iPhone SE (2022) review: Apple’s ‘basic’ iPhone is supercharged but the small screen is starting to feel old

Bottom Line: Apple’s updated entry-level iPhone model is super powerful, but comes with an outdated start screen. It has improved battery life, but can still run out by the end of the afternoon if you use it a lot. Since it’s the only iPhone with a fingerprint reader, it’s a good choice for those who like the feel of the iPhone 6, 7, or 8 models, or who want a budget-friendly iOS. It’s less likely to be suitable for those who need good battery life or a more conventional sized smartphone screen.

Price: €529 (64GB), €579 (128GB), €699 (256GB).

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In a way, the iPhone SE is a relatively basic smartphone. It has the smallest, slowest display around. It uses the same physical phone design as the iPhones from six years ago. And it is the only smartphone in this price range with only one rear camera lens and a default storage level of just 64GB.


iPhone SE (2022) midnight black

On the other hand, the iPhone SE is also one of the most powerful smartphones in its category. Despite its identical design, its engine knocks out most similarly priced competitors: what’s important is lag-free use, and if you want to keep this up for four or five years, instead of just two or three years. Its interface and operation are smooth as butter. And while you’re stuck with a single rear camera, it’s pretty outstanding, especially for video, compared to most phones at that price point. And if fingerprint unlocking is your thing, Touch ID remains the best, fastest, most reliable system on the market.

Here’s what I found after a few days of non-stop use.

1. Screen

If there’s one thing that makes the iPhone SE an ‘entry level’ smartphone, it’s the display. At 4.7 inches, it’s one of the smallest smartphone screens you can buy today, although overall the phone is longer and wider than the 5.4-inch iPhone 13 mini. Unless you’re using an iPhone 6, 7, or 8 or another older phone with a small screen, it’s an adjustment to getting used to a screen this size, especially since most screens budget phones these days all start at six inches, which is almost twice the size of this one.


The iPhone SE (2022) comes in three different colors

The iPhone SE’s display is also basic in other ways. It’s still 60Hz, making it one of the ‘slowest’ scrolling screens on phones priced at €500 and up. However, if you’re switching to this feature from any iPhone prior to the iPhone 13 (or 12 Pro), you won’t notice it.

And it’s still colorful and bright (up to 625 nits).

One plus is that the iPhone SE’s screen is a bit stiffer than most previous iPhone models, using tougher glass on the front (and back) to make it more resistant to bumps or knocks. a little bit. It’s also relatively smudge-proof, thanks to an oleophobic coating, front and back.

2. Engine and power

This is where the iPhone SE really surprises. Its A15 Bionic chip pushes it to a performance equal to or in some cases above, an iPhone 12 Pro. That is although Apple still keeps the RAM memory level at a modest 4GB.

It’s definitely strong enough to get through anything I throw at it. It’s compressed between apps, never froze or lagged once. Using things like Maps is perfectly smooth, even when navigating through the streets using satellite 3D mode. It’s certainly powerful enough to handle the majority of mobile games well, even if the screen size isn’t ideal for this purpose.

In terms of comparative raw power, my online benchmark tests show that it performs below the level of the iPhone 13 but equal to or above that of the iPhone 12 Pro. It’s a very advanced arsenal a phone must have, when it’s supposed to be the ‘basic’ model of the fleet.

3. Camera

If you’re buying a phone with the best camera, the big limitation of the iPhone SE is that it only has one rear camera lens. This isn’t a surprise or even a disappointment – this is Apple’s ‘basic’ iPhone; there are six other iPhone models (Apple still sells the 2019 iPhone 11 on its online store in Ireland), all with at least two rear lenses.


Rosie the labradoodle: a moment from the iPhone SE (2022). Photo: Adrian Weckler

The only rear camera is a 12-megapixel standard lens system, wide-angle (or ‘1x’), f1.8 aperture. From my testing of it, it’s a relatively high-performance setup that delivers pretty stellar results, with one or two caveats.

Apple includes a portrait mode here, with all its great editing controls, for both selfies and from the rear camera.

Its casual everyday shots are also excellent overall, with excellent detail and excellent use of HDR to balance the shot.

On the other hand, there’s no night mode for regular photos, which is probably the biggest ‘standard’ phone camera feature you can miss on this device.

This is a bit of a letdown, as Apple could have included it with no extra effort or expense. Night mode is primarily a software feature powered by the phone’s engine; The iPhone SE has one of the most powerful chips on the market. (There’s an automatic night mode for Time-lapse shots in low light.)

