The iPhone SE wins best budget phone in the Tom's Guide Awards 2020

iPhone SE 2020 award
(Image credit: Apple/Future)

This is proving to be the year of the cheap phone, and no handset has proven that quite like the iPhone SE 2020. Apple's revised version of the beloved iPhone SE delivers some premium features in a device that costs less than $400, making it an easy choice for the first-ever Tom's Guide Award for the best budget phone around.

Consider the fact that the iPhone SE features the same A13 Bionic processor that also powers Apple's iPhone 11 lineup. The A13 is the fastest mobile processor we've ever tested, meaning you can grab a $399 iPhone SE that can outperform Android devices that sell for hundreds of dollars more.

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More importantly, the state-of-the-art processor inside the iPhone SE means you'll be able to hold onto that phone for longer. The iPhone SE will be able to run future iOS updates and new apps for years, helping you get even more value out of your purchase.

While it's true the iPhone SE features just one rear camera at a time when many budget phones are adding multiple lenses, Apple has proven that great photography doesn't require more cameras. Thanks to the neural engine on the A13 — there's that chip again — the iPhone SE can use computational photography to bring out the highlights in faces and add portrait effects to images shot with either the front or rear camera.

It's not as if the iPhone SE hasn't faced stiff competition on the budget phone front. Samsung has a sub-$400 phone of its own in the Galaxy A51, which illustrates the phone maker's renewed commitment to producing better midrange devices. TCL's first branded phone for the US, the TCL 10 Pro, boasts a design and display that wouldn't be out of place in a more expensive handset. And the Moto G Power rides a 5,000 mAh battery to the best phone battery life we've seen in some time.

It's an impressive mix of low-cost phones, and yet the iPhone SE with its powerful processor, wireless charging support and affordable price, stands head and shoulders above its rivals.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.