Normally, this video would be very different. I’d talk about how Apple announced the new iPhone SE a month ago this week, talk about my experiences using it since then.
Tell you how, despite throwing it my pocket with keys and other phones and it sliding off various services with alarming regularity, it was still amazingly scratch and break free.
About how I still miss high dynamic range on the rare occasions I watch movies on my phone, but mostly never notice it’s LCD and not ultra-high density.
That I’ve been spoiled by the iPhone 11 Pro and especially iPhone 11 Pro Max battery life, which gets me a day and a half without breaking a sweat — or breaking out a charger — while the new SE has me in battery saver mode by dinner time pretty much every evening.
How the photos and video are almost as good as the iPhone, it just doesn’t have as much range, especially as you get into very low light and night mode, or dynamic range on high frame rate video.
And how I do miss the full screen display, gesture navigation, and Face ID of more recent iPhones, which I love, but I also see why so many people still love the Home button and Touch ID, especially in the age of masks, and now that I’m not wearing gloves when I go outside… or, you know, going outside.
Normally, this video would be that, but something else happened when the iPhone SE came out, something wonderful and kinda disappointing.
See, for years, there have been some in the community who review mainstream products only to complain that they’re not for pros. That actively get upset when every product isn’t specifically for them. Even if it may be perfect for their parents or kids or significant others.
But, with the iPhone SE, there was an empathy miracle: Most reviewers who themselves would naturally gravitate towards a $1200 iPhone Pro Max said that, for a lot of people, a $400 iPhone SE would be the much better buy.
Most but not all. Because, yeah, there was some pushback. Here’s the gist, paraphrased:
All these iPhone SE reviews:
LOL no, are you joking, I’d never be caught d e d ded using one.
But, for real, it’s the perfect phone for you peasants.
Which, ugh, as cringe-sad as that sentiment is, it hits me on so many levels.
See, I’m a nerd, a geek, a tech-head, and I typically buy the highest end gadgets I can and promptly lose myself in every little implementation detail. And, for many years, that’s what and how I reviewed as well.
But I’ve been working really hard, really conscientiously over the last couple of years to complete change my approach. Why? Because the vast majority of people who buy this stuff aren’t other tech-heads.
They aren’t people who get a dozen new phones to look at every year and never carry anything longer than a few weeks.
They’re people who work very hard for their money and have to stretch it as far as possible. Who keep their phones for 2 to 5 years. Who hand them down to other family members. Who don’t shop based on specs but on value.
They’re my family. And… if they’re not you, they’re probably your family too. Your parents, your kids, your significant others. And, for the most part, they’re completely underserved by today’s tech media.
I mean, can you imagine if this were cars?
All these Toyota and Honda reviews:
LOL no, are you joking, I’d never be caught ded without my jag or lambo, baby.
But, too right, perfect phones for you peasants.
Because, yes, all-caps yes, that’s very literally the advice any petrol-head, any gear head, worth their humanity card should be giving everyone else in their families and this world.
Even and especially if you’ve been reviewing windows since you still had to launch it from the DOS prompt or you flip laptops like Shake Shack back when they still had a lunch rush.
And, you know, it didn’t used to be like this. In fact, Walt Mossberg pioneered the personal technology column at the Wall Street Journal just precisely so it wouldn’t be like this.
So, when Walt joined me on my new podcast this week, I took the opportunity to ask him about it.
The full audio version is up in your favorite podcast app:
This week, Apple announced a new 13-inch MacBook Pro. Last month, Apple announced a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard dock. Sure, there’s a new 16-inch MacBook Pro and an 11-inch iPad Pro, but since this is a comparison I’m sticking with what’s most comparable.
Because, frankly, I wasn’t originally going to do this video. I mean at all. I felt like it was too Apples to… Apple’s other Apples.
But you kept asking, you kept saying you had money to spend on one of Apple’s new 13-ish inch pro portables, you were just having trouble deciding on which one. And I’m here for you, always, so I’m doing it.
The MacBook Pro is a classic laptop. It has the guts of a full on portable Mac stuffed beneath the keyboard, with a sleek, incredibly thin display permanently hinged on top.
The iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard is the exact opposite. It has its guts stuff behind the display, which then opportunistically and magnetically grafts itself atop the kinda thin, but also kinda heaving keyboard dock.
The end result is that, with the MacBook Pro, you have a solid base and, because the display is so light and can’t become dislodged or detached, the ability to angle it and use it on pretty much any surface and from pretty much any position. You can open it wide without tipping it back, and it’ll stay totally stable on your lap. Of course, you can’t take that display off and walk away with it whenever you want either.
The iPad Pro has a fairly strong, albeit magnetic connection to the Magic Keyboard dock and, while that allows for unrestricted positioning from closed to open, the weight of the iPad Pro itself only lets it functionally open so far. And, while it totally works on the lap, the same extra weight on the top likewise makes it a little less — please don’t make me say lappable — that devices literally called laptops. But, when you don’t need the keyboard, you can just tear the iPad Pro off and use it like the full-on, ultra light weight tablet it is, the way nature and Jobs intended. Something you can’t do with any MacBook.
So, if you prefer the traditional computer clamshell, with heavy base locked to super light lid, you’ll prefer the MacBook Pro.
If you prefer the tablet but occasionally want to do traditional typing in a mostly traditional way, you’ll prefer the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard.
The MacBook Pro has a 13.3-inch LCD panel. It’s Retina density, which in general means an average person from an average viewing distance shouldn’t be able to see individual pixels. In this case, it also specifically means 2560‑by‑1600 pixels at 227 pixels per inch at up to 60Hz. It’s bright, at 500 nits, and digital cinema P3 gamut, which means the color space is wide enough for richer reds and deeper greens. It also has TrueTone, so it adjusts to the color temperature of your environment for whites that don’t look too blue or too yellow but proper paper white.
The iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch LCD panel. It’s also Retina density, but 2732-by-2048-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch, so even denser than the MacBook Pro. It’s also P3 gamut, but brighter at 600 nits, and TrueTone, but instead of being limited to 60Hz, it can go all the way up to 120Hz for silky smooth scrolling and, more directly aligned with my interests, ramp down to 24 to show movies the way nature and Hollywood intended.
The MacBook display is also square and has about the same amount of bezel as it’s had since 2016. The iPad Air has rounded edges and had a good portion of its bezels taken away in 2018. They’re actually not that different in terms of ratio, but change elicits excitement so the iPad feels more modern and fresh, especially considering the 16-inch MacBook Pro went even more edge-to-edge last year.
The biggest difference, though, is that the Mac does not have multitouch or any ability to take touch input, built into the display. All of that is handled through the Touch Bar and trackpad. The iPad, though… well, it was born of multitouch.
More on that in a minute.
The MacBook Pro has slightly better speakers than before, with a stereo, high definition, wide, spatial audio, Dolby Atmos compatible pair that sit on either side of the keyboard. They’re nowhere near the almost HomePod quality of the 16-inch MacBook Pro speakers introduced last year, but they still sound loud and clear.
The iPad Pro has four speakers, two each on the top and bottom, when held in portrait orientation. It’s not quadraphonic, but rather designed to keep the proper stereo sound playing regardless of how you rotate them. And they sound every bit as loud and clear.
There’s a three mic array on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is fine. Not what Apple calls “studio quality” though, like on the 16-inch MacBook Pro… and the 2020 iPad Pro. They’re supposed to be more like dedicated USB mics, and something you can use if you forget your pro mics in a pinch.
So, the speakers are pretty much a wash but if you need to record audio on the go, without an external mic, the iPad Pro’s got you.
On the flip side, the MacBook Pro still has its 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can plug in whatever you like. The iPad Pro lost its jack last redesign, so it’s USB-C external only for you.
Speaking of which…
The lower-end MacBook Pro has two USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports, both on the left side. The higher-end version has four USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side.
