Apple announced the iPhone SE (third-generation) in March 2022 to act as the new budget iPhone. It has a 12MP camera with 4K video, a 7MP selfie camera, wireless charging, and an A15 chipset. The latest model also comes with 5G capabilities.
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Apple rarely goes for the budget side of a product line, but it always comes with some surprises when it does. The 2022 iPhone SE is everything you’d expect in an Apple flagship, packed into a classic design.
The budget iPhone has never been more enticing with Touch ID, 4K video recording, an A15 processor, and a 4.7-inch display. It is a device for users who want a great deal or are not fond of Face ID and the lack of a Home Button.
iPhone SE (third-generation) Features
The iPhone SE continues to be a budget-focused device with no new flashy features or gimmicks. During its 2022 "Peek Performance" Apple event, Apple announced the new device with a processor bump and new 5G capabilities.
There is nothing remarkable about the budget iPhone design, but for a good reason. It is built to look like the iPhone 8, which was similar to the iPhone 6. That means users have a modern option without Face ID, but without much compromise.
Apple was able to keep the price low thanks to keeping the old design. It has front and back glass panels made with the same glass used in the rear of the iPhone 13 for scratch protection, but notably not Ceramic Shield. The aluminum frame remains the older, curved candy bar design.
The lack of changes to external design is purposeful, one of Apple's strengths is its supply chain, which drives component prices down the longer a form factor is produced. Changing internal components but keeping the exterior the same drives manufacturing costs down.
The phone ships in three colors: Midnight, Starlight, and (RED). Regardless of what you choose, you will have a black glass faceplate. In the iPhone 6 through iPhone 8, the white, gold, and rose gold variants had a white faceplate. Apple's shift to all-black fronts, regardless of back color, is likely for simplicity and a design choice started by Face ID-equipped devices.
A teardown of the second-generation iPhone SE revealed an almost identical configuration to the iPhone 8. Component locations were similar and could even be moved between the cases without issue. The only notable difference is the label distinguishing the chipsets.
The 4.7-inch Retina HD display returns with True Tone and Night Shift built-in. It has the same 326ppi density as the previous model, so the screen should look identical.
The P3 color gamut means HDR content can be displayed on-screen with no issue, and Apple supports the latest codecs in the iTunes Store, including HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
Despite having a lower resolution than competing smartphones, the image remains crisp and clear due to the high pixel density. Viewing video at 1080p will not be noticeably different from viewing the same video on high-resolution devices.
Apple used the A15 Bionic chip from the iPhone 13 in the third-generation iPhone SE, meaning you get all the computational power of a flagship smartphone in a device that costs half as much. This includes exporting a video edit, playing games from Apple Arcade, and using an Augmented Reality app, which is faster and smoother because of the chip.
Even as a budget device, running the latest chipset means getting around five years of iOS updates. Apple's competitors cannot offer the same power or longevity at this price point, and most cannot compete at their high end with this budget iPhone's processing power.
Apple has been flexing its strength with its custom Apple Silicon. The company is so confident in its processors that it has shifted the Mac lineup to Apple-made M1 processors. Products like the budget-conscious iPhone benefit from the power and the lower cost of custom processors.
The front-facing camera is 7MP, which will record in 1080p at 30 FPS. Even without a Face ID sensor for depth-sensing, you can take Portrait Mode selfies using advanced algorithms.
The rear camera is the same module as the iPhone 8, meaning you can take 4K video and capture 12MP photos. The image signal processor in the A15 improves photo quality across generations and introduces new features like Deep Fusion.
Unique to this iPhone is a new Portrait Mode system that relies entirely on machine learning. It is called "Single Image Monocular Depth Estimation," using the power of the A15 to process image depth maps entirely on the device.
Apple moved the iPhone SE to 5G with its 2022 model. This means every modern iPhone being sold by Apple now has a 5G modem.
Not all 5G modems are identical. The modem used in the third-generation iPhone SE is only capable of sub-6GHz speeds. This means the ultra-wideband speeds offered on some networks in the United States won't work.
