The iPhone SE released to critical acclaim earlier this year, but not everyone fell in love with Apple’s budget phone. While some questioned its aged design and a few baffling hardware choices, the iPhone SE delivered blazing performance and camera excellence, shaking up the status quo of the mid-range phone market in the process.
In a strange twist of fate for a brand that was the original “Flagship Killer”, OnePlus’ first budget phone in almost five years — OnePlus Nord — goes in the opposite direction, favoring modern aesthetics and general versatility over raw power.
These two devices couldn’t be more different, but both prices come in under $500. They are also both perfect for buyers that want a premium experience without the premium cost.
But which phone is right for you? Find out in this OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE face-off.
Our verdict: OnePlus Nord review
OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE
|OnePlus Nord||iPhone SE (2020)|
OnePlus Nord:6.44-inch Fluid AMOLED
2,400 x 1,080
20:9 aspect ratio
90Hz refresh rate
In-display fingerprint sensor
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
iPhone SE (2020):4.7-inch Retina HD
1,334 x 750
Touch ID via home button
OnePlus Nord:Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
iPhone SE (2020):A13 Bionic
OnePlus Nord:8GB / 12GB LPDDR4X
iPhone SE (2020):3GB RAM
OnePlus Nord:128GB / 256GB UFS 2.1
iPhone SE (2020):64GB/128GB/256GB
- 48MP main (f/1.75, 0.8µm)
- 8MP ultra-wide (f/2.25, 119 degrees)
- 5MP depth (f/2.4)
- 2MP macro (f/2.4)
- 32MP main (f/2.45, 0.8µm)
- 8MP ultra-wide (f/2.45, 105 degrees)
iPhone SE (2020):Rear:
12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
No wireless charging
iPhone SE (2020):1821 mAh
Fast charging 18W
Qi wireless charging
iPhone SE (2020):IP67
OnePlus Nord:OxygenOS 10.5
iPhone SE (2020):iOS 13
OnePlus Nord:Gray Onyx
iPhone SE (2020):Black, White, Product Red
|Dimensions and weight|
OnePlus Nord:158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2mm
iPhone SE (2020):138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
Design and display
You’d be forgiven for thinking that these phones are from different eras given their designs. Let’s start with the iPhone. It’s based on the iPhone 8’s glass sandwich chassis with glass on the front and back. This is surrounded by a metal frame. There’s a power button on the right, volume buttons and an alert slider on the left, and some large bezels above and below the screen (more on that later). You’ll find a capacitive fingerprint reader — or Touch ID, as Apple calls it — below the display, doubling as a home button.
The Nord has a far more up-to-date design than the iPhone SE.
Comparatively, the Nord features a much more sophisticated design, though with cheaper materials. It’s still glass on both sides but a painted plastic rail surrounds the device. The Nord has a similar button layout but with the alert slider (a rarity in the wider Android space) on the right-hand side this time. The bezels around the display are much smaller than the iPhone SE thanks to the inclusion of a punch-hole camera. OnePlus has also integrated an optical, in-display fingerprint scanner which sounds more advanced on paper, but I found the iPhone SE’s Touch ID to be faster and more reliable than OnePlus’ reader.
The Nord sports a rounder and more ergonomic glass back than the iPhone SE. However, because Apple’s phone is so much smaller, it’s going to sit a little easier in most people’s hands. The lighter build of the iPhone SE also helps in this regard, with the SE weighing just 148g vs the Nord’s bulkier 184g. The iPhone SE also features IP67 water resistance. Unfortunately, the OnePlus Nord doesn’t come with any kind of official water or dust resistance rating.
The speakers on both smartphones are quite different. The Nord features a single, tinny, bottom-firing unit next to its USB-C port. Conversely, the iPhone SE pairs its bottom speaker with an amplified earpiece for a decent stereo effect. Despite its size, the iPhone SE delivers a clearer, fuller sound. Unfortunately, neither phone has a headphone jack. This isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s still a shame considering many phones in this price range do feature a 3.5mm port.
The display is yet another area where these phones diverge. The iPhone SE has a very small 4.7-inch, LCD display that maxes out at a measly 1,334 x 750 resolution. On the other hand, the Nord has a 6.44-inch, OLED panel that delivers 1080p clarity and a 90Hz refresh rate. I won’t sugarcoat it, while the iPhone SE’s panel seems to have better quality control, the Nord’s display is infinitely better.
Performance, battery life, and software
While the OnePlus Nord offers solid performance for its price range, the iPhone SE steals the show in terms of raw horsepower. Its custom A13 Bionic processor stomps the Nord’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G in peak performance, even if you pick the model with a whopping 12GB RAM.
