Third-Generation iPhone SE Is Another Great Bargain
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.
Josh, from the Apple website: Qi wireless charging is supported in the new SE. (iPhone - Compare Models - Apple (CA))
Pretty certain I will be replacing my iPhone SE (2016) with this model. A high-end camera is not an important feature – but small form factor and Touch ID are nice. It’s a winner.
I also need to upgrade my wife’s 3G flip phone – and soon – and will replace the battery on the old SE (currently rated at 89%) before giving it to her.
Yep. The reason I thought wireless charging wasn’t supported was this bit from the comparison chart.
This is nice, but it also reminds me. Long live the iPhone mini.
Right, Qi is supported, but not MagSafe.
I think this is my iPhone 8 replacement. And the trade nets another $100 off. I would keep the 8 as a spare or donate to family member, but the battery life is waning… two 30-minute phone call will reduce the battery 30%. When I thought of having new battery installed, the cost would best be spent on the SE. Not fan of FaceID or spending $$$$ on a iPhone 13pro, and still no sign of iPhone 12Pro refurbs. I mean, have you seen the refurbs in the Apple Store? Only 8 and 11 models. For last 5 months.
So yes, this is a bargain. I may go for it as I don’t need the features of the higher models. YMMV.
Other interesting differences (See also a iPhone 13-vs-SE comparison):
I may have done this had I not gotten the 13 Mini last year. Still happy with that though I miss touch ID at times.
Thanks for those details, David. I’ve added some more detail to the article. Some of that stuff probably isn’t important for the intended audience of this phone, but the slower LTE and lack of Ultra Wideband are noteworthy.
This is actually good to know. The major carriers may be shutting down CDMA, but we frequently roam to US Cellular when we are in NH, and US Cellular I believe is keeping their CDMA network running for calls and text messages while they shut down EVDO for data. (LTE signal in rural NH can be very spotty). We were thinking of upgrading my wife’s iPhone 8 to the new SE and giving her 8 to her mom, who currently uses a Verizon 5c (which can’t do VoLTE so will not work well when she is in Verizon territory after Verizon turns off CDMA/EVDO), so maybe we’ll get my wife a 13 Mini instead.
At least FaceID with masks should be here next week. I think if you can afford a 13 mini, it is obviously the better choice. If you can’t lay out $700 for a phone, the SE is a very nice budget alternative.
The real issue is next year. Will the 13 mini still be sold as a holdover? Sure hope so. I like the new green option.
2020 SE comes with 4 GB RAM. This is the same as the 12/13. A nice upgrade over the previous SE’s 3 GB.
More expensive than the 2nd gen SE for very little benefit as far as I can see. Just seems to be a feeble excuse to put the price up.
According to Macworld it doesn’t support “full 5G” - not important with current coverage but maybe an issue in years to come.
Did I read it correctly that the new SE doesn’t work with some 3G networks? If so, that is a big show-stopper for rural areas in Australia.
Off-topic but it is disappointing that 27" iMacs have vanished from the Apple line-up with no sign of M1 replacements:
Just the CDMA 3G networks, so will depend on whether those rural areas currently have CDMA only or both CDMA and GSM 3G until they are all gone.
It’s great value but the Mini is clearly the better phone. If money isn’t an issue I’d be jumping on the Mini.
I agree. I went through an exhaustive comparison myself and only found two negatives for the mini, FaceID which I understand I’ll get used to given time and +$270 which seems to be to be a fair price for all the added features:
Nice discussion of the iPhone SE at Daring Fireball.
I think that the comparison to the iPhone 13 should include the Mini version, since it is closer to the SE3 in form factor and cost.
Other than that, this is one of the better reviews/comparison articles that I have read.
I’ve already ordered two of the SE3 128GB models but I am reconsidering my decision. There are features that the Mini13 has that we may appreciate having, mainly the better display. Since we tend to keep our iPhones for a long time the cost isn’t a big factor. (We used our 5S iPhones for 5 years but upgraded to a 6S because we got them brand new for $200 each). Unfortunately, the old A9 chip in the 6S is a bottleneck when running a newer iOS. Ours are running iOS 12.4.1.
Deciding on a replacement iphone and I currently have the 8, which I did the update to 15.4 yesterday, and to my AppleTV 4K and my home pods. So far, no issues EXCEPT that the Honeywell Thermostat app for my thermostat has been alerting me every hour for humidity change in my basement. No leaks or such but its unnerving as to make it stop, the notifications for range report “please allow 24hrs to update”… ? So, I have to wait till their “residio formerly Honeywell” servers update? So in the meantime, I turned off notifications. Which is the reason I have the app and water sensor…incase of leaks. Didn’t do this before update.
Anyway, I wanted to also note that iPhone 12 refurbs are back in the Apple store. Someone in Tidbits did note that Apple tends to update models in March so…thank you!
Here is my query: Get the SE (3rd gen) and forgo getting LiDAR and features of 12Pro for $800~ or stick with SE for $500~ which is basically my iPhone 8 but with 5G support, newer battery, faster processor, more ram and still has home button.
