Depending on whom you speak to, the iPhone SE is either the ‘cheapest iPhone’ or the ‘smallest iPhone’ today. However, the phone is actually just a toned-down iPhone, which serves the purpose of an entry-level device in Apple’s portfolio.
As a reviewer, it’s somewhat difficult to figure out who the new iPhone SE (2022), which was released earlier this month, is really for. It does feel smaller, but with the iPhone 12 and 13 Mini out there, it’s not the only option for those who want compact smartphones that don’t peek out of your pocket. At a starting price of Rs. 43,900, it’s not particularly cheap either.
The iPhone SE’s strength is performance. The phone uses the iPhone 8’s chassis and a 4.7-inch LCD display, but with the same A15 Bionic chip that powers Apple’s top end iPhone, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max.
On paper, the iPhone SE is faster than last year’s iPhone 12 series. It can handle the most resource-intensive apps and games available today, and will handle anything from web browsing to multi-tasking as well.
The catch, however, is that it will do so on a smaller display. Compact phones are nice, but most apps today are meant for bigger displays. If you’re switching to this from an Android phone, don’t be surprised if things feel cramped on this one.
Moreover, the phone still uses an older display and has the same cameras as the 2020 edition of the SE.
The 4.7-inch LCD display on the iPhone SE is bright and has decent colour reproduction too, but it lacks the vibrancy of an iPhone 13 or iPhone 12 series. Those devices have optical light emitting diode (or OLED) panels, which produce better contrast by design.
More importantly, the iPhone SE’s display lacks enhanced refresh rates, which are common even on much cheaper Android phones today. Refresh rate is the number of times an image can be displayed on the screen per second. Faster refresh rates enhance the general scrolling and user experience of a phone.
To be sure, it still has 60Hz refresh rates, which is adequate for watching movies and general usability. However, anyone who has used a phone with a faster refresh rate will likely feel the difference.
On the other hand, Apple has fitted a larger battery on this device, with which it lasts just about a full work day. Heavy users though, or even those who have many video calls to attend, will need to charge the device at least twice a day.
Further, unlike most modern devices, the iPhone SE has only one camera on the back. The company has added its “Deep Fusion” technology though, which enhances details in low light shooting conditions, but this is far from the best camera you can get in this price range. Competing devices from OnePlus, Samsung and others are more feature rich.
In sum, the iPhone SE is a perplexing device. It used to be about value earlier, but with an iPhone 12 Mini being sold at around Rs. 52,000 on e-commerce websites, you could get all of Apple’s best features without exactly spending a fortune. The iPhone SE perhaps fits users who want the privacy features Apple’s operating system offers, but can’t stretch their budget beyond the Rs. 45,000 figure.
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Compact form factor, fast performance; camera, battery life can be better
Price: starts at Rs. 43,900 (for 64GB variant)
Display: 4.7-inch LCD Retina HD display, 60Hz refresh rate
Storage: Available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB options
Processor: A15 Bionic chip
Camera: 12MP rear, 7MP front