iPhone SE (2022) review: A small bounce for the phone

sSince the advent of the iPhone 5c, Apple’s approach to making iPhones more affordable has been to stuff premium processors into cases belonging to older models. With the third generation iPhone SE, the company has stuck to this strategy. With a home button, top and bottom edges and rounded corners, the new iPhone SE is nearly identical to the 2020 model, at least on the outside. Inside, this year’s version has an A15 Bionic chip and 5G radio, which promises a significant speed boost. Apple is also touting longer battery life and improved durability on this year’s model, which will set you back a modest $429. That’s $30 more than the last iPhone SE, but still cheaper than the $450 Pixel 5a. If you want a simple iPhone that works like new, and don’t mind the old design and single rear camera, the iPhone SE might fit the bill.

design

At a time when all smartphones have basically gotten rid of the home buttons, this year’s iPhone SE looks outdated. The home button is located in a frame at the bottom of the screen, while the top bezel hides the front camera of the device. If you’re familiar with the latest iPhone SE, you’ll know what to expect: this year’s model is so similar that I find it hard to tell the two apart. The only way I would know which one I had is if I checked the back cover of the phone under a fluorescent light. The review unit Apple sent this year is dark blue, while my 2020 iPhone SE is black. Oh, and according to the spec sheets, the new SE is all-round Four grams lighter. Given the previous model that already looked outdated, the latest iPhone feels very stuck in the past.

Positives

  • Familiar Home Button and TouchID
  • Speedy A15 Bionic chip for the price
  • The camera takes surprisingly good pictures

cons

  • 64GB storage for the base model is paltry
  • Only one rear camera
  • Small and dim screen

However, despite its slim design, I like the way the SE feels. It’s very similar to the Pixel 3: it’s slim, slightly curved, and sturdy. The iPhone 13 mini is slightly smaller and thicker, with flat edges and a notch at the top of its 5.4-inch screen that houses the front camera. If you hate notches but for some reason don’t mind the edges, then the iPhone SE’s retro look is for you.

Gallery: iPhone SE (2022) review | 11 pics


More importantly, Apple says that the iPhone SE is covered in the same tough glass used in the iPhone 13. While I haven’t left my review unit yet, knowing this will be more scratch-resistant offers some peace of mind. I don’t use a case with the iPhone 13, and it’s still authentic, despite being thrown into bags with keys and other sharp objects. It picks up fingerprints and smudges very easily, though. It’s also good that the iPhone SE has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance – which the Galaxy A52 5G and Pixel 5a also offer.

Display and sound

Like many phones from 2017, this year’s iPhone SE features a 4.7-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 1334 x 750. To be honest, those specs are quite tragic for the 2022 standards, with which OLED became popular. Don’t get me started on the refresh rate. The Galaxy A52 has a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display that works at 120Hz, while the Pixel 5a’s OLED panel refreshes at least 90Hz.

I used four phones – the iPhone SE, its predecessor, the iPhone 13 mini and Pixel 5a – to watch a summary of Apple’s YouTube event simultaneously on each device at maximum brightness. The iPhone 13 mini was the brightest, followed by the Pixel. The iPhone SEs were indistinguishable from each other and had a reddish tint compared to the other two.

Sherlyn Low / Engadget

It won’t amaze you, but the iPhone SE’s display is serviceable. I watched the beginning Jon Stewart problem On the TV+ app, and while everything looked a bit muted compared to the OLED screens I’m used to, the display still looked pretty good. You’ll definitely want to push the screen to maximum brightness to watch videos outdoors under the sun.

Despite its small size, the iPhone SE’s speakers are surprisingly loud. I enjoyed listening to the tap dance sequence in a performance video anything goesin addition to Sutton Foster’s extensive vocals.

cameras

The iPhone SE’s biggest drawback in the mid-range space is its cameras. It has a single 12MP rear sensor with f/1.8 aperture, while most competitors come with at least two, which makes them more versatile in shooting platforms.

iPhone SE (2022) mid-air horizontally, with part of a man behind.

Sherlyn Low / Engadget

But if you are satisfied with a single camera, the iPhone SE 2022 will suffice. It takes surprisingly sharp and colorful photos on par with the iPhone 13 mini. The trinkets on the red brick facade of a local building looked equally obvious when taken with any phone, even when I zoomed in fully. Obviously, with the A15 Bionic and processing upgrades like Smart HDR 4, Apple was able to make the iPhone SE’s camera work in addition to the main sensor on the flagship.

The Pixel 5a generally produced darker images with cooler, more neutral tones in its images, and while I’m not a fan of Apple’s default processing, which has a slightly yellow undertone, you have the ability to change that. The company introduced Photography Styles with the iPhone 13 series, which allows you to adjust preset profiles for contrast and tone. Each photo you take will use those settings (until you choose a different style). Fortunately, the new iPhone SE also offers photography modes, so you can exercise more control over how your shots look.

I was surprised by how similar the iPhone SE photos are to the iPhone 13 mini. From landscapes to photos of my co-workers, there were hardly any differences in the shots taken by the two phones. The Pixel 5a was better at isolating the spiky hairs of our video product from the background than any iPhone, but all three performed just as well.

Gallery: iPhone SE (2022) camera samples | 13 photos


Our main complaint about the latest iPhone SE camera was the lack of a night mode. This year’s model still doesn’t offer one, and while some of the photos I took of the buildings shrouded in mist one night came out muddy, others came out bright and sharp. My shaky hands likely contributed to the blurring, but overall, Google maintains an advantage in low light.

Up front, the iPhone SE’s 7MP camera doesn’t quite live up to the competition on paper, but it actually works just as well as the Pixel 5a and iPhone 13 mini. I have struggled to survive in bleak environments, though; I noticed a noticeable difference in the selfies I took inside a stationary car one night. The iPhone SE photos weren’t as clean as the others, but they were still good enough to share.

performance

Synthetic benchmarks don’t paint the most complete picture of the phone’s performance, but it’s a good reference point. The iPhone SE’s Geekbench 5 results blew up the Galaxy S22 series, and even came close to matching the iPhone 13 Pro. This makes sense, given that Apple has equipped its budget phone with the same powerful A15 Bionic chip that is in its flagship series.

In everyday use, the A15 Bionic was powerful enough for most tasks, including editing and exporting a minute-long video in iMovie and using the camera’s Live Text feature to scan product labels around me. I noticed some lags while setting up the phone, with noticeable pauses when I clicked Continue until the next page appears. I was also unable to record the screen while using SharePlay in a FaceTime video call to show my homepage to my colleague which, according to the alert, was a buffering issue. Apple also doesn’t allow you to record your screen while SharePlaying, which I hope is what the notification explained instead. But everything went smoothly.

Close-up of the lower half of the iPhone SE, showing the Home button.

Sherlyn Low / Engadget

The iPhone SE got a little warm during the tests and I used the camera’s live text feature to scan addresses on the bottle and search for them on Maps. Fortunately, it cooled quickly.

As someone who is used to gesture-based navigation, I needed to re-acquaintance with using the home key. no physical pressure; As on the previous iPhone SE, this is a touch sensor that vibrates in response when pressed. However, as odd as it felt to navigate iOS using the home button, I welcomed the convenience of Touch ID.

Unlocking the phone was easy too, and if you’re familiar with the latest iPhone SE sensor, you’ll get used to it, especially since the hardware is exactly the same. In fact, if you do not know life without the button at the bottom of the screen and do not want to give it up, then this is the only modern phone you have.