I have 12Pro and vote for that; I prefer the form factor and Face ID is just not optional once you get used to it. Camera much better as well if that means anything to you. It seemed like I’d miss the home button but so don’t, again, after a bit of “getting used to” which was minimal for me. But if you like smaller, I get it. For me size of 12Pro is sweet spot.
As I noted in the SE thread, IMHO if you can afford a 13, it is obviously the better choice. If you can’t lay out >$700 for a phone, the SE is a very nice budget alternative.
Thanks. I went with the SE 3rd gen. Cost was mostly choice, along with keeping same size. I wanted the 12Pro but felt the cost wasn’t much less than a 13pro but ths ize was a factor. I need the smaller SE (which is identical to my 8). Decided to get rid of the Iphone 6S I had left in a drawer ($30 refund when the kit shows up to ship back).
Still, an unlocked, new SE 3rd gen, 5G cellular, 4GB ram, 128G ram, better battery. $449+ tax.
Rant: I can’t believe that Apple wants $35 for a silicone shell or $45 for a leather case, where one can get a better case for $15-20 from Speck or other on Amazon. Just really…what a scammy business. Even their price models for storage on the iPhone, where another 64GB is $50 more, but 128GB more is $100. Its like no savings. e.g. 64Gb flash storage is…$15 on most USB devices. LOL…my Speck just started a tear on the bottom. Guess it’s time…
If the SE is already at your size/weight limit, only the 13 mini is really an alternative. The 13 Pro is 4 mm wider and 42% heavier. Of course the mini is also substantially more expensive than the SE (+$270), so you can either be on a budget or want svelte or want the best cameras, but you can only have one of those three at a time. I sometimes still wonder if the 13 mini will eventually morph into the 4th gen SE.
I tend to hold onto my equipment for a long time, so I’m upgrading from an iPhone 6s (if the device I have still does all the stuff I really need, why would I replace it?). In the past, I’ve often bought high-spec hardware to get the most longevity, but as prices and specs have gone increasingly higher, I find that I really just don’t need the top-end stuff anymore.
The iPhone SE (2022) is a great upgrade to my iPhone 6s. Same size I’m used to (I don’t really want a bigger screen because I can just barely reach the whole surface on the 6s), same TouchID that I prefer (I prefer an authentication system that I have to physically touch vs. one that operates at range). The SE is way less slippery than the 6s, which is a nice bonus because I can maybe skip the phone case. Way better battery life than my old iPhone, and the A15 chip in the SE should be supported by iOS for many years (ooh, and 4GB of RAM—my 6s running iOS15 is sluggish and aggressively terminates apps, I assume because of low memory).
And in a couple of years, if the battery wears down or there’s some amazing feature in a new phone, I won’t feel nearly as bad for replacing a less-than-$500 phone than I would replacing an $700 or $1000 phone. Replacing more frequently may benefit other people in my household because I could pass down a phone with more support lifetime left (hopefully the 6s will get another year or two of security updates).
All that said, the iPhone 13 mini is a great phone, and if you take lots of photos, prefer FaceID, and/or want a smaller size than the SE, and can afford an extra ~$250, it’s a solid upgrade over the SE.
I just received my SE 2022. … I feel really… embarrassed.
When I used the Apple iPhone comparison tool, which I recommend, I had selected iPhone 8, the SE 2022 (3rd Ed) and iPhone 12Pro.
Now budget wise, the SE was my choice. However, I made the poor error in 8 vs 8Plus.
I have the 8Plus which is much larger. I’m laughing. I needed the home button and savings. Ideal size would really be the 13Pro for its bigger than the 12Pro and $150 more. Eh. But hey, there is always the option to return it in 14 days if this one is too small. Pennywise…pound what?
Update: I’m keeping it. The limitations, small as they are, are outweighed by the newer feature set and convenient size. And that if in a year, the shortcomings are an issue, I’ll see what the next iPhone brings.
After giving it some thought, we decided to keep the SE3. One of the reasons I would upgrade to an iPhone 13 is the better camera. But while I was on the fence info surfaced online that the iPhone 14 is likely to see an upgrade to a 48mp sensor. I had no idea that the current iPhone 13 camera only has a 12mp sensor. I would have been very disappointed to learn that after I had spent the extra money that it has the same number of pixels as the SE3 camera.
I realize that sensor pixels in a phone is a relative thing. . . It’s still a tiny sensor compared to my DX/FX Nikons. And that the iPhone 13 models have additional lenses, processing options and better low-light imaging. But I rarely use my iPhone for photos in very low light so it isn’t a big deal for me.
My budget was not an issue in selecting an iPhone model. . . I can afford any iPhone 13 model. But I am sensitive to getting the best value I can depending on my personal needs and I simply do not need the iPhone 13 bells and whistles. If my requirements change I know that I can sell the SE3 and get a very good return for a used phone in excellent condition. That money can be used to help pay for a new iPhone.
Setting up the SE3 was the easiest experience yet using the Bluetooth data migration feature. After 5 days using the SE3 I am glad that I stuck with my original decision.
I understand the attraction using the SE3 without a case. . . I got a red iPhone and it’s a shame to cover it with a case. But my iPhone 3S would have probably died a few days after I got it when I dropped it onto asphalt and it hit on a corner of the phone.
