Should You Upgrade from iPhone SE to iPhone XR? A Decision Calculator

iPhone XR vs iPhone SE

Apple is not going to release an updated version of the iPhone SE. So, if you are still using your old 4-inch totting iPhone SE, its time for you to look elsewhere. If you are wondering whether the jump from the iPhone SE to iPhone XR is going to be the right upgrade for you or not, check out our decision calculator.

The iPhone XR is not the direct successor to the iPhone SE. If anything, I’d say its the iPhone XS with its 5.8-inch bezel-less display that will better suit iPhone SE owners due to its smaller size. However, that phone is exorbitantly expensive. Plus, with a similar bezel-less design, the iPhone XR can also be used one-handed in most scenarios. So, should you upgrade to the iPhone XR from the iPhone SE? Read below to find out.

iPhone SE to iPhone XR – Upgrade or Not?

Bezel-less Design and Bigger Display in a Bigger Device

Apple iPhone SE

With a tiny 4-inch display and massive bezels surrounding it, the iPhone SE’s design definitely looks outdated. In comparison, the iPhone XR comes with a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display with a higher resolution — 1792 x 828 vs 1136 x 640 on the SE — and clarity. The latter’s display also has Wide color and True Tone support along with a higher peak brightness of 625 nits and Haptic Touch.

However, the bigger display on the iPhone XR comes at the cost of size. The iPhone XR is taller than the iPhone SE — 150.9mm vs 123.8mm — by a notable margin. Similarly, it is also significantly wider than the iPhone SE — 75.7mm vs 58.6mm. It is also heavier at 194gms vs. 113gms of the iPhone SE.

This massive increase in dimensions means that iPhone SE users may find the iPhone XR a bit too big initially and have difficulty using it. The whole reason why most people use the iPhone SE is due to its compact dimensions so the iPhone XR is going to pose an issue in this regard for many. Nonetheless, once you get past this hurdle, the iPhone XR is a great upgrade over the iPhone SE in every way possible.

The iPhone XR features glass panels at the front and rear which sandwiches an aluminum chassis. The glass is more durable than what Apple uses on the iPhone SE and the bezel-less design gives the iPhone XR a more futuristic look and premium feel. Other notable design advantages the iPhone XR packs include wireless charging and IP67 water resistance certification which the iPhone SE lacks. The iPhone XR is also available in six different colors, while the iPhone SE is available in 4 colors.


iOS 12 does bring about notable performance improvements particularly on older iOS devices, but that does not change the fact that the A9 chip inside the iPhone SE is old. iOS 12 might have managed to improve the performance of the iPhone SE to a certain extent but the device is clearly running on fumes. In comparison, the A12 Bionic chip inside the iPhone XR is an absolute beast with 6.9 billion transistors, an 8-core Neural engine, 6-core processor, and a custom 4-core Apple GPU. At the very minimum, the iPhone XR should be able to smoothly run all heavy and demanding iOS apps and games for the next 2-3 years.

TrueDepth Camera, Face ID

This is another area where the iPhone XR offers a massive upgrade over the iPhone SE. The iPhone SE comes with a 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera, while the iPhone XR comes with a 7MP TrueDepth camera. Apart from the jump in resolution, the front camera on the iPhone XR uses a newer and significantly advanced sensor which offers better dynamic range and color contrast. The TrueDepth camera system also allows the iPhone XR to offer Smart HDR for selfies, Portrait Lighting, Cinematic video stabilization, Extended dynamic range for videos shot at up to 30fps, and Animoji/Memoji support. All these features are missing on the iPhone SE.

While the iPhone SE features Touch ID, the bezel-less design of the iPhone XR means it relies on Face ID made possible by its TrueDepth camera system. Face ID is definitely more convenient than Touch ID, though it is a bit slower and does not work as reliably as the latter.

Rear Camera

iPhone SE from the rear

The iPhone SE and iPhone XR both come with a 12MP single lens camera at the rear. However, don’t be fooled by the resolution. The iPhone XR’s 12MP camera features a wider f/1.8 aperture, a newer and larger sensor with 1.4um pixels, and OIS that allows it to capture significantly better photos than the iPhone SE. Plus, despite the single lens camera, the iPhone XR can capture Portrait photos along with Portrait Lighting. It also has Smart HDR for improved colors and contrast.

Even in terms of video recording, the iPhone XR excels over the iPhone SE as it is capable of recording 4K videos at 60fps with stereo sound. Additionally, it has cinematic video stabilization, extended dynamic range, and its capable of recording higher quality slow-mo videos as well.

Overall, the 12MP shooter on the iPhone XR is a massive step up when compared to the iPhone SE.


With the iPhone XR, you will get faster LTE speeds, better Bluetooth range and experience, and faster Wi-Fi speeds. It also has dual-SIM support so you can connect to two networks simultaneously on the device, though your carrier must have eSIM support for the same. Faster connectivity might not seem like a big deal but it will have an overall positive impact on how you use your device daily.

The iPhone SE does come with a 3.5mm headphone jack which the iPhone XR lacks.

Battery Life

If you are ready to compromise with the size of the iPhone XR, you will be rewarded with an extremely long battery life. The iPhone XR offers up to 25 hours of talk time which is 11 hours more than the iPhone SE. It also offers 15 hours of internet use and up to 16 hours of video playback which are all notably better than what the iPhone SE offers.

Even better, the iPhone XR has fast charging support which means it can be charged to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. Plus, it has Qi wireless charging as well for that wire-free charging experience.


The iPhone XR is priced at $749 for the 64GB variant, with the 128GB variant coming in at $799. Sure, it is not as cheap as the iPhone SE but it offers plenty of new features to justify the upgrade price. Plus, with the XR, you will again be sorted for the next 2-3 years.

Overall, it makes a lot of sense to upgrade to the iPhone XR from the iPhone SE provided one is able to look past the jump in size. If you are unsure about the upgrade, you should first check out the iPhone XR at an Apple Store before taking the decision. If you think the iPhone XR is going to be too big, you might want to look at the 5.8-inch iPhone XS. It carries an even higher price tag than the iPhone XR but offers a more premium build quality in a slightly smaller package.