However, most users won't notice the difference as sub-6GHz 5G is still noticeably faster than LTE. Everything from downloads to streaming should be noticeably faster given decent network conditions.
|2022 iPhone SE||2020 iPhone SE||iPhone 8|
|Colors||Starlight, Midnight, PRODUCT(RED)||White, Black, PRODUCT(RED)||Space Gray, Silver, Gold (also PRODUCT(RED) at times)|
|Capacity||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 128GB|
|Screen||4.7-inch Retina HD 1334x750 at 326ppi||4.7-inch Retina HD 1334x740 at 326ppi||4.7-inch Retina HD 1334x740 at 326ppi|
|Brightness||625 nits||625 nits||625 nits|
|Dimensions||5.45 inches (138.4mm) by 2.65 inches (67.3mm) by 0.29 inch (7.3mm)||5.45 inches (138.4mm) by 2.65 inches (67.4mm) by 0.29 inch (7.3mm)||5.45 inches (138.4mm) by 2.65 inches (67.4mm) by 0.29 inch (7.3mm)|
|Rear cameras||Single 12MP Wide||Single 12MP Wide||Single 12MP Wide|
|Front camera||7MP FaceTime HD with 1080p video at 30fps||7MP FaceTime HD with 1080p video at 30fps||7MP FaceTime HD with 1080p video at 30fps|
|Biometrics||Touch ID||Touch ID||Touch ID|
|Processor||A15 Bionic||A13 Bionic||A11 Bionic|
|Battery life||Video playback up to 15 hours||Video playback up to 13 hours||Video playback up to 14 hours|
|Fast Charging Capable||Yes, charge to 50% in 30 minutes||Yes, charge to 50% in 30 minutes||Yes, charge to 50% in 30 minutes|
|Water resistance||To a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes||To a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes||To a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes|
iPhone SE 3 review
The third-generation iPhone SE is positioned as the cheapest new iPhone you can buy while offering the benefits of top-end models. It comes with the most recent A15 chipset and a 5G antenna while retaining everything else found in the previous iteration.
Apple did increase the price of this model by $30, but it is still cheaper than the next best device, the iPhone 13 mini, by $270. Even if you max out the storage to 256GB, you're $120 under the next model.
The design aspects are basically identical in every metric except for the colors, and even those were only slightly tweaked. The 4.7-inch Retina display with Home Button below the display is a classic design that has remained consistent since the iPhone 8.
Apple says it used tougher glass for the display, but that's the only material change made to the external enclosure. The processor bump makes the most significant difference for this new iPhone.
Benchmarking tool Geekbench 5 shows similar performance to the iPhone 13 Pro with 1744 single-core and 4315 multi-core scores. However, the iPhone SE has only 4GB of RAM versus 6GB in the iPhone 13 Pro, so peak performance and apps stored in memory will be less overall.
We were disappointed at the lack of MagSafe, but battery life is extended by a bit, at least. Thanks to the improved efficiency in the A15, video playback is extended by two hours, and audio can be played for up to 50 hours.
With the third-generation iPhone SE, you know exactly what you're going to get. Everything is borrowed from the aging iPhone 8 design to the A15 processor.
You won't get advanced features like Face ID, telephoto camera, macro photography, mmWave 5G, or MagSafe. But, the price reflects the lack of flagship features.
For those who want an inexpensive iPhone without sacrificing performance or longevity, Apple's got you covered with the iPhone SE. Tech-savvy users looking for more features are covered by the flagship iPhone lineup.
iPhone SE Compared
iPhone SE vs iPhone 13 mini
Apple sells the iPhone SE as an entry point into the iPhone lineup, with the iPhone 13 mini available at the next tier for $270 more. These devices have major differences in design, cameras, storage, and display.
The third-generation model has the same design as the iPhone 8, which dates back to the iPhone 6. The 4.7-inch display fits within a prominent chin and forehead, making the device similar in size to the all-screen iPhone 13 mini.
The dimensions are very close, with the iPhone SE coming in slightly taller and longer despite having a smaller display. The iPhone 13 mini makes much better use of its available space with an edge-to-edge screen and a notch cutout for Face ID.
