iPhone SE (2020) battery test complete: these numbers crush the hype
The iPhone SE (2020) comes with a battery that is surprisingly tiny for a phone in 2020: it features the exact same battery capacity as the iPhone 8 at 1,821mAh (but it uses different connectors so the battery cells are not interchangeable).
Apple is known for optimizing iOS extremely well, so we were curious to see whether the company was able to pull some kind of a miracle and give users good battery life with such a small battery.
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To find out, we put the iPhone SE (2020) through our complete battery drain test made out of three components: first, we test battery life in browsing, then YouTube video streaming, and finally, we test how long the phone will last with 3D gaming.
So how did the iPhone SE do?
Disclaimer: All phones are set at an equal brightness level to equal the playing field.
Browsing and Scrolling battery test
First, we start with our browsing test. This is the lightest of our tests, it doesn't put a big strain on the processor and most phones are able to last more than 10 hours on this test. The iPhone SE result here is below the average: we are comparing it against some popular phones that don't cost a fortune and most of them last significantly longer than the new SE.
The iPhone XR and iPhone 11 both last quite a bit longer than the iPhone SE on this test, and its direct competitor, the Google Pixel 3a also outlasted it by a bit. Overall, it's clear right from the get-go that the new iPhone SE is no battery champ, but it's not terrible either.
YouTube Video Streaming battery test
Things really start to take a turn for the worse once you actually start doing something just a bit more demanding on the iPhone SE (2020).
Playing videos on YouTube absolutely demolished the battery in no time, and we were seeing the battery draining at a pace of 1% every 3 minutes or even faster.
At the end of the day, playing YouTube videos, the iPhone SE lasted only 4 hours and 45 minutes, the worst score of any phone in the past couple of years.
In comparison, the Google Pixel 3a lasted 6 hours and 30 minutes on this test, the iPhone 11 lasted 7 hours and 13 minutes, while last year's compact Galaxy S10e absolutely killed it on this test with a battery life of 7 hours and 50 minutes, nearly double the iPhone SE.
This is a huge disappointment for Apple's $400 munchkin: watching videos is something that so many people love to do on a daily basis, and unfortunately, the iPhone SE battery just is not able to keep up.
3D Gaming battery test
Finally, we also turn to our 3D gaming test where we play a game that relies on the GPU to create a beautiful environment. These are games like PubG, Call of Duty, Minecraft and the like.
Keep in mind that we are not playing these games at the maximum settings, but instead at some of the lower ones to ensure compatibility across many phones.
So how did the iPhone SE do here?
Again, the result was a disaster: the phone couldn't even last 5 hours on this test and finished a minute short of that mark.
In comparison here we have some more expensive phones to show you the contrast with that class of devices as well. All of those devices scored much higher.
At the end of the day, the iPhone SE (2020) battery life is clearly the biggest disappointment in this otherwise cute and compact phone with a design from the past and a processor from the future.
In our experience, just using the phone moderately throughout the day to just check emails, social media, text and the like, it will get you through. But start watching videos or playing games, and its battery drains like crazy and you will be rushing to the nearest power outlet. It seems that all of the power of the Apple A13 chip is great and all, but once those big cores start running, the battery starts disappearing.
Apple should have considered using a bigger battery and the bottom line is that because of the poor battery life, it's hard to recommend the iPhone SE (2020) to heavy users and enthusiasts.