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iPhone SE 2022 review

The iPhone SE 2022 is Apple’s cheapest iPhone, but it loses sight of why so many loved it in the first place.

Image shows the iPhone SE 2022 turned on resting on a wooden table.
(Image: © Lloyd Coombes.)

Top Ten Reviews Verdict

Apple’s latest iPhone SE continues the trend of being the most affordable iPhone, but only just – with the spec bump coming at an additional cost over the last generation version.

Pros

  • +

    5G connectivity (whether you want it or not)

  • +

    Classic design will be ideal for many

Cons

  • -

    Not as cheap as its predecessor

  • -

    Disappointing camera

The iPhone SE 2022 is, in many ways, a pretty straightforward spec bump on the last iPhone SE; it’s a stripped-back iPhone, sure, but it’s now packing the A15 Bionic chip. That’s the same as the iPhone 13 and its Pro lineup, meaning this is an insanely powerful phone despite its “classic” home-button design. 

iPhone SE 2022: Key specs

Average price: $429

Operating system: iOS 15

Screen size: 4.7 inches

Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

5G ready: Yes

Headphone jack: No

Charging type: Lightning

Camera: 7MP front camera, 12MP rear camera

Video recording: Up to 4K video at varying frame rates

And yet, it feels a little like a missed opportunity. Are iPhone SE customers really looking for more power? For our money, Apple may have been better sticking with the (still fast) A13 or similar from the last generation, and upgrading the camera in more notable ways instead.

Instead, we get a more powerful phone that’s going to be almost identical to many users of the last SE, particularly in real-world usage. It’s still one of the best smartphones you can buy right now, but it feels like Apple may have put their eggs in the wrong basket.

That’s not to say the A15 Bionic is anything less than fantastic, though. In fact, since it’s the same chip Apple puts in the latest and greatest iPhones, including the most expensive models, it really is a cut above all other mobile phone chips – including those in Android flagship devices.

Still, the iPhone SE is the only way you can get an iPhone with a home button, but it’s also the only option for those that prefer Touch ID to FaceID. If you do want to embrace Apple’s newest design philosophy, though, we’d actually recommend sniffing out a deal on an iPhone 11 or 12.

Does the iPhone SE 2022 deserve a place in our best smartphones list? Read on to find out. 

iPhone SE 2022: Design

  • Home button has Touch ID 
  • Single-camera setup
  • Available in Midnight, Starlight or Product RED  

The iPhone SE has always maintained the pre-iPhone X design that hasn’t been seen on Apple’s flagships since the iPhone 8, and the 2022 version doesn’t change anything there.

In fact, other than the iPhone SE 2022 coming in a darker black (Midnight) or a more off-white (Starlight) alongside the Product RED variant, you’d struggle to tell the difference between the two.

On the bottom, there’s a Lightning port for charging, as well as speakers. On the right, you’ll find a power button and a SIM card slot, while the left side houses the volume rocker and a silent mode switch.

 The “forehead” houses the selfie camera (7MP), as well as an earpiece, while the “chin” has the iconic home button which comes packing Touch ID.

It weighs just 144 grams, and the small form factor makes it easily pocketable (something we can’t say about the iPhone 13 Pro Max on the other end of the lineup).

Image shows the iPhone SE 2022 turned on resting on a wooden table.

(Image credit: Lloyd Coombes.)

iPhone SE 2022: Display and audio

  • 4.7-inch display 
  • Lacks flashy features 
  • 1334 x 750 resolution 

The iPhone SE, as you’d expect, is very much a “back to basics” kind of iPhone. The 4.7-inch display feels minuscule compared to almost any other phone on the market, but that’s kind of the point - the iPhone SE isn’t about what’s in vogue, it’s about giving people a familiar canvas to work with.

That means that while it’s not a Liquid Retina XDR display like the iPhone 13, it does pack 326 pixels-per-inch, so content is sharp and crisp. It won’t match up to its bigger, more expensive siblings (and if it did, Apple would be right to panic), but what’s here is great – and responsive.

It’s still an LCD, though, so don’t expect “true blacks” or incredible contrast ratios. In fact, the iPhone SE hits a fairly pedestrian 1400:1 contrast ratio, so we’d go with something bigger and brighter if you’re planning to watch movies on your phone.

