Should you get the smaller, entry-level iPhone or the larger, standard model that has come down in price? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two iPhones is best for you.
Comparing the iPhone SE and the iPhone 11
The iPhone SE and iPhone 11 share a number of features, such as 4K video recording, water resistance, and Qi wireless charging. Apple lists these identical features of the iPhone SE and iPhone 11:
- Retina HD LCD display with 326 ppi, IPS technology, True Tone, P3 Wide Color, Haptic Touch, and up to 625 nits brightness
- A13 Bionic chip
- Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
- 4G LTE cellular connectivity
- Dual SIM (nano-SIM and eSIM)
- 12MP rear wide camera with ƒ/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization, digital zoom up to 5x, True Tone flash with Slow Sync, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, and next-generation Smart HDR for photos
- 4K video recording at 24fps, 25fps, 30fps, or 60fps, optical image recording, QuickTake video, slo-mo video support for 1080p at 120fps or 240fps, time-lapse video with stabilization, and stereo
- Front-facing camera with ƒ/2.2 aperture, Retina Flash, HDR, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, 1080p HD video recording at 25fps, 30fps, or 60fps, Cinematic video stabilization, and QuickTake video
- Supports Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG video playback
- Three-axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and barometer
- Qi wireless charging
- Up to 50 percent charge in 30 minutes
- Lightning port
- Glass front and back
- aerospace-grade aluminum
- water resistance
- Available in Black, White, and PRODUCT(RED)
- 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage options
Apple’s breakdown shows that the iPhones share a large number of notable key features, such as the A13 Bionic chip, a Retina HD display, and a 12MP rear camera. Even so, there are meaningful differences between the iPhone SE and iPhone 11, such as their display sizes and authentication technologies.
- Smaller form factor, weighs 148 grams
- 4.7-inch Retina HD display
- Home Button with Touch ID
- Single rear camera (Wide)
- Front-facing 7MP FaceTime HD camera with 1080p HD video recording and Auto HDR
- Battery life with up to 13 hours video playback
- Rated IP67 water-resistant to a depth of one meter for up to 30 minutes
- Larger form factor, weighs 194 grams
- 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD display
- face ID
- Dual rear cameras with two-times optical zoom range (Wide and Ultra Wide)
- Nightmode and Deep Fusion
- audio zoom
- Front-facing 12MP TrueDepth camera with 4K video recording, Smart HDR, slo-mo video support, Animoji, and Memoji
- Battery life with up to 17 hours video playback
- Rated IP68 water-resistant to a depth of two meters for up to 30 minutes
- U1 Ultra Wideband chip for spatial awareness
- Supports Dolby Atmos audio playback
- Additional Purple, Yellow, and Green color options
Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see what exactly both low-cost iPhones have to offer.
Design and Colors
The design and form factors of the iPhone SE and iPhone 11 differ significantly. Although both devices share rounded edges, use aerospace-grade aluminum, and have glass backs, the iPhone SE has thick borders along the top and bottom of the display, as well as a Home Button. The iPhone 11 features an all-screen design with no Home Button, with a TrueDepth camera array cutout at the top of the display.
The design of the iPhone SE is the same as the iPhone 8, which shared a similar design to older devices like the iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 7. The iPhone 11 has a more modern design owing to its all-screen look, a “notch” out of the top of the display, and on the Home Button. If you like the older style of iPhone with a Home Button or simply prefer a smaller device, you will want to buy the iPhone SE, but most users are likely to prefer the more current design of the iPhone 11.
The iPhone 11 is taller and wider than the iPhone SE and is 31 percent heavier, so for the most pocketable and lightweight iPhone that is also easier to use with one hand, the iPhone SE will be a better choice.
Both devices are available in Black, White, and PRODUCT(RED), but the iPhone 11 also offers additional Purple, Yellow, and Green color options, which some users may prefer.
Both devices feature a Retina HD LCD display with 326 ppi, IPS technology, True Tone, P3 Wide Color, Haptic Touch, and up to 625 nits brightness, but the display of the iPhone 11 is considerably larger. The iPhone SE’s display is 4.7-inches, while the iPhone 11’s display is 6.1-inches.
For the likes of consuming media, reading, and playing games, the additional 1.4-inches of screen space may offer a better experience, although it may be slightly more unwieldy in the hand.