The iPad Pro has one full on USB-C port, but no Thunderbolt 3 since Apple doesn’t surface PCIe for the interconnect on the iPad. The Magic Keyboard dock has a second USB-C port for power delivery but not for data, since it transits through the smart connector which doesn’t have the same bandwidth, far as I know.
So, if you need more ports or higher speed ports, you’ll need the MacBook Pro.
The MacBook Pro has a tiny, 720p potato of a FaceTime camera mounted top and center, and… that’s it.
The iPad Pro has a proper, 1080p , 60fps selfie / FaceTime camera not just with much better back and low light capabilities, but with a full on set of True Depth sensors for augmented reality and Face ID.
But… it’s mounted on the side, at least when docked to the Magic Keyboard, which is way better but way more awkward.
On the back… the MacBook Pro has nothing and more nothing.
The iPad Pro on the other hand has like an iPhone 11 jr. camera system, with a 12 megapixel, 4K wide angle and ultra wide angle. Also, a LiDAR sensor for instant augmented reality experiences.
Which the MacBook Pro doesn’t have. No ARKit at all. But, you really need to take the iPad Pro off the Magic Keyboard to use it as a camera. Though that’s exactly what it’s meant for.
So, if you want or need cameras beyond your phone or dedicated camera, you’ll want or need to go with the iPad Pro. Even with the goofy angle when docked.
Trackpad and Keyboard
Both the new MacBook Pro and the new keyboard for the iPad Pro are… magic. That’s Apple’s existing, stand-alone Mac keyboard brand re-interpreted for the MacBook and for the iPad dock.
It’s backlit and uses scissor switches, like the old-school MacBooks, but is designed to feel more stable, like the butterfly switches. Like I’ve been saying, best of both keyboard worlds.
One the MacBook, it’s permanently attached. Literally the flip-side of the display. And it has a few things the iPad version didn’t. Like an escape key, a Touch ID-enabled power key, and Touch Bar for easy access not only to shortcuts but to media and settings controls.
The iPad Pro version has no Touch Bar, and no function or media row, but has a dedicated emoji key, so there.
The MacBook Pro trackpad is also much, much, much bigger. Which some people dislike, because of accidental touch events, but others love because of all the room for touch gestures.
The iPad Pro’s trackpad isn’t as big, and is physical rather than Taptic and virtual, like on the Mac. Of course, the iPad Pro has that huge, totally touchable display anyway.
Also, the iPad Pro has an optional Apple Pencil that attaches magnetically to the iPad Pro, charges inductively, and lets you do pretty much any drawing and handwriting you want to, right on the display.
So, the MacBook Pro keyboard is more like a like a traditional keyboard, Touch Bar not withstanding, and the trackpad is bigger with a cursor that’s more precise… because it needs to be.
The iPad Pro keyboard comes off, and is more of an accessory that expands the iPad Pro than the input method that defines it.
Here’s where it gets fun. The MacBook Pro has Intel processors and graphics. 8th generation and Iris 645 on the low end and 10th generation and Iris Plus on the high end.
It starts at 1.4GHz quad-core 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and tops out at a 2.3GHz quad‑core 10th‑generation Intel Core i7, with turbo from 3.9 to 4.1GHz.
The iPad Pro has only one processor option, and it’s the A13Z system-on-a-chip with efficiency and performance cores, built-in graphics and neural engine, and a variety of accelerators, security, and controller blocks.
Which is similar, but way more modern, than what the T2 chip does on the Mac.
The T2 is still Touch ID generation tech while the A13Z is Face ID era.
Likewise, while the MacBook Pro is still limited to 802.11ac and has no option for cellular connectivity at all, the iPad Pro has WiFi6 and optional Gigabit LTE.
But… the iPad Pro is limited to 6GB of RAM where the MacBook Pro starts at 8GB and the high-end model can go up to 32GB.
Likewise, the iPad Pro tops out at 1TB of storage where the high-end MacBook Pro goes all the way to 4TB. And it still handles external storage way more flexibly and just downright better. Which can be a meaningful difference.
Now, Apple has been updating their chips far more aggressively and successfully than Intel has over the last few years, to say the least. But silicon doesn’t mean much to people without the software that runs on it, so…
The MacBook Pro runs macOS, which is a fully mature, traditional, mouse and pointer, graphical user interface-based operating system.
And it can run all the traditional, x86 and AMD64-based software that runs on the Mac, from the Mac App Store apps, to the highest end, most niche, most powerful pro and scientific apps, all the multiple decades worth. All that require gobs of RAM and huge amounts of storage.
The iPad Pro runs, as of last year, iPadOS, a still-maturing, multitouch-based operating system.
And it can run all the hundreds of thousands of iPadOS apps in the iPad App Store. Which, in some ways, is far wider, but in others, isn’t quite as deep. Like it’s still struggling with Photoshop and doesn’t have the type of production software used by major studios or in science labs, for example. Especially the stuff that needs Bootcamp or virtual machine capabilities because it runs only on Windows.
Now, iPadOS has just recently gotten full trackpad and pointer support, although it’s not quite the same as macOS.
So, if you want that traditional computer experience and you need to run specific, Mac-only or Windows software, you’re going to want and need a Mac.
But, if you prefer the direct manipulation of an iPad, all the iPad apps, and the ability to use software designed not just for a typing computer but a real tablet computer, you’re going to prefer the iPad Pro.
The low end 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299 U.S. for the 8th gen core i5 and maxes out at $2,499 for the i7, 16GB, 2TB model. The high end model starts at $1,799 U.S. That’s for the 4-port, 10th gen model, which can go all the way up to $3,599 with every option maxed out. Which, yeah, is a lot of money. 16-inch MacBook money.
The low end 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 U.S for 128GB with Wi-Fi, or $1348 with the Magic Keyboard, and goes all the way up to $1649 for 1TB with LTE, or $1998, maxed out.
So, MacBook Pro vs. iPad Pro — they’re such fundamentally different devices that they’re really not directly comparable.
That means, you have to ask yourself a series of questions:
Do you want or really need a traditional computer that runs traditional computer software, including legacy production or Windows software, in a very traditional way, with massive amounts of memory and storage, even if the silicon is uninspiring and the camera will have you reaching for your iPhone at any opportunity.
Or, do you want a multitouch tablet that offers all the portability and flexibility of a tablet, including full on camera systems and the optional Pencil, but can also dock with the Magic Keyboard for those times where you want a more traditional-style computing experiences.
Also, do you already have an iPad or Mac? If there’s an iMac on your desk, maybe you’re better off with an iPad Pro in your hands. Or, if you have an iPad Air or mini, maybe a MacBook Pro will let you get different things done better.
End of the day, you can get more bang for your buck with the iPad Pro, but only if it’s the kind of bang you really need to get done.
Apple announced their second quarter, 2020 financial results last week and despite everything else going on right now, they still managed to rake in over $58 billion dollars. What’s more, wearables revenue, which includes Apple Watch, set a quarterly record.
Hit subscribe and you’ll see all the videos I’ve made explaining just exactly why that is.
Now, much like the iPod back in the day and the iPad still TO this day, the computer watch market pretty much IS an Apple Watch market.
With one giant, glaring, neon exception. You have to have an iPhone to use one. But will you always?
Find out my thoughts in my weekly column over at iMore:
Apple has just announced that their 31st annual, world wide developers conference, WWDC, will kick off — virtually — on Monday, June 22, 2020.
And yeah, that’s three weeks later than usual, but what’s usual this year anyway?
If you’re not familiar with it, WWDC — affectionately known as Dub Dub, is the big summer show where, every year, Apple announces updates to all of their operating systems and the developer frameworks for same, which now includes iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and, of course, macOS.
Some years, though not every year, Apple also announces new hardware. The new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR. The iMac Pro and HomePod. MacBooks, iPads, even iPhones back in the days of Steve Jobs.
And, now, we have a heavy emphasis on services as well, which are helping to move the needle for Apple even when the rest of the world is on hold.
In a normal year, Tim Cook would come out on the WWDC keynote stage with his usual “Good Morning”! Talk about the developers in attendance, from all the countries around the world, the students and scholarship winners, and then turn to business.