Fortunately, I had the 3S in an Otterbox Defender case. . . All it did was bounce once and the phone suffered no damage.
My SE3 is the fourth iPhone paired with a Defender case. I want a case that I can clip onto my waistband and the Defender comes with a great detachable belt clip. My wife surprised me by choosing another Defender because she like the clip for when she is wearing something without pockets, an apron when cooking, etc. Our phones are at some increased risk while we tend to our rural property and enjoy podcasts while doing mindless chores.
Of course the ultra-protective case adds a little size and weight but it makes using the slippery and cold iPhone a real pleasure. When I am done with an iPhone it comes out of the case looking like new, which means I can get top-dollar on CraigsList for my used phones. I always include the case with the iPhone as a deal-sweetener at no extra charge.
This time I opted to trade-in my 6S to Apple since it is so old, the battery was at 85% and even mint-condition phones are going for around $100, more or less. Apple credited me $30 and the trade-in process was much quicker and easier than selling the phone to a private party.
BTW, Otterbox customer service has been terrific over the years, replacing the exterior rubber case for free once or twice and only charging a nominal shipping fee. One time they just sent me an entire replacement case for free.
The current Defender model has a superior rubber outer covering compared to the cases I used with my 3S, 5S and 6S iPhones. I doubt that it will need replacing within the minimum 5 years I plan on using the SE3. But since Otterbox is so generous when replacing the outer covering if it stretches, etc. I may get another one so the new owner will have a mini condition case.
Otterbox customer service is awesome!!!
I just wish their damn cases didn’t break once a year like clockwork.
I’m trying a Lifeproof SEE with my 13 Mini - it’s clear with a pop of color on the buttons.
I’m surprised to hear that but depending on the usage conditions just about anything will break. . . What is the weak spot in your experience?
Fortunately there are other super-protective cases. It has been years since I last looked at Defender alternatives but some of them were even beefier than the Otterbox option.
One reason I prefer the Defender is that it comes in various colors. My new case is a dark purple color; my wife’s case is teal. In the beginning black was the only option for Otterbox and its competitors.
They upsold me the Defender after going through a few Commuters (4s and 2016 SE for Commuters). I loved the colors but found them to be lacking in recent years, even for newer phones.
The flap that covered the middle port always ripped on the Commuter. Then the outer case would develop a crack, usually in that same lower area. I got snow in the port once which put the phone in rice for an entire weekend. I’ve been using them before they were made in China, and the early ones were way more durable.
I had 3 Defenders… I bought the first in 2018 for the SE (because I was annoyed that yet another Commuter broke). In 2019, that one developed a seal leak. When that happens, you’ll be on the phone when it’s hot and your sweat will be sucked right into the phone. The phone will no longer respond to touch because it’s covered in sweat and it’s not easy to resolve while you’re on the phone since it seems to take 5 hands to release the clips to open the case.
Probably because I’ve been working from home most of the time, that one lasted till summer 2021, when it failed in the same way. I got a replacement but also got the 12 Mini a few months later.
You will find reviews that say the same thing.
That said my phones were always in great shape and survived all drops. But it was really frustrating for me as I kept the phone for so long and by 2021 I had a choice of black black or black for a replacement case. Luckily my outer cover was fine, I just needed the inner case (I didn’t even have good choices in 2019).
I used a full Lifeproof case for a year as well, but I couldn’t control the volume button, the home button rarely worked and the plastic over the screen got really scratched up.
The SEE is a slip on with a lip, and I have a screen protector on it. I’ve dropped the Mini a couple of times… so far so good. I expect the back will be scratched at some point. I do drop my phone so I need some sort of protection. It’s a lot less bulky than the Commuter even, which I really like.
I suspect that your first Defender case is the same design that I used with my iPhone 6S. It was not the same quality as my previous Defenders. The case that is on my new SE3 has a redesigned outer case. . . It is highly textured and the rubber has a more rigid quality to it than the previous 6S case. In fact, it was very difficult to detach it from the inner polycarbonate shell the first time I did it. (My thumbs hurt for a day afterwards.)
The 6S outer case started stretching within the first year of use, something that did not happen with my other Defenders. The port covers on the new case are also beefier especially the Lightning port which gets the most use on my phone.
I also experienced stretching of the outer case with my 5S which I used for over 5 years. But the issue developed after around 4 years of daily use, which is a long time when it comes to smartphones. LOL
Now I have only had the new case for around a week but I think that it should hold up much better than the previous design. Perhaps Otterbox has learned from past mistakes.
Now I am going to see if I can find a reliable wireless charger. . . Rumor has it that Defenders can be problematic re wireless charging; some users report having issues with Otterbox brand chargers!
I wouldn’t blame you if you stay away from Otterbox cases. But if you find yourself wondering how things are going with our cases somewhere down the road, feel free to get in touch for an update. And if you stumble upon something that really floats your cork, I doubt that I am the only iPhone owner who would love to hear about it.
That’s good to know! I always check the usual suspects when I need a new case. At the moment I am really happy with the Lifeproof SEE but I’ve only had it since October, so time will tell.
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