Why the iPhone SE is the phone for the coronavirus era

iPhone SE is the phone for the coronavirus era
(Image credit: Apple)

Should you buy the iPhone SE 2020 or wait for the iPhone 12? This is a question I’ve been chewing on while the coronavirus pandemic continues to prove my iPhone 11’s biometric system is useless in the current climate.

The first time I sported a face mask to the pharmacy to shop for essentials, and realized I had to tug the fabric down beneath my chin to give Apple Pay my blessing, I almost walked out empty-handed. Not only did touching my covering seem contradictory to all public health advice, but it completely undermined the value of contactless checkout.

Touch ID is now a must-have

If I had known that I would be learning how to make a face mask at home and wearing one whenever I leave my house, I would not have traded in my beloved iPhone 8 Plus for Apple’s latest flagship a few months ago. As my colleagues can attest to, I’ve always been a Touch ID devotee and prayed to the Cupertino gods before the company’s fall keynote that the iPhone 11 would offer in-screen fingerprint recognition technology.

It didn’t, obviously, but I upgraded anyway for that fast A13 bionic processor. And while my phone sure is fast, for months now Face ID has become the bane of my existence. Whether half my face is squished against my pillows or buried in goopy skincare products, entering my phone is always an annoying (but manageable) ordeal.

But now that face masks are becoming the norm, with The Atlantic suggesting the US is on pace to destigmatize mask-wearing and every entity from the NBA to My Chemical Romance offering branded coverings, I expect I’ll smash my pricey iPhone in frustration some point soon. 

(Image credit: Future)

Unless, that is, I swap it for the $399 iPhone SE 2020. After months of leaks and speculation, Apple at last released a follow up to it’s 3-year-old budget model, refreshed with the A13 processor, an improved camera system and, yes, Touch ID.

When I’m eligible for an upgrade later this year, there’s zero chance I’ll opt for the iPhone 12 if it doesn’t have this feature, too. In fact, I don’t believe anyone should get a Face ID-only phone any time soon.

While Face ID is a safer biometric tool, that’s not what we need right now. Sure, the internet has provided workarounds for getting your iPhone to recognize you while you’re wearing a mask, but it’s time for Apple to offer both means of entry like several of Samsung’s phones do.

iPhone SE has the right price for right now

The iPhone SE is a capable, yet economical option for people who don’t want to or can’t spend over $400 on a smartphone. 

In fact, the iPhone SE represents an essential tier that’s been absent from Apple’s lineup, and it couldn’t have arrived at a more essential time. As the coronavirus continues to impact lives, careers and incomes across the country, with CNN reporting that over 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past month, it’s important that big tech’s retail prices reflect today’s socioeconomic challenges.

And the accessibility of their products should, too. 

iPhone 12 should get Touch ID, too

We've heard about the iPhone 12 getting a smaller notch, so Face ID will definitely be on board. But Apple would be wise to include Touch ID as well in a more modern way.

The most reliable report we've seen about a Touch ID returning to Apple's flagship comes from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who says that Apple could introduce in-display fingerprint sensors with the iPhones it'll release in 2021

Perhaps Apple has sped up plans to incorporate a hidden fingerprint reader. But until there's adequate evidence of those efforts, the iPhone SE seems like the most practical iPhone to get right now. 

And if you happen to see a blonde-haired lady smashing her smartphone as she fumbles with her face mask at a CVS self-checkout kiosk, feel free to pass her along that advice. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef. 

  • Mason22
    Thanks for this update. But I don't know much about it. :)
  • boo radley007
    An ignominious accolade at best.
  • Mason22
    boo radley007 said:
    An ignominious accolade at best.

    Kept a note for this one.