Maybe services first. Apple Music and Apple Arcade seem to be humming along fine. Apple News is doing a great job, but is still in only a tiny handful of countries, which when compared to the previous two is just really, really sad. I can’t even imagine how just absolutely gross the international licensing must be, but it’s Apple’s job to figure it out.
Same with Apple Pay Cash and Apple Card. They’re still U.S. only. And, sure, U.S. banks are more competitive than most every other place on earth, and Goldman Sachs was about as desperate to get Apple’s product as AT&T was to take the original iPhone, sight unseen.
But, international customers already feel like we pay higher prices for less features, and anything Apple can do to push those high-affinity services out further would mean a lot.
Apple TV+ has produced some great content but now, like most other services, new seasons have been suspended and it’s unclear when additional programming will resume. With no catalog content to fall back on, like Netflix and Disney+, and the original year of free service coming to to an end, Apple’s going to need to decide what to do to keep the numbers up. Maybe a second year with the purchase of 2020 Apple device?
There’s also the idea of an Apple bundle. Apple Prime. Apple+. Basically, all the services, and maybe even iCloud, all together at a discounted price. Apple does a very little of that for students but it’d be a great thing to do for everyone.
I guess the only question is whether or not it would accelerate or decelerate Apple’s promise to double services revenue by end of year? In other words, would Apple make up the discounts on volume?
Let me know what you think in the comments.
Apple TV & tvOS
Last year, Tim Cook stayed on stage for tvOS, because TV+ dovetailed into it so nicely. In previous years we got Eddy Cue, senior Vice President of internet services, and members of the Apple TV team.
Either way, there have been rumors of a new Apple TV box for a while now. One with an even more recent, more powerful processor to better handle things like overlaid HDR, and next-generation Apple Arcade games. Even one bundled with a gaming controller to try for some of the casual console market.
I think we’ll absolutely see a new box at some point, but how far Apple is willing to with bundled gaming is another question.
iPhone and iOS
Apple hasn’t announced iPhones at WWDC for a decade, but Tim Cook has been handing off to Craig Federighi, senior Vice President of software engineering, to announce new versions of iOS for almost that long.
Craig is so good on stage I really hope Apple figures out a way for him to present virtually, in whatever way works. Even, yes, via Memoji.
iOS 14 is on tap for this year and I think, new features aside, Apple has to make up for the hot mess of a launch that was iOS 13 beta last year by giving us something much closer to the solid, stable, smooth experience that was the iOS 12 beta. For me, every other tentpole is a distant second.
That includes the rumored new Fitness app, messaging features, AR lens app, default apps, and everything else. And let me know if you want to see videos on those in the comments below.
The one bit of related hardware I am looking very much forward to is AirTags. Apple announced the new FindMy network at WWDC last year, and I’ve been waiting to see those little tags literally every season since.
I’ve already done a video on them, so hit subscribe and check it out, but how Apple is going to present them, sell them, and especially reassure everyone about the privacy of them, is something I’m really interested in seeing.
What everyone else is probably far more excited for are new, less expensive AirPods and even newer, more expensive AirPods Studio, or whatever Apple calls the over-the-ear models. Maybe with senior Vice President of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller doing the honors.
iPadOS and iPad
Apple updated both the small and large iPads Pro at WWDC 2017, with Vice President of product marketing, Greg Joswiak doing the honors. But the low-end iPad was updated last September and the Pros, just over a month ago. That leaves the Air and mini, but Apple’s been content to leave them for years before, so…
Craig Federighi announced the first version at WWDC last year — which was also the 13th version, because it’s still based heavily on iOS. And this year we’ll get 14.
One of the biggest rumors for it was full-on pointer and cursor support, but we got that with iPadOS 13.4. The other, is Pro Apps, namely Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, and most apropos for WWDC, Xcode.
If Apple’s been doing in private what Adobe’s been doing in public beta with Photoshop for iPad, we could see real-but-not-full versions of some or all of those come June. Drop a like below if that’s something you really, finally want to see.
Apple Watch and watchOS
For the last couple of years we’ve gotten the Pride bands at or around WWDC. But the show belongs to watchOS. Kevin Lynch, Vice President of software, typically does the honors. Last year, tag-teaming with Dr. Sumbul Desai, Vice President of health.
Rumors for this year include sleep tracking, which has been rumored ever since Apple bought Beddit a couple of years ago. Also, more fitness features, because there are always more fitness features. And, a way to address mental health the way the Apple Watch has been addressing physical health for years already. Which would be terrific.
Let me know in the comments if you want to see a whole video on that.
Of course, I’m hoping for something that’ll make the Apple Watch even more independent from the iPhone. Maybe a way to set it up on its own?
The Mac and macOS
John Ternus, vice president of hardware, has been handling Mac announcements for a while now. From the Mac Pro last year to the iMac Pro a couple of years ago.
And yeah, the iMac line in general and the iMac Pro especially are more than a little long-in-the-tooth, so updates there would be great to see. If not in June then certainly in October.
The current macOS Catalina, introduced by Craig Federighi last year, has been just as painful as iOS 13. More even, when you consider the loss of 32-bit games and plugins for people who loved and depended on them, and the annoyance of the new security model for people used to the complete freedom of the traditional Mac.
After 10.15, Apple really needs a make-good with 10.16, a software version of the new Magic Keyboard, so to speak.
Of course, what everyone is really waiting for… is what everyone has been waiting for for years now — any sign or signal that Apple is getting ready to move any part of the Mac lineup to their own, custom, in-house ARM processors. You know, like the ones in the iPhone and iPad that have been running roughshod over the entire silicon industry going on a decade now.
Any more things
Apple’s automation efforts are still underway but probably still a ways off. We’ll certainly hear more about augmented reality, especially with LiDAR now on the iPad Pro and, rumor has it, coming soon to the iPhone Pro.
What about Apple Glasses, realityOS, StarBoard, and everything next? Probably also still coming next rather than now. Though LiDAR, and the AR apps we’ll be getting starting this year are rocketing us towards it.
Same with the artificial intelligence that, under senior Vice President John Gianandrea, I think will end up being as important to the next decade of Apple as silicon under senior Vice President Johny Srouji has been to the last one.
Two months ago, Apple launched an updated MacBook Air. This week, Apple launched an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Hit subscribe to see my takes on both of them, but one of the questions I got quickest and hardest was this — which one should people get?
Because, thanks to some quirks of Apple, the higher end MacBook Air now seems to have a really big overlap with the lower end MacBook Pro.
But these smaller laptops are hiding some bigger differences than might first meet the eye.
The MacBook Air’s design was last updated in 2018. It’s more modern now, with black around the bezels, but it’s still that wedge-shaped design that inspired a generation of ultrabooks.
The MacBook Pro’s design was last updated in 2016. The black bezels are the same but the body is less wedge and more squared off.
The thinnest point on the MacBook Air is thinner than the MacBook Pro but the thickest point is ever so slightly thicker. The rest of the sizes are the same though, but the Air is about 0.3 lbs lighter at that size.
All of them are available in silver and space gray but only the Air gets the coppery gold option, because coppery gold is just nowhere near serious enough for pros.
There are two Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C ports on the left hand side of both the Air and the lower-end Pro. If you want a full compliment of four, you’ll have to move up to the higher-end Pros.
And yeah, I would still dramatically prefer one port on each side.
The MacBook Pro is supposed to have high dynamic range stereo speakers to the Air’s simple stereo, but I’m not sure how much of an actual difference that is. Both support wide sound and Dolby Atmos, and both have 3-mic arrays with directional beam-forming and 3.5mm headphone jacks.
Yeah, that’s where they all went.
So, if saving a little bit of weight is a huge priority for you, go with the MacBook Air.
If you absolutely need high dynamic range on your speakers, go with the MacBook Pro.
Physically, both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro have 13.3-inch IPS LCD displays. They’re Retina density, which means an average person shouldn’t be able to discern individual pixels from an average viewing distance, and True Tone, which means they can detect ambient color temperature and adjust so whites look not too blue, not too yellow, but paper white.
