is one of the biggest among the best cheap phones – when it comes to combining top features and speed with a certain level of affordability (plus knowing you're buying from a reliable and trusted brand), they're hard to beat.

These are undoubtedly two of the best smartphones on the market at the moment, from two of the experts of the trade, and yet they won't break the bank in terms of how much you have to spend. They're a significant step below the prices of the top-level flagships.

Here we're going to put the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the iPhone SE up against each other in every key spec we can think of – from the size and resolution of the screen to the software on board. You'll soon see why these are two of the best cheap phones of 2021.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs iPhone SE: design and screen

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is, by some distance, the bigger and bolder phone of the two – it comes with a large 6.5-inch, 1080x2400 pixel AMOLED display, with a refresh rate that tops out at 120Hz for some super-smooth scrolling. The front display is interrupted only by a punch hole notch up at the top, and the handset definitely carries some of the premium-level looks of the main Galaxy S20 phones.

You can pick up the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Navy, Cloud White, Cloud Red or Cloud Orange, depending on where you are in the world, and the casing is rated as IP68 for full protection against liquid and dust. The in-screen fingerprint sensor helps with the clean lines and sleek aesthetic that the Galaxy S20 FE exudes, and we'd say it's one of the best-looking handsets on the market right now.

As for the iPhone SE (2020), it's one of the best small phones you can buy at the moment, with a display that measures a mere 4.7 inches from corner to corner. The LCD display runs at a resolution of 750x1334 pixels, so while the iPhone SE is easier to fit in a pocket or a bag than the Galaxy S20 FE (and easier to use one-handed), it can't compete with the Samsung phone when it comes to the quality of the display and how much you can actually fit on it.

The iPhone SE eschews the modern iPhone look sported by the iPhone 12 and its predecessors, instead going for the old-school Apple design that involves chunky bezels and a Touch ID home button on the front. While the design served Apple well for many years, it does look a touch old-fashioned now – though it's worth pointing out that the phone still offers IP68-level waterproofing and dustproofing, and Touch ID is arguably more useful than Face ID in a world of masks. The available colours are black, white or red.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs iPhone SE: camera and battery

Apple iPhone SE

(Image credit: Apple)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE beats the iPhone SE in the camera department, at least in terms of the number of cameras and megapixels on offer. The Samsung phone brings with it a triple-lens rear camera: 12MP wide + 8MP telephoto + 12MP ultrawide. There's 3x optical zoom here, plus that ultrawide mode for fitting more in the frame of your shots, while around the front you've got a 32MP wide selfie camera.

In contrast the iPhone SE makes do with just a single-lens 12MP wide camera on the back and a 7MP camera on the front. There's no ultrawide mode and no optical zoom, and while Apple's image processing algorithms continue to get better and better (helped here by the speedy A13 Bionic processor), the camera on the iPhone SE can't compete with the flexibility that the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has to offer.

Having said all that, while the Galaxy S20 FE might edge the head-to-head in the camera comparison, these two phones are both capable of taking some very nice shots indeed – as you would expect from Samsung and Apple. Both can hold their own in terms of low light photography as well.

Apple promises 13 hours of local video playback and 8 hours of streaming video playback between battery charges on the iPhone SE – its battery has a relatively small capacity of 1,821 mAh (though the hardware and software optimisations deployed by Apple usually make up some of the shortfall). The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE comes with a battery capacity of 4,500 mAh, which Samsung says is good for 19 hours of streaming video over the web before it'll need recharging. Both phones support wireless charging.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs iPhone SE: specs and features

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE comes with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 processor (depending on your region) that sits inside the other S20 phones, and that's paired up with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of internal storage (there is a microSDXC card reader on board, if you want to extend the storage further). In other words, this is an impressively fast phone, and should be able to cope with just about everything you can throw at it.

The iPhone SE is a speedy handset too, carrying the excellent A13 Bionic processor that can also be found inside the top-tier iPhone 11 models. It should fly through anything that your apps need to do, and you shouldn't notice any sort of slowdown with this phone for years. The CPU is joined by 3GB of RAM and 64GB, 128GB or 256GB of internal storage, which you can't expand with a memory card.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE gives you the option of a 5G variant, if you want to pay a little extra, though a 4G version is also available. It's 4G only for the 2020 iPhone SE, which doesn't support 5G at all. Considering the next-gen cellular networks are still to roll out to many places beyond major cities, you might consider 5G support something you can live without for the time being.

Let's not forget Android vs iOS either, as these phones give you quite different software experiences: the feature-packed version of Android that Samsung offers, complete with a host of customisation options, and the more streamlined and locked down iOS software that Apple puts on its iPhones, which works seamlessly with other Apple products and services (such Apple Watch, AirPods or Macs). You probably already know which one is your favourite, but just about every major app is available on both Android and iOS anyway.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs iPhone SE: price and verdict

Apple iPhone SE

(Image credit: Future)

The widgets embedded on this page should list the very latest prices and online deals for the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the iPhone SE, but as far as official manufacturer pricing goes, the Samsung handset starts off at £699 / $699.99, while the Apple phone is going to cost you £399 / $399 and up. Those prices may well come down as time goes on, especially with the Samsung phone.

We've spoken about some of the advantages that the Samsung phone has – a bigger screen, a better camera setup – but that discrepancy in pricing might be enough to cancel out those advantages. It really depends how much you prioritise certain features and how you're going to be using your new phone when you get it (as well as how much you're willing to spend of course).

While we've been pitting the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the iPhone SE 2020 edition against each other in this article, we're actually big fans of both of these smartphones: they're both fast, reliable and powerful, with decent battery life and impressive cameras. It's fair to say that you won't be disappointed with either of them.

When it comes to choosing one or the other, the most significant factors are likely to be the sort of prices you can find online, how big (or small) you like your phones to be, and whether you prefer using Android or iOS as a mobile operating system. In terms of everything else, there's not much to choose between the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the iPhone SE, though the former is the more powerful (and expensive) of the two.