The iPhone 13 mini uses OLED in its Super Retina XDR display. It is a 2340-by-1080-pixel display compared to the 1334-by-750-pixels in the LCD iPhone SE Retina HD display.
Both devices have the A15 Bionic processor, which means the performance will be nearly identical. Benchmarks show similar scores for single and multi-core performance.
The camera systems for each device are another big differentiator. The iPhone 13 mini has three 12MP cameras — one Wide, one Ultra Wide, and one selfie camera. The iPhone SE only has a 7MP selfie camera and a 12MP rear camera.
While each device supports 5G, only the iPhone 13 mini has mmWave 5G. That is the faster version of 5G available only in select areas of the United States.
The iPhone 13 mini also has a handful of features not available on the budget iPhone. MagSafe accessories, Ceramic Shield, and Face ID, to name a few.
Read the entire spec breakdown and comparison in the full article: New 2022 iPhone SE vs iPhone 13 mini.
iPhone SE 3 vs iPhone SE 2
The external design, color options, display, cameras, and biometrics are identical across generations. However, Apple hopes a processor bump and 5G connectivity will be enough to entice people to upgrade.
Benchmarks show that the third-generation iPhone SE is significantly faster thanks to the A15 processor. It scores nearly double in multi-core performance and has much-improved graphics.
The A15 also brings improved camera processing to the new model. The camera specs didn't change but added features like Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4, and Photographic Styles make for a much better image.
5G connectivity, sans mmWave, means the new iPhone SE has faster and more stable network connections versus the LTE model it replaces. Some users may not notice much difference in network connections depending on their cell plan and area's 5G availability.
Read the entire spec breakdown and comparison in the full article: New 2022 iPhone SE vs 2020 iPhone SE.
iPhone SE (second-generation)
The second generation is nearly identical to the third generation. It used the A13 processor and was only 4G capable.
The colors changed slightly across models as Apple moved from white to Starlight and black to Midnight. It was based upon the same iPhone 8 case design.
Release and reception
Years of rumors surrounding a new budget iPhone circulated before anything concrete emerged from Apple. From calling it the elusive "iPhone 9" to speculating over Face ID versus Touch ID, the rumor cycle was varied and long for this device. Speculation about such a product began in 2017, only a year after the first iPhone SE was launched.
Ming-Chi Kuo had the whole device pinned down back in October 2019, with the price, colors, and storage all accurately noted for investors.
Leaks surrounding the actual product began ramping up in early 2020, with Apple even leaking the product's name on its website. Ultimately the release was still somewhat a surprise, given the modern A13 chipset and low entry price.
One thing that makes the iPhone SE special is that its release took place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. To mark its significance, Apple is donating a portion of what is earned from sales of the (PRODUCT)RED model directly to the Global COVID-19 Relief Fund.
iPhone SE (first generation)
Apple introduced the original iPhone SE in 2016 as the company's first attempt at a budget iPhone. Its design mimicked the iPhone 5s but had some bells and whistles thrown in.
The flat sides, 4-inch display, and button-on-the-top design were some of the most all-time popular iPhone designs. As the iPhone 5s aged, people began to worry that there would be no successor, and everyone would be forced into the new soap-bar iPhone design of the iPhone 6 and later.
Apple finally revealed the budget device with modern chipsets and a 12MP camera in March 2016. It launched with 16GB of internal storage at $399 and 64GB at $499.
The revamped handset also included better LTE coverage and “Hey Siri” support.
The following year, Apple upgraded the base storage to 32GB and bumped the second tier to 128GB for the same prices.
The device was discontinued in 2018, with new models still for sale on clearance into 2019. Since the storage update in 2017, rumors circulated about a refreshed iPhone SE, which finally came to fruition in April 2020.
iPhone SE Pricing
The iPhone SE starts at $429 with 64GB of internal storage. You can get 128GB or 256GB of storage for $479 or $579, respectively. It is available in three colors: Midnight, Starlight, and (RED).