iPhone SE (2022) Preview – PhoneArena


 

Apple refreshes its flagship iPhones every year, like clockwork, but the budget iPhone SE model has remained unchanged on the market for about 2 years now. Finally, the wait for its successor is over, and in March 2022, the updated model arrives: welcome the new iPhone SE 2022 edition, aka iPhone SE 3rd generation!

But there is no ta-da moment here as this phone looks pretty much exactly like its predecessor. Which in turn looked just like the iPhone 8, which looked like the iPhone 7, which… looked like the iPhone 6 from 2014.

So, nothing really new here at least when it comes to the looks of it: same big bezels, same smallish 4.7-inch screen, but also same super reliable Touch ID and same slim and compact form factor. Being traditional also happens to have its benefits.

But… what is actually new? And can this updated iPhone SE fix some of the flaws of the original, namely the sub-par battery life and the few other kinks that needed work?

Let’s take a look!

This article is based on official information provided by Apple, but we have not yet had hands-on experience with the iPhone SE (2022).

Read more:

  • iPhone SE (2022) vs iPhone SE (2020): all the differences
  • iPhone SE (2022) vs iPhone 11
  • iPhone SE (2022) vs iPhone 13 mini

Design and Display Quality

Same old, same gold?

The iPhone SE looks and feels just like… well, the previous iPhone SE, and hopes for a redesign to Apple’s budget warrior were dashed.

So what do we have? It’s a 4.7-inch screen, with huge bezels on the top and bottom, but those also allow for our good pal Touch ID right in the front within easy reach. The design is slim and lightweight, shockingly so considering the ever growing sizes of modern phones, and even the iPhone 13 mini can learn a lesson or two about compactness here.

The materials still stand out against the competition: an aluminum frame and glass on both the front and the back, and even the quite practical IP67 water and dust protection rating, which Apple translates secures a drop in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes (again, the detail here is IP68 enabled flagship iPhones can withstand 6 meter deep drop for 30 minutes, at least in theory).

And your iPhone SE (2022) color options are the following: Black, Starlight (a slightly muddier version of white), and Product RED. 

What’s in the box

Apple no longer includes a charger in the box with flagship iPhones, and now the iPhone SE also joins that trend.

It comes with a Lightning cable in the box only, some user manuals and a SIM tool, but no headphones or anything else. So yes, you’d need to buy a charger separately.

Looking at the front of the phone, another thing that unfortunately has remained the same with the predecessor is the screen: the 4.7-inch screen size definitely feels smallish for a more demanding user, but that is the price to pay for the compact physical dimensions.

The screen features the same 750p “Retina” resolution, which we guess is fine, but look closer and it’s not quite as razor sharp as modern 1080p screens. Still, the bigger gripe here is not the resolution, it’s the old LCD tech that is still used here. Newer OLED screens feature bright and vibrant colors, while this LCD display, as good as it is, suffers from the limitations of the LCD technology as it doesn’t have the same contrast, deep blacks and instantaneous response time as OLED.

For all its worth, this is the same screen as before: same 1,400 to 1 contrast, same 625 max brightness, and no support for HDR of course.

In terms of biometrics, you get Touch ID, aka a traditional fingerprint scanner, and that’s a godsend for these Covid times as it’s fast, reliable and is not affected by masks.

Performance and Software

The Apple A15 here is flagship stuff at a budget price

Apple shook the budget smartphone market with the original SE that featured a flagship-grade processor, and the new iPhone SE only puts Apple further ahead with the Apple A15 chip inside it, the same as in the iPhone 13 series.

This chip is no joke: it will be relevant for years to come and it smokes the mid-range Snapragon 6xx and MediaTek processors that are commonly found at this price tier on Android phones.

We will be updating this article with detailed benchmarks and further analysis, but it’s clear from the get-go: this new iPhone SE remains ahead of the budget pack and actually even flagships when it comes to performance.

On the storage side, the base version still has 64GB storage, but you get the option to upgrade to 128GB and 256GB.

In terms of software, the new SE launches with the current iOS 15 version. iOS has been evolving slowly and steadily, keeping a familiar look throughout the years and only adding new features. What’s most notable here is the software support: Apple typically provides about 5 years of major software updates, far longer than the 2-3 years of updates you get with budget Android phones.

On the connectivity front, the iPhone SE now has 5G connectivity with sub6 band support but no mmWave option as on flagship iPhones. Not a huge loss in our book as mmWave is only available in few places.