With all that said, the Nord often feels faster thanks to its 90Hz display and all the smooth animations within OxygenOS — OnePlus’ custom Android skin. Likewise, while the iPhone SE can technically outperform even a $1,000+ Android flagship in the peak performance stakes, the OnePlus Nord excels at sustained performance. Check out the link below for more.
Things get tricky when comparing the software of both phones, as for all Android and iOS’ similarities, they are still very different beasts. People are going to have their preferences and I’m not here looking to convert any die-hard fans of either platform.
Thankfully, both OnePlus’ take on Android and the iPhone SE’s iOS-on-a-budget experience are both pretty fantastic. OxygenOS is a feature-packed skin and allows for plenty of customization to tailor the phone to your individual wants and needs. iOS, on the other hand, takes full advantage of Apple’s ecosystem with killer app support and continuity features with other Apple products. It also makes great use of the bespoke hardware inside the iPhone SE. A great example of this is amazing HDR results when capturing video.
It’s also worth remembering that Apple does a much better job upgrading its phones to the latest iOS version many years after a device’s release. OnePlus is one of the better Android OEMs for long-term software support, but it only guarantees two years of updates.
The Nord stomps the iPhone SE on battery life.
The OnePlus Nord has the iPhone SE soundly beaten on battery life, though. The former has over double the battery capacity and almost double the charging power. This translates to real-world performance too. The iPhone SE would struggle to get me through 90% of a day, while the Nord would comfortably get me through a full day based on the same usage. This gap in battery endurance was only exacerbated when gaming.
The iPhone SE does have one battery advantage though: you can charge it wirelessly. OnePlus recently launched its first phone with wireless charging, the OnePlus 8 Pro, but that feature hasn’t trickled down to its mid-ranger.
We performed a full camera shootout between these two and handed the voting over to you, our readers. Despite it only having a single rear camera compared to the Nord’s triple-camera, the poll results fell overwhelmingly in the iPhone SE’s favor.
I’m not going to argue with that result either — the iPhone SE easily takes the crown when it comes to camera performance. It’s more consistent, exposes for highlights better, and captures shadow detail much more effectively than the Nord.
Here are a few samples from each of the devices. As you can see, the Nord likes to introduce noise-reduction. Low-light images become blurrier with the phone wanting to crush all the noise.
The iPhone SE captures more natural colors which are evident in a couple of shots with grass and flowers. The photos with the sky really show off this difference in color characteristics.
That said, the Nord comes with more focal lengths on both sides which enables more versatility than the iPhone SE. If you want to shoot ultra-wide or macro, you’re going to have to pick the OnePlus Nord. Its camera app also comes with more modes like Nightscape and Pro mode, while the iPhone camera app is a more barebones affair. The pendulum swings back the other way for video though. iPhones have developed a reputation for capturing incredible video quality and the iPhone SE’s combo of 4K 60fps capture, great stabilization, and HDR wipes the floor with the OnePlus Nord.
How do the prices compare?
The OnePlus Nord will be sold in India, Europe, and the UK. Here’s a quick look at the prices for the three versions of the phone:
- OnePlus Nord with 6GB RAM+64GB storage: 24,999 rupees (India exclusive)
- OnePlus Nord with 8GB RAM+128GB storage: £379/€399/27,999 rupees
- OnePlus Nord with 12GB RAM+256GB storage: £469/€499/29,999 rupees
Meanwhile, the 2020 iPhone SE comes in three models, all of which are available in India, Europe, and the UK:
- iPhone SE with 3GB RAM+64GB storage: £419/ €499/42,500 rupees
- iPhone SE with 3GB RAM+128GB storage: £469/€549/47,800 rupees
- iPhone SE with 3GB RAM+256GB storage: £569/€669/58,300 rupees
Of course, the iPhone SE is also available in the US starting from $399. Sadly, OnePlus has confirmed that the OnePlus Nord won’t be available in the US.
OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE: Which should you buy?
Ultimately, which device best suits your needs all depends on what you want to get out of your phone.
The iPhone SE packs one heck of a punch in the performance stakes, a great rear and front camera for its price point, and will receive years of software support. You can’t really argue with a phone that crams in the same flagship-level chip as the iPhone 11 Pro and comes in at under half the price. It’s also one of the few remaining compact high-performance smartphones that launched in 2020. If you like small phones, this is arguably the best out there.
However, for those looking for a more all-round experience, the OnePlus Nord may well be the better buy. You’re getting a far superior display, a more versatile set of cameras, longer battery life, more feature-rich software. It’s also a little bit cheaper too!
The final choice between the OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE is down to you! Let us know which phone you’ll be buying in the poll below.