I was partial to the second-generation iPhone SE, which gave you (at the time) modern iPhone performance and features in a retro Touch ID package for only $399. I recommended it to many regular people who didn’t need the latest and greatest until the advent of the iPhone 13, which made the iPhone SE look a little dated.
Apple has now announced the third-generation iPhone SE, much in the same vein. It starts at a slightly higher $429 for 64 GB of storage, but I think the 128 GB model at $479 is a no-brainer of an upgrade. One of the most common iPhone problems I field is people who are perpetually out of storage. An extra $50 is well worth it to avoid the tech equivalent of a toothache. There’s also a 256 GB model for $579.
What makes this iPhone SE a bargain is that it contains the same A15 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 13 but starts at $370 less. It also now offers 5G connectivity (though not the fastest millimeter-wave 5G—see “AT&T and Verizon Debut Faster, More Widely Available 5G Service,” 22 January 2022). It also doesn’t support Gigabit LTE, so 4G connectivity may be a bit slower than on the iPhone 13.
Thanks to the A15 Bionic, the iPhone SE’s rear camera now supports many of the computational photography features of more expensive iPhones, including Smart HDR 4, Photography Styles, and Apple’s machine-learning-powered Deep Fusion feature. It also supports Live Text recognition (see “Digitize Any Text with Live Text in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15,” 4 October 2021). You won’t find the iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode, however.
Should you buy an iPhone 13 or the new iPhone SE? Let’s run a quick comparison:
- The iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch Retina HD display, while the iPhone 13 boasts a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display. The iPhone SE’s screen is smaller and not quite as sharp but is still a very good screen.
- The iPhone SE only has a single 12-megapixel rear camera, unlike the iPhone 13, which has a dual 12-megapixel system with Wide and Ultra Wide cameras (the iPhone 13 Pro adds a Telephoto camera).
- The iPhone SE has somewhat worse battery life than the iPhone 13, but it should still be fine for most people. Apple says it has better battery life than the second-generation iPhone SE or any previous 4.7-inch iPhone model.
- The iPhone SE is rated at IP67 for water resistance: up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. The iPhone 13’s IP68 rating makes it water-resistant up to 6 meters for 30 minutes. We don’t recommend testing either one.
- The iPhone SE features the same tough glass as the back of the iPhone 13 but does not include the Ceramic Shield technology Apple introduced with the iPhone 12.
- The iPhone SE doesn’t include Ultra Wideband, so you won’t be able to use Precision Finding with AirTags.
- The iPhone SE can use wireless Qi chargers but is not compatible with MagSafe, unlike the iPhone 13. It also supports fast charging through a Lightning cable.
- The iPhone SE’s screen isn’t quite as bright as the iPhone 13, and it has far less contrast.
The third-generation iPhone SE comes in midnight (black), starlight (white), and (PRODUCT)RED.
Speaking of colors, If you’ve been hesitating about buying an iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro and the new iPhone SE doesn’t meet your needs, Apple is hoping to tempt you into the iPhone 13 fold with two new colors: Green for the iPhone 13 and Alpine Green for the iPhone 13 Pro.
All the iPhones mentioned here will be available on 18 March 2022.