One thing missing on the SE is the ultra-wideband (UWB) chip. The UWB chip is used to find lost devices but also helps with AirDrop, locating devices faster. 

Camera

The power of one

Lonely on the back of the phone sits a single 12MP wide camera. No ultra-wide, and no telephoto zoom lenses here, it’s just one camera, like in the good old times.

But thanks to the super fast A15 chip inside, you can get some stunning pictures out of it.
It utilizes most of the latest tricks you see on the iPhone 13: the chip enables computational photography, optimizes pictures for color and detail; and the Smart HDR 4 engine enhances color, contrast and noise. You also have support for Photographic Styles to tweak the color of your photos.

Not only that, but the ISP in the A15 Bionic brings a significant improves in video quality, reducing noise and especially so in lower light. Keep in mind that the SE still uses optical image stabilization (OIS) rather than the newer sensor-shift tech on the iPhone 13 series.

We will be updating this article with photos out of the SE soon, and giving you the full scoop, so stay tuned for that.

Audio Quality and Haptics

What doesn’t seem to have changed is the audio quality. Yes, you still get a dual speaker system with a bottom-firing main one and a helper speaker in the earpiece.

We are yet to listen to them, and we will update you with our thoughts soon.

One thing missing is a headphone jack, but of course, it’s Apple and the company has been super consistent with removing it, so that’s something probably not even worth mentioning.

Battery Life and Charging

Small improvement, but improvement nonetheless

One of the main limitations of the iPhone SE design is that it is just so thin and compact that you cannot fit a large battery inside that body, and the new iPhone SE unfortunately carries that limitation over.

Apple measures battery life in hours of continuous video playback and this new iPhone SE is rated at 15 hours of video playback and 10 hours of video streaming, two hours more on both counts compared to the preceding model. And it even matches the iPhone 11 in video streaming, but has a bit lower audio playback battery life. And it’s not quite as long lasting as the iPhone 13 mini either, but it’s an improvement and we’d take that.

*all values above are measured in hours.

So yes, battery life still remains a limitation of the SE, but less so now.

The maximum charging speeds this new iPhone SE supports are up to 20 watts, basically the same as on last year’s model (pick a charger accordingly).

As per our measurements, with an official Apple charger, a 15-minute top-up gives you 30% battery life back, a 30-minute top-up gives you about 55% battery, and a full 0 to 100% charge takes about 2 hours. Definitely not the fastest around, that’s for sure.

It also supports wireless charging but since it’s so thin, you don’t get the magnets for MagSafe that you have on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series, so there’s that.

Competitors

Finally, this budget iPhone SE remains very competitive at its starting price of $430, only ever so slightly higher than before.

Its weaknesses remain pretty much the same: an old time design, smallish screen, old LCD screen tech, only a single camera, but if you are just an average user who doesn’t do extraordinary things with their phone and just uses a phone as… a phone, well, this one is just that. It’s screaming fast. It’s compact and comfortably fits practically any pocket. It’s lightweight. Its camera seems to be far above the competition and it even captures great video.

Now, there are two big competitors in this space: the Samsung Galaxy A series, and the Pixel a family. The way we see it, their main advantage is the bigger screen and longer battery life.

The Galaxy A52 5G and the upcoming Galaxy A53 5G both have larger screens of the newer OLED kind, and they do offer an ultra-wide camera in addition to the main one, plus a far longer lasting battery. All of this, however, does come at a slightly higher price than the SE.
The Pixel 5a 5G edition is another great options that only loses in terms of performance speed, but also has a better-quality OLED screen, an ultra-wide camera that comes in handy, and an incredible battery that can even go as long as 2 days between charges.

Summary and Final Verdict

So… the iPhone SE has finally received a much needed fresh coat of paint, 5G connectivity, faster processor and an improved camera, but it hasn’t changed its proverbial colors.

It retains the familiar “iPhone with button” design that would please one former president. Put simply: it’s a classic that Apple sticks around with.

It doesn’t address the bigger issues with this design: the sub-par battery life in particular, but it also doesn’t pretend to be a power-user phone where those features might be more relevant.

If you just want a simple and compact budget iPhone, well… you can’t go wrong with this one! But if you hoped for something a bit more modern, you’d better get ready to spend more or look at the competition, or at Apple’s pricier models that is.





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