iPhone SE review round-up: outdated design but internals pack a punch

Apple’s new iPhone SE (2022) is finally in the hands of consumers. Powered by the A15 Bionic chip, Apple’s next-generation budget iPhone features an improved camera, 5G connectivity, and better battery life. According to the first batch of reviews published, the iPhone SE offers incredible performance for its size but the design “feels very much stuck in the past.”

iPhone SE 3

iPhone SE (2022) reviews are out!

Similar to the iPhone SE (2020), the new model is the cheapest way to get into Apple’s ecosystem. CNET’s Patrick Holland says the iPhone is worth the price and offers great value but he feels that the tech giant should not have discontinued the second-generation iPhone SE.

As was the case in 2016 and 2020, the iPhone SE is your cheapest admission ticket to Apple’s ecosystem: iCloud, iMessage, App Store, Apple TV Plus, Apple Music, FaceTime. At $429, I think it’s worth the price and is an incredible value for what you get.

I wish that Apple had kept the 2020 iPhone SE in its roster as an even cheaper way to get an iPhone, but this new iPhone SE still packs lots of modern features and will likely get more from iOS updates in years to come.

On the iPhone’s design, The Verge’s Allison Johnson calls it “tired”. Johnson does say that the SE is a fantastic mid-range phone that will give you an excellent return on your investment since it will get software updates for many years. She was also impressed by the SE’s battery life.

Everything about the iPhone SE is designed for the next few years except for one very important component: the screen. More specifically, the thick bezels that border the 4.7-inch LCD on the top and bottom. It’s a tired design straight out of 2017 that makes an already-small screen feel even smaller than it could be. (…)

The 2022 SE includes a bigger battery, and power management is improved with the A15 chip. That results in an extra two hours of charge for most users, according to Apple, which checks out with my experience. I got through a day and a half of moderate use and one full day of heavy use with some video recording, gaming, and a lot of screen on time with brightness boosted.

iPhone SE 3 screen repair

Engadget’s Cherlynn Low said says the iPhone SE’s biggest disadvantage in the mid-range market is its camera. With most of the competition sporting at least two rear-end cameras, the SE only features one. However, the upgraded camera hardware in conjunction with the A15 Bionic chip results in sharp and colorful photos.

The iPhone SE’s biggest disadvantage in the mid-range space is its cameras. It has just one rear 12-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, while most of the competition come with at least two, making them more versatile shooting rigs.

But if you’re content with a solo camera, the iPhone SE 2022 will suffice. It takes surprisingly sharp and colorful photos that are on par with the iPhone 13 mini’s. Ornaments on the red brick facade of a local building looked equally crisp when shot on either phone, even when I zoomed all the way in. It’s clear that with the A15 Bionic and processing upgrades like Smart HDR 4, Apple’s been able to make the iPhone SE’s camera perform as well as the main sensor on its flagship.

iPhone SE

Mark Spoonauer for Tom’s Guide offers a lot of praise for the SE’s performance in his review. He also shares Geekbench 5 scores comparing the budget iPhone’s impressive numbers to the iPhone 13 and the Google Pixel 5a.

I shouldn’t be surprised by how fast the iPhone SE 2022 is, as it packs the same A15 Bionic chip that’s inside the iPhone 13. But that doesn’t make its performance any less impressive.

On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the iPhone SE 2022 turned in a single-core score of 1,718 and a multi-core result of 4,482. The iPhone 13 turned in comparable but even slightly lower scores of 1,684 and 4,129. The Google Pixel 5a, which is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chip, mustered a single-core score of just 569 and and multi-core score of 1,595.

CNBC’s Todd Haselton says that 5G works well on the SE despite the fact that it does not support some of the fastest mmWave networks. 

The 5G works well, too. It doesn’t support some of the fastest mmWave networks that other iPhone and Android devices can, but those networks aren’t widely available anyway. More importantly, it does support the new C-band networks that are being rolled out by Verizon and AT&T, as well as T-Mobile’s solid nationwide 5G network. So, while 5G still isn’t a must-have for most people, it’s great if you need to download a big playlist or a couple of TV shows before you hop on a flight. In my tests, T-Mobile’s 5G network hit about 300Mbps at home, which was faster than my Wi-Fi in parts of my house.

iPhone SE

In conclusion, the iPhone SE (2022) offers incredible performance, a solid camera, and 5G connectivity at its $429 price tag, making it an excellent choice. However, if the outdated design and lack of multiple camera lenses are a dealbreaker for you, it may not be the best option on the market.

MKBHD’s review:

iJustine’s review:

Rene Ritchie’s review:

About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.