Mobile

iPhone SE Through the Years: How Apple's 2016 and 2020 Models Compared

As we wait for the iPhone SE 3 today, let's take a look at the affordable iPhone's history.

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
The original iPhone SE (left) and the 2020 iPhone SE (right). 
John Kim/CNET

Today is the day for Apple's "Peek Performance" event (here's how you can watch the event live), and fans of the iPhone SE are probably in luck. After two years of waiting, the third-gen iPhone SE is rumored to debut at today's event, possibly alongside iOS 15.4, as well as some iPad and Mac upgrades. The new iPhone SE will be the successor to the 2020 iPhone SE, which is the follow-up to the first-gen iPhone SE from 2016, and is said to be fitted with Face ID, 5G and Apple's A15 processor, the same chip in the four iPhone 13 models.

As the new iPhone SE's launch approaches, you may be wondering what Apple's previous two iPhone SE models looked like, specs-wise, and whether you consider opting for one of the older versions. We'll explain the differences between the 2020 and 2016 iPhone SE models, and how they measure up in 2022. If you're wondering how the 2022 iPhone SE is expected to stack up against the 2020 version, we compared those, too

Apple no longer sells the original iPhone SE, and the 2020 iPhone SE is only available in 64GB and 128GB storage options. The tech giant removed the 256GB iPhone SE (2020) from its online store following Apple's iPhone 13 event in September. If you have your heart set on the oldest iPhone SE, however, there are refurbished options available. Just note that some rumors predict that iOS 16, Apple's next major iPhone update, will not support the now 6-year-old iPhone SE (2016)

Aside from availability, the 2020 and 2016 iPhone SE share some similarities. They both have a physical home button and are compact in size. Although the 2020 iPhone SE is slightly larger at 4.7 inches, compared to the original iPhone SE's 4-inch screen and even the iPhone 13 Mini, it's still considered a small phone by today's standards. 

Read more: Best Small Phones to Buy in 2022

Like the 2016 version, the 2020 iPhone SE also has a single camera on the phone's rear. According to CNET's Andrew Lanxon, it's most similar to the iPhone 11 Pro's standard zoom lens. (Here's a deeper look into how the 2020 iPhone SE's camera compares to the iPhone 11 Pro's camera system and some cool camera tricks you can do with the iPhone SE.)

Now playing: Watch this: Review: The iPhone SE Is an Incredible Value
12:36

As for processing power, the original iPhone SE features the same A9 processor as the iPhone 6S (Apple's flagship at the time), while the 2020 iPhone SE sports the iPhone 11 Pro's A13 Bionic chip. 

Below are the iPhone SE 2020 and 2016 specs compared. For more, check CNET's iPhone SE 3 wishlist, all the rumors we've heard about the iPhone SE so far and how it could compare to the 2020 iPhone SE. You can also explore our Apple event expectations

iPhone SE 2020 vs. 2016 spec comparison


Apple iPhone SE 2020 Apple iPhone SE
Display size, resolution 4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334x750 pixels 4-inch; 1,136x640 pixels
Pixel density 326ppi 326ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 138 x 67 x 7.3 mm 123 x 58 x 7.6 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.22 oz; 148g 3.99 oz; 113g
Mobile software (at launch) iOS 13 iOS 9.3
Mobile software (current compatibility) iOS 15 iOS 15
Camera 12-megapixel 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 7-megapixel 1.2-megapixels
Video capture 4K 4K
Processor Apple A13 Bionic Apple A9
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
RAM Not disclosed Not disclosed
Expandable storage No No
Battery Not disclosed Not disclosed
Fingerprint sensor Home button Home button
Connector Lightning Lightning
Headphone jack No Yes
Special features Water-resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging Apple Pay; Haptic Touch
Price at launch off-contract (USD) $399 (64GB), $449 (128GB), $549 (256GB) $399 (16GB); $499 (64GB)
Price (GBP) £419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB) £359 (16GB) £439 (64GB)
Price (AUD) AU$749 (64GB), AU$829 (128GB), AU$999 (256GB) AU$679 (16GB); AU$829 (64GB)