scorecardI swapped out Apple's most expensive iPhone for its cheapest one, and there are only 3 things I really missed
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I swapped out Apple's most expensive iPhone for its cheapest one, and there are only 3 things I really missed

Lisa Eadicicco   

I swapped out Apple's most expensive iPhone for its cheapest one, and there are only 3 things I really missed
Tech7 min read
Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider
  • I've been using the new $400 iPhone SE for about a week, but before that I was using the $1,000 iPhone 11 Pro on a daily basis.
  • There are a lot of differences between the iPhone SE and iPhone 11 Pro, but the battery life, low-light and ultra-wide-angle camera, and larger screen are the features I missed the most.
  • The iPhone SE is still an ideal choice for those on a tighter budget that want an iPhone with a great camera.
  • But the iPhone 11 Pro's long battery life, sophisticated camera with more shooting modes, and large, OLED screen make it great for power users willing to spend a lot on a new phone.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Apple's $400 iPhone SE may have the same processor as the pricier iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, but it shares little in common with the company's flagship iPhones beyond that.

The cheaper, smaller iPhone, which Apple just officially released on April 24, comes with a 4.7-inch screen, a single 12-megapixel camera, and a design that's largely the same as the 2017-era iPhone 8.

What I've noticed after switching from the iPhone 11 Pro to the iPhone SE, however, is that save for a few key discrepancies, the overall experience isn't all that different. Because the iPhone's software is largely the same no matter what model you're using, the iPhone SE feels almost like any other iPhone.

And that's exactly the point Apple is trying to make with the iPhone SE. You don't have to spend $700 or more on the iPhone 11 or 11 Pro to buy into Apple's ecosystem of services, apps, and wearables.

Before switching to the iPhone SE, I had been using the iPhone 11 Pro on a daily basis. That phone comes with a 5.8-inch borderless screen with Face ID, a triple-lens camera, and starts at $1,000. It's also available in a larger, more expensive variant, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which has a 6.5-inch screen and starts at $1,100.

Just because the overall experience didn't feel that different doesn't mean there aren't important things about the iPhone 11 Pro that I've been missing. However, some of those characteristics are more important than others. The iPhone SE's smaller screen, for example, felt cramped at first. But after spending a day with the SE, I barely even thought about it.

The biggest loss for me was the iPhone 11 Pro's battery life, which is noticeably longer than that of the iPhone SE.

Here's a closer look at what I missed the most when switching from the nearly top-of-the-line iPhone 11 Pro for an iPhone that's $600 cheaper.

Long battery life that lasts for more than a day

Apple Iphone 11
Crystal Cox/Business Insider

With the iPhone 11 Pro, I can easily get through an entire day — and then some — without plugging in my phone. But the smaller iPhone SE usually lasts until about the late afternoon before it's almost out of juice. Of course, battery life always varies depending on how you're using your phone and which apps you're running.

I tend to run through my smartphone's battery much quicker on the weekdays when I'm typically making lots of phone calls, leaving the screen on for long periods of time, and recording interviews throughout the work day. At the end of a day like this, my iPhone SE is usually down to about 20% of its battery or less by around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., while the iPhone 11 Pro is still able to power through the rest of the evening.

The iPhone SE appears to have the same battery as the iPhone 8, according to Apple's website and the gadget repair website iFixit. After opening up the phone and taking a look at its battery, iFixit said the iPhone SE's battery capacity was the same as that of the iPhone 8 (6.96 Wh), which appears to be a little more than half the capacity of the $700 iPhone 11 (11.91 Wh).

Apple's website doesn't provide the battery capacity of the iPhone SE. But it does say that it should last about as long as the iPhone 8.

The iPhone 11 Pro, on the other hand, seemingly has much more capacity than the iPhone SE and iPhone 8, although trying to ascertain that through Apple's website is a little bit like solving a math problem.

The iPhone 11 Pro should last up to four hours longer than the iPhone XS, according to Apple. The iPhone XS lasts 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X, which offers two hours of additional battery life over the iPhone 7. If you do the math, it seems like that should mean the iPhone 11 Pro could offer around six hours of additional battery life compared to the iPhone SE, which feels right based on my experience.

