Everyone defines value differently, but it’s hard to argue with a brand new iPhone 2022 for just Rs. 97,999. There’s that promise in the new iPhone SE (3rd generation), Apple’s third attempt at what has proved to be a winning formula, and now updated with a newer chipset, 5G support, and better camera and battery.
At a time when four-figure smartphones – including Apple’s – are the norm, the iPhone SE feels like a strategy shift. It’s not that cheap phones are common, but that the compromises all add up to a lackluster experience. Even Apple makes compromises, but it’s where the new iPhone SE places its priorities that sets it apart from most rivals.
The phone you 64GB of storage and comes in Midnight Black, Starlight white, and RED. You can keep using the same cases and accessories you had for the previous iPhone SE, since it looks pretty much the same.
A familiar design
Apple usually mentions its green credentials in its keynote, but nothing quite beats the iPhone SE for recycling. We saw the same physical design we saw on the iPhone 8 back in 2017 (which wasn’t too far from the iPhone 7 before it), with a 4.7-inch display There’s a glass front, a metal back, and a glass back.
Having more budget to spend on what’s inside, of course, and the pre-notch looks are combined with the same A15 Bionic chip that runs the iPhone 13. There’s a recipe – flagship processor with borrowed style – that rivals using third-party chipsets can’t seem to crack. In the Android world, smaller and cheaper usually means slower, but not for the iPhone SE.
The compromises make the new iPhone SE feel even more like an outlier compared to Apple’s other smartphones. The phone has a 4.7-inch LCD panel, a Touch ID home button, and a single camera on the back. I’m always surprised at how much-unused fascia space there is above and below the screen when I pick up the iPhone SE.
The solid screen pales next to OLED
Retina screens themselves are fine, though they’re not cutting-edge yet. This display has a 326ppl resolution that’s OK for this size, and True Tone matches the display’s color temperature to the ambient light. After you’ve lived with it, it’s one of those things you don’t want to give up.
Still, compare it to the HDR-capable OLED iPhone 13 Series, and you might start thinking about getting an iPhone 13 mini. Newer screens have better color and contrast, as well as deeper blacks and better brightness. Indoors, the iPhone SE’s 600 nits are okay, but outside I missed the OLED panel’s 800-1200 nits.
Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor still has a legion of fans, and I can understand their adoration. Face ID-equipped iPhones can still be unlocked while wearing a mask, but only with an Apple Watch – and that can be glitchy at times. Just wish Apple would put the sensor in the power button as it does on the (admittedly larger) iPad Air.
Like the 2022 iPad Air, this 3rd generation iPhone SE gets 5G support for the first time, though it’s not quite the same as the iPhone 13 or iPad Pro. You get sub-6 GHz support, the faster-than-LTE networks gaining traction in the US and elsewhere right now. The only thing missing from the list is mmWave 5G, which is faster, assuming you can get service.
That practical limitation means the iPhone SE’s partial embrace of 5G isn’t all that hassle in practice. If you live in a city with mmWave 5G, its absence might annoy you, but for most people, those networks are few and far between. For example, I’m glad to see WiFi 6 support, and I really like how Apple keeps their AirPods earbuds and accessories connected over Bluetooth.
An unexpectedly good camera
No ultra-wide or optical zoom, but it does have optical image stabilization, Apple’s Deep Fusion and Smart HDR 4 computational photography, and Portrait mode. It’s software smarts – enabled by the new chipset – that seem to have the biggest impact in 2022.
Results have to be pushing the limits of Apple’s sensor and are unexpectedly good when compared to what an iPhone 13 Pro Max can produce in the same situation. I’m particularly impressed with how well the new iPhone SE handles scenes with extreme lightings, such as when objects are backlit by the sun. It can easily blow out details in the foreground on lesser cameras, but Apple’s HDR processing handles it well.
Definitely not the full iPhone experience. Portrait mode, for instance, works with people and pets, not inanimate objects. Even Night mode, which can pull out impressive levels of detail in low light, isn’t available. While the iPhone SE can take 4K videos with stabilization, it doesn’t have the clever – but perhaps a little gimmicky – Cinematic mode that the iPhone 13 Series has.
Longevity is the key
Overall, though, the iPhone SE’s chipset is the best thing about it. Apple’s cutting-edge silicon makes iOS fly, but the real savings are in the assurance that buyers will get many years of software updates.
As an example, iOS 15 runs on iPhones older than the iPhone 6S, which was launched in 2015. Apple doesn’t commit how long it’ll keep updating old phones, but it always keeps them up-to-date for much longer than its Android rivals. Considering cheaper Android phones have just two to three years of updates, that’s pretty impressive.
Another factor to consider is battery life. Apple is combining hardware and software changes for its budget hero for 2022: A larger battery with A15 Bionic efficiency improvements. Along with fast wired charging, there’s Qi wireless charging – though no MagSafe, so the iPhone SE won’t stick to a charging pad. Apple only includes a USB-C to Lightning cable in the box, so you’ll have to bring your own 20W charger.
We promise up to 15 hours of playback or 1-2 days of average use. That’s based on people who wouldn’t consider themselves Smartphone addicts. My daily driver, the new iPhone SE, just couldn’t keep up with my iPhone 13 mini, making it into the evening, but not longer. On the plus side, Apple will replace a faulty iPhone SE (3rd generation) battery, if it’s out of warranty.
A budget phone with admirable focus
I’d still recommend cross-shopping if you want to stick with Apple. Yes, the cheapest iPhone 13 mini (with 128GB of storage) costs Rs. 198,300 more than the iPhone SE 128GB, but it has a bigger screen, a better camera, mmWave 5G support, and better battery life. Those are benefits you should consider. Apple mobile price in Pakistan is very affordable at Pinback. Just visit and buy your favorite phone.
Alternatively, a Pixel 5a with 5G has dual rear cameras, a larger screen, and Google’s latest computational photography. On the negative side, it doesn’t feel as nice as the iPhone SE, there’s no wireless charging, and you’ll need to be okay with Android.
The iOS fan on a budget who doesn’t want to consider a refurbished iPhone is probably better off with the new 64GB or 128GB iPhone SE. Anything more expensive, and the difference in price between that and the iPhone 13 mini is too small not to make it worth it. It’s also worth seeing what carrier deals are available since the iPhone 13 series is getting a lot of attention right now.
That’s not a dig at the iPhone SE (3rd generation). Apple’s cheapest iPhone keeps on doing what matters most: providing reassurance that the budget Smartphone you buy today will last. Apple’s recipe to achieve all of that is starting to show its age, but it’s still a great bargain in the segment.