When it comes to audio, the iPhone SE is unlikely to be the device you grab for a box set binge, either. Its audio is clear, sure, but it lacks the larger chassis necessary to output clearer, more well-rounded sound. And, as you can imagine, there’s no headphone jack to be found so you’ll need to rely on Bluetooth accessories or a dongle (sold separately).

Image shows someone holding the iPhone SE 2022 from the side.

(Image credit: Lloyd Coombes.)

iPhone SE 2022: Software and assistant features

The iPhone SE runs iOS 15, which in many ways is a pretty tame upgrade on iOS 14. It adds a focus on sharing content with those you love, collecting links and images and collating them in the “Shared with You” page, while also letting users stream their content in unison with friends and family over FaceTime.

It also allows the setting of “Focus” modes, which are more tailored Do Not Disturb style notifications that can let you triage notifications automatically depending on where you are or what you’re doing, like silencing social media while you’re working.

It doesn’t shake up the core of iOS, though, and perhaps it doesn’t need to – Apple’s mobile platform has never been stronger.

In terms of assistant features, Siri is still there, although it’s faster and more secure than ever. That’s because your requests are now processed on your phone, meaning no more long waits while Siri connects to Apple servers. It also means Siri is more useful when you’re offline, too, and is able to follow basic instructions like “set a timer”, opening apps or pausing media playback.

Image shows someone holding out the iPhone SE 2022 from the back.

(Image credit: Lloyd Coombes.)

iPhone SE 2022: Battery life

The iPhone SE is classic in every way, including when it comes to battery life. That’s to say it’s a relic from a pre-iPhone 11 era in that regard, and it won’t last you much more than a day.

Apple says the iPhone SE will playback ten hours of streamed video content on a single charge, and that’s about what we found, give or take half an hour with notifications coming through and 5G being tested. It’s not bad, and Apple is perhaps limited with the space inside the phone, but we’d always prefer to get to the end of the day with a little time left.

Still, you can charge it with a Qi-certified charger, which is just as well – Apple doesn’t include a power brick in the box, and the included cable goes from Lightning to USB-C. It won’t support MagSafe charging, though.

iPhone SE 2022: Price

The iPhone SE starts at $429 for the 64GB version in any of the color variants we mentioned earlier.

There’s also a 128GB version for $479, or a 256GB version for $579. Be careful which you opt for since there’s no expandable storage (as is the case with all iPhones).

iPhone SE 2022: User reviews

Reviews for the iPhone SE are very positive so far, with many noting how it represents good value for money and it reaching a coveted five stars on Amazon. 

Some buyers have noted that it’s an ideal first iPhone for kids or as a work device, while Leland notes that the “battery does not last as long” as they’d like.

Image shows the iPhone SE 2022 turned on resting on a wooden table.

(Image credit: Lloyd Coombes.)

Should you buy the iPhone SE 2022?

If you’re coming from the second generation of iPhone SE, it’s a tricky proposition. While the new iPhone SE is faster, your current one is likely no slouch.

As a first iPhone, or for those that miss the original design, it’s an easy pickup in place of its predecessor, but we’d have liked to have seen more storage or better cameras rather than a fairly inconsequential spec bump compared to the previous model.

Still, if you buy one you’re unlikely to be disappointed, with the A15 Bionic chip ideal for any task you throw at it.

If this product isn’t for you

The iPhone SE is cheaper than any other iPhone, but when you factor in Apple’s older (and still relevant) phones like the iPhone 11, the gap becomes drastically smaller to the point where you can spend a little extra and get a lot more bang for your buck.

The iPhone 11 or 12, while not current, offer better cameras, bigger batteries, and much better screens. The iPhone 12 even comes in a Mini option, so you won’t have to opt for a bigger handset.

Then there’s the iPhone 13, which is an excellent phone and is powered by the same chip as the SE – but it’s very much an incremental upgrade from the 12.

For the iPhone SE’s price on Android, you’re unlikely to match the iPhone SE’s performance but you can still get 5G connectivity with something like the OnePlus 8T – and at around $299 it’s a fair bit cheaper, too.

Lloyd is a long-time contributor to Top Ten Reviews, and an expert in all things Apple and in computer and gaming tech. You'll find him regularly testing the latest iPhone or iPad, and you can also find him writing about video games all over the internet. He also has an interest in virtual reality, which he has written about extensively.