And both of them still have way too much bezel for 2020.
Technologically, though, there are some big differences between the two.
First, the MacBook Pro can go 20% brighter. 500 nits compared to the MacBook Air’s 400 nits.
Sadly, both have terrible-not-very-good-actually-worse-than-a-potato 720p webcams. I’ve been complaining about them for years. Bottom line, I expect better from the company that makes the iPhone camera. Even if, yes, it requires a notch or a bump. Come at me in the comments!
Second, the MacBook Pro uses the wider, Digital Cinema P3 color gamut, as opposed to the MacBook Air’s sRGB. That means the Pro can show richer reds and deeper greens.
So, if you’re a photographer, videographer, or just love you some colors, you’re going to want the MacBook Pro.
Now, the processor part is where it gets complicated.
The MacBook Air starts with a 10th generation 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 and goes up to a 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7.
The MacBook Pro starts with an 8th generation 1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 and goes up to a 1.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7.
That with Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz on the Air and 4.5GHz on the Pro. But with the way Turbo Boost works these days, consider it frosting, never cake.
So, to boil this all down, given the differences not just in processors but in thermals, the higher-end MacBook Air should feel snappier with everything launching and loading faster. The lower-end MacBook Pro, though, should be able to sustain continuous tasks for a bit longer.
The Air, however, has the latest Intel Iris Plus Graphics where the lower-end Pro has the older Intel Irish 645.
That means graphics performance should be markedly better on the air, with more execution units and even things like display stream compression, so it can drive a 6K Pro Display XDR, where the low-end MacBook Pro simply can’t.
For the 10th gen processors and more modern graphics on the Pro, you’ll have to move up to the higher end, more expensive version.
Where there’s no difference between the two is WiFi. Apple seems to be skipping 802.11ax WiFi 6 on the Mac completely, at least so far.
Drop a like below if you want to tell Apple to hurry up with the WiFi, I don’t know, 6s… 6 Plus already.
The T2 chip is also the same. Same Touch ID, same camera and mic security, same real-time encryption, same accelerators for the stuff Intel just isn’t as good at.
Also, the Air promises up to 11 hours of battery life for light workloads where the Pro taps out at 10. For heavier loads, both will likely get you half that at best. But half of more is still more.
So, if you mostly launch apps, load web pages, and do other short, intensive tasks, you’ll probably appreciate the snappiness of the MacBook Air and the extra hour of battery life.
If you mostly render bigger audio and video files, or run longer complies, you’ll probably appreciate the longer sustained performance of the MacBook Pro.
Storage and memory
Apple’s recently been doubling the storage of their Macs while keeping the prices the same. Which is great.
And which is why both the MacBook Air and lower-end MacBook Pro now start at 256 GB of ultra-fast SSD, and both step up all the way to 2TB if you want to keep more and bigger files locally on your device.
The higher-end MacBook Pro will even take you to 4TB now.
For memory, both start at 8GB and go to 16GB.
Again, the higher-end MacBook Pro will take you all the way to 32GB now.
Pretty much a draw right here.
My guess as to why both the 2020 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro skew so closely to the previous models is that Apple just wanted to get the Magic Keyboards into them as fast as engineeringly possible, and every other bit of update was just whatever-else-could-be-crammed-in-there-given-the-resources-available gravy.
But, the end result is that both now have the new, scissor switch, magic keyboards. And, I don’t care if you preferred the old scissor switches or the previous butterfly switches, the new Magic Keyboard is just the best compromise between the two. More clickety-clack, less stuttery-stuck, and I’m calling that a win. You let me know you’re favorite in the comments.
But, especially with the physical escape keys and inverted-T arrow keys now being available on both, I think it’s great.
Pretty much the only difference between the two, and it’s a big one, is that the MacBook Air has a traditional function and media key row between escape and Touch ID, and the MacBook Pro having Apple’s Touch Bar.
And, yeah, still the same Touch Bar. No updates, certainly not haptics, that I can see.
So, if you like your good, old fashioned function and media keys, go with the MacBook Air.
If you see the Touch Bar as a plus and not a minus, go with the MacBook Pro.
The new MacBook Air starts at $999 U.S. for the 10th gen core i3 and maxes out at $2,249 for the i7, 16GB, 2TB model. The low end MacBook Pro starts at $1299 for the 8th gen core i5 and maxes out at $2,499 for the i7, 16GB, 2TB model. And that’s with the better display and Touch Bar.
So, if you want a lighter, snappier MacBook Pro to travel around with, even if it’s not between cities and coffee shops but just around the house, get the MacBook Air. I still like and recommend the i5.
If you want a brighter, wider gamut display, that’s just a bit beefier for just a bit bigger loads, get the MacBook Pro. I’d recommend the i5 there as well, unless you know you want more burst.
I’d also bump the RAM if you can, and maybe the SSD if you know you’re going to be keeping a lot of big files locally.
Apple has just launched a new 13-inch MacBook Pro.
And, at first glance, it seems a little confusing. But, here’s what you have to understand right up front — There are really two new 13-inch MacBook Pros out now:
🚶♀️- A 2-port low-end that’s pretty much the old 13-inch but with the new Magic Keyboard, and;
🏃♂️- A 4-port high-end that has that Magic Keyboard, but also newer, higher, more modern specs.
New 13-inch MacBook Pro same as the old 13-inch MacBook Pro, at least in terms of the base design.
For all intents and purposes, it’s got the exact same chassis, available in the same silver and space gray finishes.
Which is fine, honestly, because as far as the naked box goes, I’m not expecting anything new until we get silicon that’s new.
The low-end version has two USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 / Thunderbolt 3 ports while the high-end version has 4 USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 / Thunderbolt 3 ports. All usable for charging and data.
But, yeah, the 2-port version has them both on the same side, just like the MacBook Air, which is easier to engineer for Apple but less convenient for those of us with plugs on one side or the other.
The speakers though are much improved, with high dynamic range, wide stereo audio, and support for Dolby Atmos. Which maybe won’t sound as good at the special redesigned new 16-inch MacBook Pro speakers, but like the new Air, should still startle you every time a new Marvel or Star Wars trailer hits. Also a 3-mic beam-forming array and 3.5mm headphone jack.
The panel inside the box is the same as well. 13.3-inches and 500 nits of retina density, P3 gamut IPS LCD with TrueTone. Which means it can dynamically adjust the color temperature to match the room for more natural looking whites and grays.
There were rumors of a 14-inch version, basically the equivalent of the previous 15-inch version going 16-inch. But this isn’t that, at least not yet. Whether that’s still to come in the near future, or Apple’s waiting to continue its war on bezels until it wins its war on silicon, we’ll have to wait and see.
I know that’s disappointing to some, myself include, but it’s also what happens when you get your heart set on rumors rather than releases.
What’s legit disappointing is that it still has a tiny 720p webcam, which used to be annoying but is now actively a detriment in the age of work-from-home.
Here’s the test I did on the MacBook Air and 16-inch MacBook Pro versions last month.
Hopefully, Apple is looking hard at upping that part of their game with the next release. Drop a like on the video so they can see how many of you really want that.
OK, remember when I said it was better to think of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro as two different 13-inch MacBooks Pro, well, processors are a big part of the reason why.
The low end sticks with the same old, very old by now, Intel 8th generation processors.
Baseline is a 1.4GHz Core i5, with turbo up to 3.9GHz and can go up to a 17.GHz quad-core i7 with turbo up to 4.5GHz.
Which, I can only assume, is to keep entry-level prices down with a component Apple thinks is less than stellar these days anyway. So less than stellar, we’re getting all those rumors of silicon transplants I’ve been eluding to throughout this video.
Because the new Intel 10th gens are pricey, especially when you consider Apple only takes the top of the top of the line chips, and to their specs.
Which, sadly, doesn’t even seem to include Wi-Fi 6 this time around. Which will be super disappointing to people lwho’ve been waiting on the MacBooks to go 10th gen, in part, for built-in Wi-Fi 6. And this ain’t that.
