Since the iPhone 5c, Apple’s approach to making iPhones more affordable has been to push premium processors into older model casings. The company has stuck to this strategy with the launch of the third-generation iPhone SE. With its home button, top and bottom bezels, and rounded corners, the new iPhone SE is almost identical to the 2020 model, at least visually. Internally, this year’s version features a Bionic A15 chip and a 5G radio that promises a big boost in speed. Apple is also touting longer battery life and improved durability on this year’s model, which will set you back only $ 429. That’s $ 30 more than the previous generation iPhone SE, but still cheaper than the $ 450 Pixel 5a. If you want a simple iPhone that runs as a replacement, and you don’t mind the dated design and single rear camera, the iPhone SE may be for you.
At a time when all smartphones are basically missing the home button, this year’s iPhone SE feels out of place. Its home button sits in a bezel under the screen, while the top bezel hides the front camera of the device. If you’re familiar with the last iPhone SE, you know what to expect: this year’s models are so similar that it’s hard for me to tell them apart. The only way I know which one I’m holding is by scrutinizing the back case of the phone under fluorescent lights. The review unit shipped by Apple this year is dark blue, and the iPhone SE 2020 I have is black. Oh, and, according to the spec sheet, the new SE is a full 4 gram lighter. The latest iPhone feels very stuck in the past, considering earlier models are outdated.
Yet, despite its flawless design, I like the mood of the south-east. It’s very similar to the Pixel 3: slender, slightly curved, and solidly built. The iPhone 13 mini is smaller and thicker, with flatter edges and a notch at the top of the 5.4-inch screen for the front camera. If you hate notches but for some reason don’t mind bezels, the retro look of the iPhone SE is for you.
Gallery: iPhone SE (2022) Review
What’s more, Apple says the iPhone SE is covered with the same cold-resistant glass as the iPhone 13. Although I haven’t put my review unit down yet, know this will be more scratch resistance gives you peace of mind. I don’t use the iPhone 13 case, it’s still perfect despite being thrown in a bag with keys and other sharp objects. It does pick up fingerprints and smudges easily, though. The iPhone SE is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance, which is good too – the Galaxy A52 5G and Pixel 5a also offer that.
Display and Sound
Like many phones from 2017, this year’s iPhone SE features a 4.7-inch LCD screen with 1,334 x 750 resolution. Honestly, these specifications are completely tragic for the 2022 standard, as OLEDs are already commonplace. Don’t even start the refresh rate. The Galaxy A52’s 6.5-inch Super AMOLED runs at 120Hz, while the Pixel 5a’s OLED panel retails at least 90Hz.
I used four phones – the iPhone SE, its predecessor, the iPhone 13 mini, and the Pixel 5a – to watch Apple’s event summaries on YouTube at the same time with maximum brightness on each device. The iPhone 13 mini is the brightest, followed by the Pixel. The iPhone SEs are indistinguishable from each other and have a reddish hue compared to the other two.
It won’t surprise you, but the iPhone SE’s display is handy. I watched the beginning of Jon Stewart’s “The Problem” on the TV + app, and while everything looked a bit quiet compared to the OLED I’m used to, the show still looked good. However, you will definitely want to crank the screen to maximum brightness for watching videos outdoors in the sun.
Despite its small size, the iPhone SE’s speakers are surprisingly loud. I love listening to the tap dance sequence in a video of Anything Goes performance, as well as the rich vocals of Sutton Foster.
The biggest disadvantage of the iPhone SE in the mid-range segment is its camera. It only has one 12-megapixel rear sensor with f / 1.8 aperture, while most competitors have at least two, which makes them more versatile shooting rigs.
However, if you’re happy with one camera, the iPhone SE 2022 will suffice. It draws pictures that are as sharp and colorful as the iPhone 13 mini. The decorations on the red brick facades of local buildings are as sharp when shot as any phone, even as I am constantly zooming in. It’s clear that with processing upgrades like the A15 Bionic and Smart HDR 4, Apple has been able to make the iPhone SE’s camera perform as well as its flagship sensor.
The Pixel 5a generally produces darker images with cooler, more neutral tones in its images, and while I don’t like Apple’s default treatment, which has a slight yellowish tint, you have the ability to change that. The company introduced Photography Styles with the iPhone 13 series, which allows you to adjust the contrast and tone of preset profiles. Each photo you take will use these settings (until you choose a different style). Fortunately, the new iPhone SE also offers Photography Styles, so you have more control over how your photos look.
I was amazed at how similar the photos from the iPhone SE were to the iPhone 13 mini. From landscapes to portraits of my colleagues, there is hardly any difference in the pictures that the two phones take. The Pixel 5a did a better job of separating our video maker’s prickly hair from the background than any iPhone, but all three devices performed excellently.