A camera with an ultra-wide-angle lens and night mode

iPhone 11 Pro Camera Lenses
Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

The iPhone SE's 12-megapixel camera is pretty good, especially for a $400 smartphone. But it lacks two of the most exciting and practical camera features found on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro: the ability to take clearer photos in the dark and shoot at wider angles to capture more of the scene.

Smartphone cameras have come a long way in recent years, as gadget makers have gotten increasingly better at cramming more megapixels into compact devices and have made advancements in computational photography. But ultra-wide-angle vantage points and better low-light photography feel like two of the most useful new additions in years.

They're not features I find myself using on a daily or even weekly basis, especially now considering I haven't been traveling, spending time with friends and family, or leaving the house often in general. Yet during vacations and work trips over the past year, I constantly found myself using the iPhone 11 Pro's 120-degree ultra-wide-angle camera to make sure I'm able to get everyone in the shot without having to squeeze them into the frame. It's not just about making photos look better; it's adding a real convenience that most smartphone cameras have been missing until this point.

The same can be said for low-light photography. Apple's iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro are the company's first smartphones to come with night mode, which as its name implies can take brighter, crisper photos in the dark without using flash. That makes it a lot easier to snap photos when you're in a dim location, such as a bar, restaurant, or concert venue.

Here's how the iPhone SE shoots in low-light situations compared to the iPhone 11 Pro.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE Low Light Cat
Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

iPhone 11 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro Low Light Cat
Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

Apple is far from being the only smartphone maker to implement these features. Multi-lens cameras with ultra-wide-angle lenses and night mode have become the norm on many smartphones, including ones priced similarly to the iPhone SE. The $400 Pixel 3a, for example, has Google's Night Sight, while the $400 Samsung Galaxy A51 features a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera in addition to a 48-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel macro lens.

A larger screen

iPhone SE and iPhone 11 Pro Screen
Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

There are many things I love about the iPhone SE's size and design. It's light, compact, and very easy to manage with one hand — especially since it's the only iPhone with a home button currently sold by Apple.

However, switching from a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge screen to a 4.7-inch display can definitely take some getting used to. The keyboard felt cramped at first, and going back to having an iPhone with thick borders above and below the display only made the screen feel even smaller.

The borderless screen on the iPhone 11 Pro, even with its notch cutout, generally feels more immersive. Since it's larger, the iPhone 11 Pro's screen is also easier to see from a short distance, which could be useful if you frequently prop up your phone on exercise equipment like a treadmill or elliptical to watch TV while at the gym. If you're watching a lot of video on your phone in general, whether it be at the gym, during your morning commute, or on a flight, you'll probably appreciate the larger screen on the iPhone 11 or 11 Pro over the iPhone SE's.

The iPhone 11 Pro, unlike the iPhone SE and other less expensive iPhones like the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR, also has an OLED screen rather than an LCD display. OLED screens typically provide richer contrast, bolder colors, and deeper black tones. The difference is definitely noticeable; not only is the iPhone 11 Pro's screen brighter, but characters on the screen when watching Netflix also looked slightly more vibrant. Since OLED screens can become completely black unlike LCD screens, the video seems to blend into the entire face of the phone, whereas the border of where the screen ends and the phone's bezels begin was much more apparent on the iPhone SE.

While these discrepancies are certainly apparent, they don't really impact the overall experience as much as you might think unless you're constantly watching video on your phone. An OLED screen is certainly a nice addition, but probably not one that's worth swaying a buying decision on its own, especially if you're not watching video on your phone that often.

Overall, the iPhone SE is an ideal choice for Apple loyalists on a budget that just want the iPhone experience with a generally good camera. The iPhone 11 Pro is better-suited for power users that are willing to pay a lot for a phone that's designed to bring the best of what Apple has to offer, especially when it comes to battery life. Those who are taking more photos, recording more videos, and watching more TV on their phone than the average person would probably benefit from splurging on the Pro if their budget allows.

Read the original article on Business Insider