The reviews are in, and there’s a clear consensus: Apple’s new iPhone SE is a really good deal. We’re not here to disagree. Our tests show you can repair it with a lot of the same readily available parts from the iPhone 8—and thanks to the same A13 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 11 Pro, it’s punching way above its budget-phone weight class. And it’s priced a little over half what you’d pay for an iPhone 11.
We were big fans of the original iPhone SE because it borrowed parts from previous models—reducing manufacturing waste from new designs and making replacement parts easier (and more affordable) to come by. (It also had a headphone jack—but, we digress.) Apple saw the value of repeating that very popular move this year. Let’s take a look at just how many iPhone 8 parts you can use in this phone—and vice versa.
The good parts first: iPhone SE’s cameras, SIM tray, Taptic Engine, and display assembly (including the microphone and proximity sensor) are all swappable with iPhone 8 parts. And that screen should be cheaper to replace than any new iPhone we’ve seen in years. However, as with any modern iPhone screen swap, you will lose True Tone unless you have access to a screen programmer. And home buttons are still not interchangeable—you’ll need to hold on to your original home button in the event of a repair, substitute an aftermarket home button with no Touch ID, or else pay Apple whatever they ask to fix it for you.
Also incompatible? The battery. Turns out, although the battery looks identical, the battery’s logic board connector differs from the one in the 8, so they don’t fit together. The SE will connect to an iPhone 11 battery, which uses the same connector—but it won’t turn on. And, sadly, this seemingly throwback phone has some very modern Apple roadblocks inside. You can’t even swap one genuine iPhone SE 2020 battery for another without triggering a “not a genuine Apple battery” service warning.
Most new iPhones arrive with zero backward compatibility, so we’re reasonably pleased with how nicely the new iPhone SE plays with so many parts that repair shops and fixers already have in their inventory. It doesn’t have all the fancy features of the iPhone 11 or the iPhone 11 Pro, but $400 for a phone with a long-lived processor and plentiful repair parts seems like a square deal to us.
Our full iPhone SE 2020 Teardown is in progress, and we’re testing a lot more than just the parts compatibility! Check back on Monday to see deeper inside Apple’s most interesting recycling project yet.