The video is a comparative highlight. Apple has added optical image stabilization, which means that hand-shake videos shoot much smoother than on some other phones at this price point. Apple has also added 4K video at up to 60fps, which is more than enough for any video recording. You can also choose 1080p at 60fps (my default), 1080p at 30fps, or 720p at 30fps (if you want to save space).

I took some photos and videos with my iPhone 13 Pro, and there’s no doubt that the Pro model performs significantly better when it comes to video recording. For snapshots, the difference isn’t immediately apparent, until you’re shooting in low light.

All told, if the camera isn’t a primary purchase motivator but you want one that’s right for the occasions you need it, then the iPhone SE is more than enough.

4. Design and feel

It’s the thinnest and lightest iPhone you can buy, albeit a little longer and wider than the iPhone 13 mini. That makes it very pocket-friendly. Apple has also enhanced tempered glass on the front and back of the phone, using the same premium material found on the flagship iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models. It comes in three color options: ‘midnight’ (gloss black), ‘starlight’ (white) or Product Red.


iPhone SE (2022) in ‘midnight’ color. Photo: Adrian Weckler

5. Battery

Apple says that it has added about two hours of typical daily battery life (up to about 10 hours of streaming video) per charge to the iPhone SE, thanks to the larger physical battery and the efficient A15 Bionic chip. than.

However, this is still the most modest battery performance in the iPhone range. In the full three days I’ve used it so far, it dropped to 20pc around 5pm, significantly earlier than what I experienced from a top model.

To be fair, this isn’t designed to be Apple’s ‘power-user’ iPhone: if you want something really good for battery performance, then the 13 or (especially) models ) are the very spectacular 13 Pro – those models put Apple at the top of the league in battery life (for the first time).

For the record, the biggest battery drain I’ve encountered while using the iPhone SE comes from the usual: camera, excessive app hopping, and exiting social media apps. Using the display near maximum brightness didn’t help either. On the other hand, things like streaming video (YouTube or Netflix) don’t do it too bad.

As for charging, the iPhone SE supports wireless charging (from any standard Qi charger). It will also charge using Apple’s MagSafe charger, but does not support other MagSafe features. It is capable of charging up to 20 watts, which means you can recharge it in less than an hour.

And as is the norm now, there are no chargers or headphones in the box. There is, however, a cable – the ‘Lightning’ to USB-C cord (which means you need the USB-C plug, not the older USB-A type that most people have at home).

6. Other things to note

The iPhone SE comes with 5G onboard, although there aren’t many obvious benefits from using the technology yet. However, Apple has a few ideas here, including what it calls ‘Shareplay’. This is designed to let you watch TV shows in sync with your friends using FaceTime.

The phone is also IP67 water and dust resistant, which means it can survive up to 30 minutes in water at a depth of one meter.

The iPhone SE’s speakers are very good, but clearly inferior to models like the iPhone 13 or 13 Pro.

Finally, the phone comes with iOS 15.4 installed, which has a number of new features and design tweaks, from alarms to AirTag safety updates.

7. Who is the iPhone SE really suitable for?

For me, this phone fits two types of potential buyers. The first is someone who already has an iPhone 6, 7, or 8 and likes the look of that phone, especially the physical buttons. This person, who has a good screen size, is getting a very good deal on the iPhone SE. This is a technically up-to-date device that should last for several years and should handle any online service or app in that time, thanks to its muscular engine. And they pay less than half what they would buy for an iPhone 13. It’s certainly less than their iPhone 6, 7, or 8 price when they bought it.

A second buyer might be someone looking for a budget-friendly entry for the iPhone. At €529, the iPhone SE hits that mark. It’s worth noting, however, that the iPhone 11 still sells for just over €80, has a much larger screen (although the phone itself isn’t much bigger), slightly better battery life, and two rear cameras. after. Its only real drawback is that the engine isn’t very powerful. Overall, it really could still be a better deal for those used to larger screens.

8. Conclusion

If you’re comfortable with a smaller screen and don’t need your phone for constant power or photography, then this is a really good option. Yes, you can get better hardware specs (minus the engine) from many phones at this price point. But a big part of what you’re paying for here is the iPhone’s iOS operating system, as well as access to things like FaceTime and iMessage (and maybe even ‘Find My’ and Apple Pay) as well. as for an advanced feature set.

The biggest plus of the iPhone SE is that Apple has included its A15 Bionic chip in this phone, which means it should work really well for years to come. Its biggest minus is that it feels like a small, outdated screen. iPhone SE (2022) review: Apple’s ‘basic’ iPhone is supercharged but the small screen is starting to feel old

Fry Electronics Team

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