iPhone SE teardown reveals some pleasant surprises

iPhone SE teardown
(Image credit: iFixit)

Our iPhone SE 2020 review demonstrates that Apple's $399 handset is one of the best phones of the year in terms of pure value, but we did not get a chance to gaze at this handset's guts to see how easy (or not) it is to repair.

The good news is that iFixit is already hard at work at its iPhone SE teardown, and it has already revealed that some parts are borrowed from the iPhone 8. This should make finding replacement parts easier and hopefully cheaper as well. 

iFixit says that that the iPhone SE's cameras, SIM tray, Taptic Engine and display assembly, which includes the microphone and proximity sensor, are all swappable with iPhone 8 parts. In fact, the site claims that the "screen should be cheaper to replace than any new iPhone we've seen in years."

There is a caveat to replacing the display, however. You will lose True Tone functionality unless you have access to a screen programmer. We don't see this as a huge loss, as True Tone merely changes the screen's color temperature in response to the ambient light. It's nice to have but not a must-have.

Another trade-off is that iFixit says that home buttons are not interchangeable. So you'll have to pay up to Apple if you need to replace it. Yes, you take your chances with an aftermarket home button but they you'll lose access to Touch ID. 

The biggest surprise is that the 1,821 mAh battery is not backwards compatible with the iPhone 8, despite having the same capacity. This is because the batter's logic board connector differs from the one in the iPhone 8. iFixit says you also can't swap one iPhone SE 2020 battery for another, unless you want to stare at a service warning that says that it is not a genuine Apple battery.

As iFixit notes, its full iPhone SE 2020 teardown is still in progress. And we will follow up to share any additional details as they're posted. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.