Anyway, the 10th gen start with 2GHz quad-core i5 with turbo up to 3.8GHz and can be configured up to 2.3GHz quad-core i7 with turbo up to 4.1GHz.
And before anyone even thinks of dropping the words thermal or throttling in the comments, here’s Ian Cutress of AnandTech again explaining how modern Intel architectures — and marketing! — works.
And please do the world a solid and send that to your favorite rage-tubers stat, before they palm face again.
For graphics, you’ve got Intel Iris Plus 645 on the low end and Intel Iris Plus Graphics on the higher end.
Those offer far more execution units and display stream compression, so you get much better performance and can drive up to a 6K Pro Display XDR. If that’s how you roll.
There’s also the T2 chip, which handles security for things like Touch ID and makes it way harder to even try and hack the camera and mic, does real-time encryption, and even handles things like H.265 encoding when Intel isn’t up to the task.
Storage and memory
Apple is doing with the 13-inch MacBook Pro what they’ve been doing with their other devices — doubling the base storage at the same base prices. So, now you start off with a 256GB SSD but can push it up to 2TB on the low on.
On the high end, you start with 512GB but can push it up to 4TB. Sadly no 8TB option like on the 16-inch.
These are the typical ultra-high performance SSDs Apple’s been using lately as well, the ones that are fast enough it can make swap almost feel like RAM. Almost.
Speaking of which, you get 8GB on the low-end and can go to 16GB, and 16GB on the high end, for the first time, can go to 32GB. Though not 64.
If you want the most you still have to go with the biggest.
The most important update to the new 13-inch MacBook Pros, low and high end, is no doubt the new Magic Keyboard.
Hell, I’d go so far as to say it may be the major reason for the update, in terms of both what it ended up being and when it ended up coming.
It’s the same new scissor-switch design, with keys that lock out momentarily at the top for extra punchiness, as the 16-inch MacBook Pro got last year.
It’s also rapidly become my favorite Apple keyboard. I know it’s not clickety-clackety enough for some, especially for a Pro model, but it’s also not as loosely-goosey for me
As the old scissor switches, and no matter whether you liked or preferred the feel of the the butterflies, so far it’s also been far more reliable.
I also find it more pleasant to listen to. Here’s my test from the recently also updated MacBook Air.
For me, it really is the best of both keyboard worlds.
The new 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299 U.S. on the low end. That’s for the 2-port, 8th gen model, which can be build-to-order-optioned all the way up to $2,499 U.S.
So, basically, the same as before but with double the storage and the Magic Keyboard for your money.
The high end model starts at $1,799 U.S. That’s for the 4-port, 10th gen model, which can go all the way up to $3,599 U.S. with all the bells and whistles.
So, again, more — but in this case much more — for your money. Just more money.
Ray Zahab… is extreme. Explorer-in-Residence for the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, he’s not content to simply run marathons or ultra-marathons. To bike trails or mountains. No, Ray wants to run and bike continents. Put foot and wheel to the world.
The Sahara Desert. 70 kilometers a day for 111 days. 400 kilometers across Canada. The arctic. Namibia. Baffin Island. The Kamchatka peninsula in Russia. Death Valley. The Amazon. And the list goes on and on.
What I love most about Ray, though, is that he doesn’t just go off on all these grand, extreme adventures alone. It isn’t just about beating nature or himself. No, his non-profit, impossible2Possible, brings students from around the world along with him, sometimes physically, often virtually. It lets them be be part of the adventure.
And he uses a lot of Apple technology to do it: the Mac to edit and share videos and chats, the iPhone to record his explorations, and the Apple Watch to literally help keep him alive.
What Ray does is fascinating and inspiring, but I just had to find out more about how and why he does it.
You can find to the full interview in audio form in your favorite podcast app:
It feels like every year now, new rumors pop up about Apple switching the Mac from Intel processors to custom, Apple-made processors based on ARM. The same type of processors that currently run everything from the iPhone to iPad to Apple TV.
Now, scuttlebutt has it that Apple’s had ARM based Macs in the labs for years, just like they Intel Macs in the lab before the big switch to PowerPC — wow, 15 years go already. They’ve just been holding them, like a silicon sword of Damocles, over Intel’s head to encourage Intel to stick to their roadmap.
Which is part of what excites so many people about Apple potentially switching the Mac lineup to in-house chipsets: Apple would be in control of it’s own processor destiny on Mac the way it has been on iPhone and iPad.
In an age where Intel has suffered from chronic, almost crippling delays in die shrink and process generation, where they’re barely getting to 5 nanometer years behind schedule and still throwing cores at every problem, Apple is already enjoying the benefits of their own A-series on 7 nanometer and moving rapidly towards 5.
And yes, those are all marketing names, but suffice it to say Apple is shipping silicon on time and to spec and Intel really, sadly is not.
But, on the flip side, many Mac customers have come to enjoy if not totally depend on on the Mac being Intel Inside. The software they run is compiled for x86 and 64. They can easily run Bootcamp or virtual machines so Windows also works on the Mac.
And, for those people, the idea of Apple moving away from Intel is terrifying.
Now, I’m going to do a series of videos on this where I try to separate facts from feels. Starting with the silicon and with AnandTech’s own Dr. Ian Cutress.
Hit the video to watch it all.
Now, I think conventional wisdom is that we’ll see Apple start small, with a new 12-inch MacBook or a MacBook Air variant on ARM, maybe even a new Mac mini, and use those to both test the waters and reduce anxiety levels for pros.
But there’s a change Apple could be much more aggressive here as well.
Apple’s got a brand new iPhone SE and it starts at just $399. I’ve already compared it to the iPhone XR and iPhone 11, because I figured that’s what most potential customers would do.
But, a bunch of you asked me to also put the iPhone SE head-to-head against the iPhone 8.
Either because you’re considering the upgrade or you’re wondering if getting a discounted iPhone 8 from a carrier or big box store may be an even better deal than a new iPhone SE. And price isn’t always the same as value.
So, I’m Rene Ritchie and this… is the new iPhone SE vs. the old iPhone 8.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Design
Design is easy here. Design is a draw. Kinda. Because the new iPhone SE is based on the old iPhone 8. They’re almost identical. Almost.
The new iPhone SE ditches the word “iPhone” on the back of drops the Apple logo down to the middle to balance it out. Also to make it look like the new iPhones 11, which have bigger camera bumps up top.
I like the new branding better because, like I said in my review, it’s less, which isn’t just more confident on Apple’s part, it’s cleaner for us.
Is it odd that Apple didn’t change the design any more than that? Well, not really. When Apple designs a phone, they don’t just design the phone, they often design the machines that make the phone, and then they outfit a whole assembly system with them, which is expensive, especially at first.
Over time, though, it all gets paid off and becomes not very expensive. That means, as long as Apple doesn’t change anything significant, it stays not very expensive.
In other words, moving the Apple logo, fine. Changing the bezels or chamfering an edge, super expensive. Which is the exact opposite of what Apple wanted to do with the $399 iPhone SE.
And, pretty much what anyone who wanted to buy one for $399 wanted them to do.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Display
Both the new iPhone SE and old iPhone 8 have the same 4.7-inch LED backlit LCD displays. Both in Retina density, which means it’s hard to see the individual pixels at a regular viewing distance, and P3 wide gamut, for deep reds and lush greens.
The only real difference here is the iPhone 8 also comes in a larger version: The iPhone 8 Plus, with a 5.5-inch display.
The iPhone SE, at least for now, only comes in the standard 4.7-inch size.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Home & Touch ID
Home buttons and Touch ID are again easy because they’re again identical. Both have Apple’s iPhone 7-era virtual Home buttons and second generation Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor.
And both work exactly the same.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Colors
The colors are also slightly different. The SE is white instead of silver and black instead of space gray, both of which I also like better because they also just look cleaner.