Touch ID vs. face ID
Another major area of difference between the two devices is authentication technology. The iPhone SE features a Touch ID scanner built into the Home Button below the display, while the iPhone 11 features Face ID like all of Apple’s more premium iPhones.
Face ID debuted on the iPhone X in 2017. At the time, Apple said the probability that a random person could unlock someone else’s iPhone X was approximately one in 1,000,000, versus one in 50,000 for Touch ID. That being said, both forms of authentication are quite safe.
Face ID does not work well with masks, while Touch ID does not work well with wet or sweaty fingertips, so neither system is perfect. Since the new iPhone SE lacks Face ID, it does not support Animoji or Memoji. Which authentication system you prefer is ultimately up to you.
Despite both having a 12MP rear wide camera with an ƒ/1.8 aperture, 4K video recording capability, and optical image stabilization, the camera setups of both devices are very different.
The iPhone 11 has two rear cameras, offering a Wide and an Ultra Wide lens. The iPhone SE has a single, Wide camera on the rear. The Ultra Wide camera gives the iPhone 11 a two-time optical zoom range. The iPhone 11 can also take high-quality photos in low-light environments using Night mode, as well as use Deep Fusion to show more detail in photos.
Although the video recording capability of both devices is the same, the iPhone 11 can use the feature called Audio zoom to isolate sound when shooting zoomed-in video. If you are hoping to take a large number of photos and videos, you may prefer the added camera capabilities of the iPhone 11, but the iPhone SE still has a high quality camera that is adequate for most people’s use-cases.
The iPhone SE has a 7MP FaceTime HD front-facing camera that can record 1080p video with Auto HDR, but the iPhone 11 has a much better 12MP TrueDepth front-facing camera that can record 4K video with Smart HDR and slo-mo. If you use the front-facing camera a lot, such as for selfies or video calls, the iPhone 11’s considerably better front-facing camera will be worth getting over the iPhone SE.
When playing back video, the iPhone SE can deliver up to 13 hours of battery life, while the iPhone 11 can deliver up to 17 hours. When it comes to streaming video, this translates to eight hours of battery life for the iPhone SE and ten hours for the iPhone 11. When playing back audio, the iPhone SE can deliver up to 40 hours of battery life, but the iPhone 11 can deliver up to 65 hours.
The battery life of both devices should still be good enough for normal daily usage, but if you often find yourself draining your battery prematurely, you may benefit from the iPhone 11’s added battery life.
Both of these devices feature water resistance for up to 30 minutes, but the iPhone SE has an IP67 rating for water up to one meter deep, while the iPhone 11 has an IP68 rating for water up to two meters deep. This is unlikely to be a relevant consideration for most users, but the iPhone 11 is clearly more durable for those who regularly use their iPhone around water.
Moreover, the iPhone 11 features the U1 Ultra Wideband chip for spatial awareness, which allows it to track AirTags or work as a digital car key. The iPhone 11 also supports Dolby Atmos audio playback through its built-in speakers, but the quality is unlikely to be good enough to notice much difference compared to the iPhone SE. These features are not essential so it is up to you if you feel you would get use out of them.
Other iPhone Options
The iPhone SE and iPhone 11 are the cheapest iPhone options Apple currently sells at $399 and $499, but if you are looking for a more recent device with new features, there is also the iPhone 12 mini, which starts at $599, and the iPhone 12 , which starts at $699.
If getting a smaller iPhone is your priority, and that is why you are considering the iPhone SE, the iPhone 12 mini is physically smaller but has a larger 5.4-inch display and much better technical specifications. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, has the same 6.1-inch display as the iPhone 11, but is slightly smaller owing to slimmer bezels and flat edges.
The iPhone 12 models feature a more modern squared-off design that is thinner and lighter, OLED displays with HDR, the A14 chip, Ceramic Shield front glass, MagSafe, and improved cameras, making for a noticeable improvement over the iPhone 11 if you can afford it.
Overall, the iPhone SE is a good entry-level iPhone option if you can find it for a reasonable price. With the same display, A13 chip, and rear 12MP Wide camera as the iPhone 11, iPhone SE users will not miss out on any major features.
For just $499, the iPhone 11 offers a more modern design, a larger display, an Ultra Wide camera, Night mode and Deep Fusion, a considerably better front-facing camera, and longer battery life. There is also the benefit of improved water resistance, the U1 chip, and Dolby Atmos audio playback, and even additional color options to choose from. All of this makes for a fairly significant upgrade over the iPhone SE if you can afford the extra cost.