TCL 10 Pro vs. iPhone SE (2020): Which should you buy?

TCL 10 Pro
TCL 10 Pro (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

TCL 10 Pro

TCL 10 Pro

The TCL 10 Pro has fantastic hardware and a gorgeous HDR screen. It runs a clean build of Android 10, with a planned upgrade to Android 11. The only big downside? Its cameras leave a lot to be desired, especially compared to the iPhone.

TCL 10 Pro

Best value

Huge HDR display with SDR conversion
Customizable Smart Key
Great battery life
Planned upgrade to Android 11
Excellent hardware
Underwhelming cameras
Too large for some
No wireless charging

iPhone SE

iPhone SE (2020)

The iPhone SE isn't Apple's most modern design, but it packs the incredible A13 Bionic processor, a compact build, and an impressive camera at a low price. You can expect years of continued software support, and access to Apple's vast app ecosystem.

iPhone SE

Best camera

Excellent camera
Longterm software support
Top-end A13 processor
Water resistance and wireless charging
Smaller in every dimension
Weak battery life
No ultra-wide camera
Dated design

If you're shopping for a new iPhone on a budget, the iPhone SE is the obvious pick, but on the Android side, you have a much wider selection to choose from. TCL, the company behind devices from brands like Alcatel and BlackBerry, is making its own branded phones now, including the excellent TCL 10 Pro — an affordable, yet surprisingly high end handset with a gorgeous display and a slick design. So which should you buy?

Modern design vs. a powerful camera

Right off the bat, let's address the most obvious difference between these two phones: one runs Android, while the other runs iOS. There's a much larger conversation to be had around which OS is better for different kinds of users, but you likely already know where you stand. The important thing to note is that both phones are running the latest versions of their respective platforms: Android 10 on the TCL 10 Pro, and iOS 13 on the iPhone SE.

Both phones are also slated to receive their next major platform update, though TCL's commitment to supporting the 10 Pro only extends to Android 11 and various security patches. While it's possible the phone will receive Android 12 next year, nothing's been set in stone. On the other hand, one of Apple's strongest suits is its continued software support. The just-announced iOS 14 will be coming to devices running as far back as the iPhone 6s from 2016, which certainly bodes well for the 2020 SE's future.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 TCL 10 ProiPhone SE
Operating SystemAndroid 10iOS 13
Display6.47 inches, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 2340x1080 (398 ppi) resolution, AMOLED4.7 inches, 16:9 aspect ratio, 1334x750 (326 ppi) resolution, Retina IPS LCD
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 675Apple A13 Bionic
GraphicsAdreno 612Apple GPU
Rear Camera64MP, ƒ/1.8 (wide)16MP, ƒ/2.4 (ultra-wide)5MP, ƒ/2.2 (macro)2MP, ƒ/2.4 (depth)12MP, ƒ/1.8 (wide)
Front Camera24MP, ƒ/2.07MP, ƒ/2.2
SecurityIn-display fingerprint sensorFace ID
Water ResistanceIP52IP67
Dimensions158.5 x 72.4 x 9.2mm138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm

With regards to the hardware, both phones are a testament to just how far the needle has moved in our expectations for affordable design. Rather than any creaking plastics, both phones feature metal and glass builds that feel just as high-end as phones that cost twice as much.

Both phones are a testament to just how far the needle has moved in our expectations for affordable design.

The 10 Pro looks much more modern, though. Both sides of the phone feature curved glass for added comfort and flair, and the back comes in a frosted satin finish that almost feels more like aluminum than glass, with an eye-catching light-to-dark gradient. There's a horizontal strip near the top that houses the phone's four cameras, which give the 10 Pro the options for wide, ultra-wide, or macro shots, along with improved depth.

By comparison, the iPhone SE's design looks pretty dated because, well, it is. The design is actually lifted directly from the iPhone 8 that launched three years ago, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's still well put together, and perhaps its biggest advantage (depending on your wants) is that it's smaller in every dimension than the TCL 10 Pro. It's refreshing to see such a small phone these days; the iPhone SE can easily be used in one hand.

On the other hand, the 10 Pro's huge 6.47-inch display is great for watching videos, thanks to a combination of its excellent color reproduction, wider 19.5:9 aspect ratio, and TCL's NXTVISION display tech, which intelligently converts SDR content to HDR.

At first glance, you might think the TCL 10 Pro's four cameras mean it's a better photo tool — and it certainly has more versatile options for shooting in different perspectives. However, while the image quality from the main 64MP sensor is decent, the ultra-wide and macro sensors leave a lot to be desired. Meanwhile, while I would've loved the inclusion of an ultra-wide lens, the iPhone SE takes excellent shots from its single camera — check out our full reviews of the TCL 10 Pro and iPhone SE for sample shots from each.

iPhone SE

Source: Jared DiPane / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jared DiPane / Android Central)

Onto some smaller details, both phones are water resistant, though with an ingress protection rating of IP67 versus the TCL 10 Pro's IP52, the iPhone SE is better shielded from both water and dust. The iPhone also supports Qi wireless charging, which the 10 Pro lacks, and both phones feature NFC for contactless payments.

You'll be well-served by either phone, but there's more to consider than just the software differences when considering these options.

You'll also get a fingerprint sensor on each phone, though the approaches are quite different. The iPhone SE is the first phone in Apple's lineup in a number of years to revert to its old Touch ID sensor below the display. While it does mean putting up with a large bezel below the screen, it's incredibly fast and accurate. Meanwhile, the TCL 10 Pro employs a much more modern in-display fingerprint sensor, but it's considerably slower and more prone to failed readings.

Despite its many advantages, though, the iPhone SE doesn't beat out the TCL 10 Pro in every regard. Battery life is a major pain point of the SE; while Apple manages to draw impressive endurance from relatively small batteries, the 1821mAh cell in the SE simply can't compete with the all-day battery life provided by the 10 Pro's 4500mAh battery.

Then there's the issue of the iPhone SE's paultry 64GB of internal storage. Since the iPhone doesn't accept a microSD card for expandable storage, you're stuck with what you buy upfront. To match the TCL 10 Pro's 128GB of storage (which is expandable by up to 256GB), you'll need to tack another $50 onto the iPhone SE's sticker price — or $150 to bump up to 256GB.

On the note of pricing, the TCL 10 Pro is currently discounted to around $380, which makes it $20 cheaper than the iPhone SE. At that price, it's quite compelling over the iPhone, with more modern hardware, a more vibrant and dynamic display, and better battery life. Even at its normal price of $450, it matches the 128GB variant of the iPhone SE, though you'll need to consider the importance of the iPhone's advantages like its better camera and smaller form factor.

Affordable phones have never been better, and both the TCL 10 Pro and iPhone SE offer tremendous value at a relatively low cost. You'll be well-served by either phone, but there's more to consider than just the software differences when considering these options.

Hayato Huseman

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.