There’s also product RED instead of Gold. The iPhone 8 got a RED version six months after it debuted, and I liked it enough to buy it, because RED, and I like it for the new SE as well. Mostly because the glass golds just never clicked for me the way the metal ones did on the iPhones 6 through 7.
Lastly, the face plate on the white iPhone SE is now black as well. On the iPhone 8, the silver and gold versions had white faceplates, the space gray and RED, black.
I know some people prefer the white in general, or because it looks brighter, or find it less claustrophobic for reading text on white backgrounds.
I like them both, but black does help make the bezels melt away for videos, especially movies.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Performance
Here’s where things get very different. The iPhone 8 has Apple’s A11 Bionic. The exact same chipset that shipped with the iPhone X in 2017.
The new iPhone SE has Apple’s A13 Bionic. The exact same chipset that shipped with the iPhones 11 in 2019.
And yeah, exact same. Not under clocked, not slowed down or missing or lesser in any way.
So, just a quick word on benchmarks: It’s totally cool to download an app, tap a button, and get a general sense of the relative performance of a device.
But real benchmarking, the kind that makes or amplifies headlines, should be left for the people who code those apps or the science-types that work for places like AnandTech.
Everything from battery to radio state to room temperature affects benchmarking, which is why I personally leave the serious stuff to serious engineers.
Anyway, there are several major differences between the A11 and A13.
The A11 Bionic has two 1.42GHz “Mistral” high efficiency cores, two high-performance 2.39 GHz “Monsoon” cores, three Apple custom GPU cores, and Apple’s first-ever neural-engine, at least in very nascent form.
All fabricated at 10 nanometers, where the smaller that number is, generally the better performance and lower the heat and power you get.
In addition to the neural engine block, the A11 also let Apple’s efficiency.performance fusion cores all operate independently, which was a big improvement over the A10.
The A13 Bionic has four 1.73GHz “Thunder” high-efficiency cores, two 2.65 GH “Lightning” high-performance cores, with machine learning accelerators, called AMX blocks, on those two cores. It’s also got four Apple custom GPU cores, and a new eight core, fully formed neural engine. All fabricated a 7 nanometers, under that lower is generally better rule.
I believe it’s also got a next-generation performance controller, which is like the cherry on top of Apple’s secret silicon sauce here. You know what I mean.
Also, the new iPhone SE has 3 GB of memory to the iPhone 8’s 2GB.
All that to say, the A13 can do far, far more in the same chassis and at around the same power consumption levels as the A11.
So, not only will everything feel quicker and more responsive day to day, it’ll handle more complex filters and AR experiences more smoothly, but it’ll hand app and operating system updates for 3-5 years longer.
Which means, if you have or get an iPhone 8 today, you’re looking at updates until about 2021 or 2022. Just like the 2015 iPhone 6s was updated to iOS 13 in 2019.
If you get a new iPhone SE today, you’re looking at updates until about 2024 or 2025. And the longer out that goes, the bigger a difference it makes.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Battery Life
Because the A13 Bionic in the new iPhone SE is 7 nanometer instead of 10 nanometer, even though it’s faster and has more cores, it’s also more efficient, which average battery life ends up being about the same as the iPhone 8.
And yeah, that’s why, Apple doesn’t give out milliamp hour data for their devices because, they want to be judged by their performance. If two devices have the same battery size but one lasts twice as long with the other, that’s the part that really matters.
According to Apple, the iPhone SE will tap out after about 13 hours of video playback. Same as the iPhone 8. It can just flex way harder, when it needs to, during that time.
To show the other extreme, I ran both the new iPhone SE and iPhone 8 on Pokemon Go, which is GPS, data, graphics, and at max brightness, pretty much everything that can kill a battery fast, during the Abra Community Day event.
And they both died in about the same 3 hours.
And, yeah, both come with the same USB-A 5 watt charger in the box, which is so 2014, but can use more powerful USB-A chargers if you buy them.
The iPhone SE is also optimized for much faster charging on the 18w USB-C charger, also if you buy it.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Radios
Where the iPhone 8 supported LTE Advanced, the new iPhone SE supports Gigabit LTE.
That’s also single SIM on the iPhone 8 and dual SIM, one physical, one eSIM on the new iPhone SE.
Where the iPhone 8 supported 802.11ac, or what is that, Wi-Fi 5? The iPhone SE supports 802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6.
Where the iPhone 8 supported Bluetooth 5… the iPhone SE supports… Bluetooth 5. But you get the idea.
If you move between carriers, dual SIM is a real difference. The rest really depends on which carrier, and what kind of router you have, whether you’ll see any real-world improvements or not. But, the potential is there.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Cameras
In terms of hardware, the new iPhone SE and iPhone 8 cameras are the same.
Same 12 megapixel, f/1.8, optically stabilized 4K 60 fps wide angle on the back, same 7 megapixel, f/2.2, 1080p 30 fps selfie on the front.
The old iPhone 8 has the A11 image signal processor to handle those photos, and the new iPhone SE has the A13 image signal processor to handle these photos.
And George Takei Oh My what a difference those two generations of silicon make.
The end results is that the iPhone SE just shoots circles around the iPhone 8. It shoots better than the iPhone XR in most situations as well, falling equal only in low light. I even like some of what it does better than the Pixel 4, which is consistently cooler and contrastier, as is Google’s want.
That’s thanks to things like second generation smart HDR which stacks multiple exposures and uses things like semantic rendering to pull out the best image possible.
Also better segmentation masking, so, unlike the iPhone 8, the iPhone SE does full-on portrait mode, including Portrait Lighting, front and back.
Now, you can get portrait mode on the iPhone 8 Plus, thanks to its dual cameras, but at a slightly higher price and bigger size.
The iPhone SE can also do extended dynamic range on video up to 4K 30, which is the same as the iPhone XR.
If all you care about is the Gram or the Tok, you may not see a big difference. But if you want the best possible photos of your family, your pets, your life, preserved for future you, you’re always going to want the best photos and video you can get.
iPhone SE vs. iPhone 8: Price
Pricing on the iPhone SE is stone stump simple. It’s $399 U.S. for 64 gigabytes, just $50 more for 128 GB, and a $100 more than that for 256 GB. AppleCare+ is also just $79.
It can be more, much more, internationally, which totally sucks, but is true of most of Apple’s current product line.
Pricing on the iPhone 8 depends a lot on where you’re looking. You can find them second hand on Gazelle or Amazon starting at around $300 for 64GB for excellent condition. You can get them cheaper though Craig’s List or Ebay, if you’re willing to put in more work and sometimes risk things like water damage you can’t easily see. You can also find some really good deals from carriers and big boxes that are still selling out their stock, sometimes discounted.
So, my recommendation is this: If you already have an iPhone 8 and it’s fine and you’re fine with it, stick with it. If you don’t, and you need to upgrade, go with the new iPhone SE because it’s simply the better upgrade and you’ll be able to stick with it longer.
There’ll always be something new and next, so by when you absolutely need to buy and then enjoy the hell out of what you bought.
Apple has a brand new iPhone for 2020. A $399 U.S. brand new iPhone SE, which is the least expensive we’ve seen since… well, since the original iPhone SE back in 2016.
Like the original, the new iPhone SE features a classic design, including the Home button and Touch ID, an industry-leading processor, and what Apple rightly claims is their best single camera system ever.
Its the retro-future of iPhones, but should it be your next iPhone?
The new iPhone SE looks… a lot like the old iPhone 8. There are a few design differences, and I’ll get to those in a hot-take minute, but overall it’s the same basic size, shape, and configuration. It’ll even work with almost all existing iPhone 8 cases and attachments.
For tech nerds like me, who obsess over screen to bezel ratio and debate the relative glory and villainy of notches, hole punches, and mechanical choochers what try to avoid both, that’s the a huge drawback. Give me my modern iPhone every day of the week and twice on… yeah, every day of the week.
For hundreds of millions of other people, though, the ones still using iPhones from the 6 to the 8, including the original SE, the ones that like that classic design, that feel comfortable with it, and just want more of the same. At least for a while still. I think it’ll prove to be a huge feature.
