iPhone SE (2022) vs iPhone SE (2020): all the differences


These phones look almost exactly alike: the new iPhone SE (2022) edition, and the older iPhone SE (2020), and I doubt anyone would be able to even tell them apart if you see the two side by side on a table. That’s how similar they are!

And while keeping the classic iPhone look has its benefits as the design remains super compact and lightweight compared to most other 2022 phones, we are here to explore all the differences between the older model and its newer refresh.

And look under the hood, and you’d quickly notice the newer processor, added 5G connectivity, improved camera, all of that while miraculously having the newer iPhone SE (2022) model actually being a tiny bit lighter than before.

So in this article, we will also try to answer a few questions: what are all the curious little differences and details? Is this the upgrade all looking for a new budget phone were hoping for? And should you upgrade from an older iPhone SE (or probably even an aging iPhone 7/8, etc)? Let’s waste no time and get to exploring these compact phones that look cute, but pack a lot of firepower inside.

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

iPhone SE (2022) vs SE (2020) differences in a nutshell:

  • A15 chip vs A13 chip
  • More durable glass on 2022 model
  • Improved image quality
  • Improved video quality, especially in low light
  • 5G connectivity
  • Slightly longer battery life
  • $30 higher starting price on newer model

Read more:

Design and Display Quality

Old rather than gold

Being traditional and classic are often considered good things, but it’s really about the choice of words. Being “Classic” sounds cool, but being “old” is not something you want to hear.

Yet, time has taken its toll and it’s a situation where we have a bit of both here, the “classic” and the “old”.

First, because such large bezels and such small screen definitely look a bit out of place on a 2022 phone, be it even a budget model. But the secondly, being “classic” means you get to have a phone that is super thin and lightweight, and we almost forgot it was possible to make these.

The difference in build quality is tiny: the newer SE (2022) actually features a newer and more durable glass, so hopefully it won’t shatter the first time you drop it, but you’re probably going to have it in a case anyway.

The colors are also similar, the black and Product RED seem downright the same, but you no longer have a “white” model, but instead a slightly muddier “starlight” shade of white.

And yes, the physical dimensions of these two are exactly the same, but the weight is a tiny bit different: 148g on the older model vs 144g on the newer one. How is that even possible?

Alright, the screen. 4.7 inches, LCD, 750p resolution on both, with the tired “Retina” label on it. This is definitely an “old” kind of situation rather than a “classic”. First, this screen is just a bit too tiny for people who actually do stuff on their phones. Second, LCD? Come on! LCD screens have a ghosting effect while scrolling, colors on them appear bleaker than OLED, and they are just not as vibrant and enticing. No HDR support on either phone either. It is what it is, one of the bigger compromises of a budget phone.

No difference in the biometrics either, but that might be for the better: the Touch ID second gen fingerprint scanner here is fast and accurate on both. And it doesn’t care whether you have a mask on or not, it works just fine both ways.

Performance and Software

The A15 is faster, yes, but it might be more about future-proofing and new features

So you probably remember that the iPhone SE (2020) kind of shook the budget smartphone market two years ago. Whoa, a phone with a budget price and a flagship chip? That was kind of new. It’s not new now and it was almost expected for the SE (2022), yet it’s impressive nonetheless. But also, many people will say that it doesn’t really matter, or they don’t care. And we see that argument having value too: after all, most basic tasks will run just as good on the 2022 model as they do on the 2020 model.

So while the A15 chip is no joke, it’s more about future proofing this device through a long update cycle ahead of it, but also about enabling a bunch of cool new features that work a bit under the hood and on the camera front.

Now, we know you want to see the benchmarks and see if the compact form factor of the SE won’t actually throttle the A15 significantly, and we will have that soon, just keep patient for a while.

In terms of software updates, that’s where the 2022 model has the upper hand: the SE (2020) will eventually get dropped in probably 2-3 years, while the newer version will stay relevant for probably 5 years to come. That’s a big argument that should not be overlooked, especially if you stick with phones longer.

On the connectivity front, both models have 4G LTE, but the SE (2022) also brings 5G power. Admittedly, without the fancy mmWave magic for urban areas, but you probably shouldn’t be too upset as coverage is scarce on that. It does have sub6 type of 5G that will keep you covered in far more places.

One thing missing on both SE versions is UWB, or ultra-wide band, something useful for faster AirDrop functioning.


One camera, but it’s a doozy

If you harbored high hopes the newer SE would bring more cameras, well, it doesn’t.

What it does, however, is bring most of the computational magic out of the iPhone 13 flagship family, including computational photography magic, optimization of pictures for color and detail, and the Smart HDR 4 engine that enhances color, contrast and noise. You also have support for Photographic Styles to create your personal well… photo style!

What does this mean for actual photos? Well, we will be updating this section as soon as we get our hands on the SE (2022), so stay tuned.

Not only that, but the A15 also lifts up video quality on the SE (2022), reducing noise and especially so in lower light. Both SE versions use optical image stabilization (OIS) rather than the newer sensor-shift tech on the iPhone 13 series, in case you were wondering.

Audio Quality and Haptics

Apple has made one of the best loudspeakers on smartphones with the iPhone 13 series, it’s just incredible the oomph and power you can get out of those speakers, but the magic hasn’t fully carried over to the SE (2022) which is just too thin and compact, and looks as if it retains the same sound quality as the previous model. Decent, not great. Both the new and older version feature a bottom firing speaker working in close collaboration with the helper speaker in the earpiece.

And on the headphone jack front… come on, you didn’t really expect Apple to suddenly bring back the jack, did you?

Battery Life and Charging

Unexpected, small, 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.

However, despite all that Apple somehow managed to deliver better battery life! That’s exciting as this was the Internet’s number one complaing against the SE (2020).

Official Apple numbers show that the new iPhone SE lasts 15 hours vs 13 hours for the SE (2020) for video streaming. The iPhone 11 in comparison has a battery that lasts for 17 hours of continuous video playback, same with the iPhone 13 mini, and the bigger iPhone 13 can go all the way to 19 hours.

*all values above are measured in hours.

So yes, battery life still remains a limitation of the SE (2022), but not as much as before.

The maximum charging speeds this new iPhone SE supports are up to 20 watts, so no change here. According to our measurements, with an official Apple charger, a 15-minute top-up gives you about 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 on both. Definitely not the fastest around, that’s for sure.

Both phones support the rare for this class wireless charging feature, but since they are so thin, you don’t get the magnets for MagSafe that you have on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series, so no magnetic tricks are possible here.

Summary and Final Verdict

So… the iPhone SE (2022) is here but it does not bring a fresh coat of paint, it remains visually the same. But peek under the hood, and while the looks haven’t changed, you now get 5G connectivity, faster processor and an improved camera.

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

But it doesn’t address the biggest issues with this design.

The price difference of just $30 is not big, and it seems that Apple is discontinuing the older iPhone SE (2020) version, so you probably won’t be choosing between the two. An upgrade from the previous model, doesn’t really seem all that pressing if you are still happy with the 2020 edition. If you have an older phone, of course, the SE (2020) is a beautiful upgrade.

And that’s our thoughts on these two. Do you think Apple did enough to secure its budget base for the next two years? And would you get an SE (2022) for yourself or family and friends? Let us know your view on the matter right below.

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