Just like the original SE gave one last hurrah to the smaller, boxier, more chamfer-edged iPhone 5s design, the new iPhone SE gives everyone who loved the iPhones 6 through iPhone 8, a new and improved version to keep on loving for several more years to come.
It’s smaller and lighter than the more modern looking iPhone 11, and even the roughly same-sized but stainless-steel bound iPhone 11 Pro. Enough that you can feel it.
Holding the new iPhone SE, I immediately flashed back to my first experience with the original four years ago: Remembering again just how small and light an iPhone can feel.
Sure, this SE isn’t as small as the previous one. The truth is, once you move into a bigger apartment you accumulate more stuff and it becomes hard to move back into a smaller one again.
Same with the iPhone SE. Over time, everything from iOS to the amount of power and thermal envelop Apple’s chipsets needed outgrew that old SE size. So, if Apple ever wants to make a 4-inch iPhone again, they’ll need new parts to do it, and that means it wouldn’t come in at $399. Which is what Apple wanted this iPhone SE to do. Especially now that the iPhone 8 design is fully paid down.
The new SE is made of Apple’s 7000-series aluminum and chemically hardened glass, just like the iPhone 8. That’s technically not as strong as more recent iPhones but I’ve scratched all of those and quickly and this one is still holding up fine. I’ll keep an eye on that, though, and report back in a few weeks because I have a feeling it will change. For the last few years, Apple’s glass has been way better at resisting breaks than it has been scratches, at least for me.
And that’s a good thing, because the iPhone SE is also every bit slippery as the iPhone 8 and other recent iPhones. I really do wish Apple would find someway to increase the friction on these glass backs because every time I hear one fall off an even slightly angled table or sofa, my not-yet-cybernetic heart just skips a beat. I haven’t lost one yet, but I don’t want to keep risking it.
On the back, Apple has dropped the word iPhone and centered their logo, which I really like. The more minimal the branding, the stronger the brand.
The colors are also great: White, black, and Product RED. I’m a sucker for RED phones, especially with black face plates. And that’s all the iPhone SE offers for face plates. Black. And it’s terrific.
It does contrast more with bright apps, especially reading books or the web in light mode, but for movies, TV, and anything in dark mode, it just melts that forehead and chin right away.
Again, anathema to the full screen, waterfall, wrap around crowd, but for the non-trivial amount of people who enjoy having a place to rest their fingers that won’t trigger an unintentional touch event, it just feels like home.
Speaking of which…
The classic design of the iPhone SE means there’s plenty of room for a now-classic Home button front and bottom center. It’s not a mechanical Home button like the original, but the virtual kind Apple introduced with the iPhone 7.
And, I prefer them. By a long shot. Once you get used to them, they just feel better. You can even customize the pressure level if you really want to. But, especially because it never gets loose or stops registering clicks over time, it’s one less potential failure point to worry about.
The new SE also has Touch ID, which is Apple’s biometric fingerprint sensor. The faster, second generation version. Which is just a fancy way of saying if you touch the Home button with a registered finger, it’ll recognize you and unlock your iPhone, or authenticate you for Apple Pay, App Store purchases, banking apps, and stuff like that.
Apple’s more recent iPhones have Face ID, which does something similar using the camera to scan your facial geometry. That’s better if you can’t touch your iPhone because it’s propped up for Insta live or whatever, or you’re wearing gloves.
Touch ID, though, is great if you need to register multiple fingers, you’re wearing glasses or goggles that block infrared light, or, at the time of this review, so many of us have to wear face masks that cover our noses. So often.
It’s not so great with variances in moisture, so if you’re washing you hands a lot — and you should be! — make sure you dry them well before trying to use Touch ID.
Personally, I prefer the new gesture navigation system to the Home button system. I just find it faster and more fluid. But I recognize that for other people, what they can see beats what they can’t, and the Home button is just so easy to see and feel. Like a giant neon exit sign right there on the front of the phone.
So, yeah, both Face ID and Touch ID have advantages and disadvantages, and different people will just prefer one over the other.
I still want a passive, threshold-based, multi-factor system that’s always taking snippets of face, touch, voice, gait, and other signals so it’s never dependent on actively challenging any specific one… but, for now, it’s terrific that Apple is offering an up-to-date Touch ID iPhone again.
The iPhone SE display is, again, the same as the iPhone 8: 4.7-inches and 16:9. That’s not as big or as tall as any of Apple’s more recent, fuller-screen displays, but it’s the same ratio as HD TV so most videos look fine. Just with a lot of bezel on both sides.
Unlike the iPhone 8, which had Apple’s pressure sensitive 3D Touch technology, the new iPhone SE has Haptic Touch like the iPhone XR and iPhones 11. It uses time rather than pressure. A long press rather than a firm press.
I still prefer 3D Touch, because of how fast and tactile it felt. Haptic Touch has improved, but I hope Apple can make it better still with future machine learning updates, like Google’s been doing recently.
The iPhone SE display is LCD, not OLED, which means it can’t display HDR, high-dynamic range, video on-screen. It does do DCI-P3 wide gamut, so greens look deep, reds rich, and colors precise. And it can send HDR to an HDR TV if you hook one up. But it doesn’t look anywhere nearly as cinematic as the iPhone 11 Pro.
Now, I really like Apple’s LCD displays. I personally prefer the OLED, because I personally love everything HDR and Dolby Vision, and the deeper blacks and higher peek brightness levels. But, Apple’s color calibration at the factory and color management throughout the entire imaging pipeline make the LCD’s so good I still don’t think most people can or will care about the differences, at least not most of the time.
And, for people who don’t like OLED’s off-access color shifting or pulse width modulation, I think it’s great Apple is still providing LCD as an option. Fight me.
The iPhone SE has the exact same Apple A13 Bionic system-on-a-chip as the iPhones 11. That means the same industry-leading processor, graphics, neural engine, accelerators, controllers, and all the other custom components Apple provides its top-of-the-line devices.
Not slowed down, not cut down — exactly the same. Which makes the iPhone SE tied with the iPhone 11 for best performance in any phone.
Sure, that might not sound that important. At least not right now. Most of us never red-line the processors in our phones, just like we never red-line the engines in our cars. But, the difference with phones is, over time, as new, more demanding versions of the operating system, features, and apps come out, the higher processor overhead means the iPhone SE will stay feeling snappy, responsive, and powerful for longer. It’s like if the speed limit kept getting raised every year, a few years from now you’ll appreciate all that extra power.
And, since Apple typically provides software updates for 4 or more years, having that extra power means your phone retains its value for those 4 or more years. Which is probably why iPhone trade in and resale remains so high.
So, while good meaning people can argue about which parts of a less expensive phone you can compromise on — screen, camera, processor — I think the value of Apple not compromising on the chipset is really only going to be more and more apparent as time goes on.
The iPhone SE has the latest, greatest Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, so it’ll work with all the latest, greatest wi-fi routers and accessories, with the highest reliability and range available.
There’s also dual SIM, one real, one eSIM, for people who move between carriers a lot, maybe not so much right now, but in general.
There’s no 5G, which is fine because there remains very little 5G in most of the world. Some might argue that getting 5G now will better proof you for the future but I’d argue 5G technology is still in its infancy and the longer you wait to buy a 5G phone, the better a 5G modem you’ll get in your phone.
I do think sub-6 5G will be a benefit to people in rural and other areas who still don’t get good LTE, but even that kind of coverage is going to take a while to roll out.
In the meantime, the iPhone SE does Gigabit LTE really, really well. I’m getting speeds as good as the iPhone 11, and I’ve placed a ton of regular and FaceTime calls on the Rogers network in Montreal, and they’ve all sounded crisp and clear to both sides of the conversation.
That’s with the earpiece, the speakers — which, are stereo and not Dolby Atmos like the iPhones 11, fyi, and with AirPods.
All that without the added cost in money or power that comes with 5G. To wit…
I’ve only been using the iPhone SE as my main phone for around a week, so it’s impossible to give a realistic assessment of battery life just yet.
Apple pegs the new SE around the same as the old 7 and 8, and original SE — up to 13 hours of video playback. That compares to up to 16 hours for the iPhone XR and 17 hours for the iPhone 11.
I’m more interested in how long it lasts for instagram and TikTok, texting and gaming, which is a much wider range, but also things I think most of do most of the time.
For my usual stress test, I loaded up the Pokemon Go Incense event this weekend on the iPhone SE, an original iPhone SE, and iPhone XR, and an iPhone 11, and just let them run. All with 100% battery health. All at max brightness.
I use Pokemon Go for my stress tests because it’s something real people do in the real world now… and I’ve never found anything that hits a battery as hard, with simultaneous GPS, data, screen, radios, basically everything. Between that and Apple’s video numbers, I think it gives a good indication of battery life range.
So, the original iPhone SE died first, within two hours. The new iPhone SE died second, within 3 hours. The iPhone XR went next, within 4 hours. At which point the iPhone 11 still had 12% power left. All of which are pretty much in line with expectations.
In general use, the new iPhone SE lasted me most of the way through the day, albeit in low power mode towards the end. The iPhones XR and 11, by contrast, can go all day and over night. The Max, a day and half, easily.
Like the iPhone 8, you can charge wirelessly on any Qi-compatible pad, but it’s still not as efficient as plugging in to the Lightning port.
And, yeah, because it’s Lightning it will work with all your existing iPhone cables and accessories going back more than half a decade now.
Sadly, Apple only includes the tiny, 5 watt, USB-A charger in the box, like the iPhone 11, and not the bigger USB-C charger, like the iPhone 11 Plus. But you can buy the bigger one if you want to charge faster.
I know some people will say the smaller charger is better for overall battery health or that it fits more easily into pockets and fanny packs, or that it keeps costs down, but I still think it’s beyond time for all the adapters to get an upgrade.
For tethering, it works great, but it also doesn’t have the bigger battery reserve of the more recent iPhones, including the similarly-sized iPhone 11 Pro, so you’ll chew through power faster if that’s something you do a lot.
I’ve also charged the SE and left it unplugged over night, just to see what the standby drain looked like. And it’s been at 97 to 99% each morning. So far, so great.
But, I’ll keep testing and give you more results in my follow up.
The iPhone SE’s main camera is a hybrid, a chimera. It has the same sensor and lens system as the iPhone 8 but uses the image signal processor, the ISP, of the A13. That means it can turn out images much closer to the iPhone 11 than the atoms alone would allow.
Apple calls it their best single-camera system ever. So, on paper, it should shoot better than an iPhone 8 and even an iPhone XR, which has better physical hardware.
To test it out, I shot a series of comparisons between the original iPhone SE, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 8, iPhone XR, and iPhone 11. A few times with the 11 Pro as well. And, as a control, also with the Pixel 4, which I assume will have a similar if not the same main cameras the upcoming, less-expensive Pixel 4A as well.
And, yeah, the new iPhone SE more than holds its own. Almost any camera can do well in full daylight, so I focused on more challenging situations. Backlight. Close up back light. Sunset. Indoor low light. See the video above for the samples, but…
The new iPhone SE really does shoot better photos than any other single camera system Apple has ever made and, side-by-side, I prefer the new iPhone SE captures more than the Pixel 4 captures in almost every instance.
I think it’s because, to get the results the Pixel 4 does, Google establishes the same baseline look for every photo, cool and contrasty, and then resolves the hell out of it. So, almost every photo ends up looking good, but very much like a Pixel photo. With Apple and the iPhone, including the iPhone 4, there’s more of a warmth, more of a character, and photos can end up looking different from shot to shot more like I’d expect from a real camera. Your photographic mileage, of course, may well vary.
It’s especially fascinating to see the new iPhone SE out-shoot the iPhone XR, which has a slightly bigger sensor. That’s all part of the transition from big glass and big sensor to big compute.
In almost every case, the results between the last two generations of iPhones is so close that I’d have to pixel peep to see differences in most situations, which is not something normal humans do.
With bright light, second generation Smart HDR on the iPhone SE does a great job resolving highlights without overexposing shadows, something the previous version used by the iPhone XR had trouble with. I still find faces a tad warm for my tastes, though.
Apple is using semantic rendering, which means the ISP can understand not just faces but parts of faces, also rocks, ropes, clouds, and other aspects of a scene, and then do its best to preserve accurate colors and textures for each.
The obvious area where the iPhone SE is lacking is Night Mode. That’s still exclusive to the iPhones 11, which have both the latest image signal process and the latest camera hardware, which it requires.
The new iPhone SE still shoots in low-light far, far better than all previous generations of iPhones, with the possible exception of the iPhone XR, it’s just not the same as the as the someone-turned-a-light-on results of Night Mode. And flash just isn’t the same.
I’m hoping Apple can figure out a more software-centric solution for that, though, like Google’s did in the past. And like Apple themselves have now done for Portrait Mode on the front facing camera.
Ironically, I do find Apple’s software-only Portrait Mode a little too much like the Pixel’s now. The segmentation masking, which means cutting the subject out from the background before you blur it, has gotten much much better. But, for me, it’s a little too cardboard cutout, instead of the subtler effect you more often get with multi-camera iPhones.
The new monocular version on the front-facing camera works far better than I expected it to. And even though you can’t use face tracking Animoji and Memoji, because no real depth data, you can still play around with them as sticker effects.
The nice thing about Portrait Mode is that you can adjust it using depth control, even long after you’ve taken it. So, if it looks too strong, you can soften it out or even turn it off entirely. You can also switch between all the Portrait Lighting effects, including High Key Mono, which is something the XR couldn’t do.
Editing in general has gotten much better in the current version of iOS as well, especially the video editing which has many of the same features as photos.
And Apple is still doing video better than just about anyone on the planet, and the new iPhone SE is no exception. You can shoot up to 4K at 60 frames per second, though you can only do 4K at 30 frames per second with extended dynamic range. The iPhones 11 can do extended dynamic range all the way up to 4K at 60 frames per second.
That’s a lot of jargon to say it takes very crisp video, with excellent color consistency even as you move in and out of bright areas and shadows, in a way that still makes it apparent you’re moving without making anyone seasick at the same time.
It’ll even do quick video for those times when you decide your Live Photo should really be a TikTok.
So, sure, it’s not the iPhone 11 camera, and Night Mode is still the biggest miss for me, but it’s also not $699. It’s just $399.
And that brings me to..
I know the international prices are higher, which sucks. Though, sometimes that includes taxes like VAT or surcharges for bringing them into the country. Still, even with currencies fluctuating all over the place, it’d be nice to see everything track closer to the U.S. cost more often.
But, at $399 for 64GB in the U.S., if you’re in the U.S., and just $50 more for 128GB. With AppleCare+ for just $79… And all the free-as-in-free, not as in your-data apps like iWork, iMovie, GarageBand, and free services like Today at Apple at Home, which is taking the place of the excellent, also free, in-store training Apple’s offered for years…
Yes, there are absolutely compromises here. The older design, the older camera hardware, the smaller display… You can find individual specs that are much better, sometimes even for less, from other phones. But…
In terms of the total package, from what you get now to the updates Apple provides year-after-year, the iPhone SE is absolutely jam-packed with real value for real people.
Who should buy
If you have an older iPhone SE or 5S or 6 or 6s, even 7, maybe 8, and you need a new one, even with everything else that’s going on right now, and you like the Home button and Touch ID, the iPhone SE will be a compelling upgrade for you.
If you want most of the cutting edge tech in current gen iPhone, but you want it as a secondary phone for development or to test out the iOS waters, or just to use for content creation because photo, video, and social apps just run better on iOS, the iPhone SE will also be a compelling backup phone for you.
Or, if you — or your parents — just won’t pay more than $399 for a phone — or $449, which is the model I personally recommend — but you still want an iPhone with killer performance and a really good camera, and don’t care one wit about the rest, wow but the iPhone SE is priced for you.