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Is the iPhone SE 2022 a Good Deal at $429?

Apple unveiled its latest iPhone in March 2022, in the form of nothing other than the iPhone SE (3rd generation). It’s currently the cheapest phone in Apple’s lineup, and depending on how you look at it, it’s also one of the most interesting. It even comes with 5G support which, as 5G spreads around the world, will be handy to have. But it has drawn some divisive opinions. Some people love it, while others would’ve liked Apple to go the extra mile with it.

The new iPhone SE is also facing sterner-than-ever competition from Android alternatives. So the question arises—is the new iPhone SE really worth your money?


The Pros: Top-Tier Performance

The iPhone SE (3rd generation) has a big ace up its sleeve: performance. Since the SE lineup was originally conceived, its whole purpose has been shipping older designs with fresh internals. The original iPhone SE was basically an iPhone 5S with the internals of the 6S, while the iPhone SE (2nd generation) from 2020 was in essence an iPhone 8 with the guts of the 11.

This is also basically what the 2022 iPhone SE is.

It takes the internals of the iPhone 13, complete with its A15 Bionic chip, and slaps them inside the shell of an iPhone 8. The result is a device that costs relatively little, yet performs just as well as newer iPhones do in terms of raw horsepower. This allows the new SE to be just as powerful, and to have the same excellent software support as higher-end phones. It also allows for camera improvements by leveraging features like Deep Fusion.

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It’s also, essentially, the polar opposite approach most Android mid-range phones take—where they take a modern-looking design, add new hardware and software features, but cut down on some of the internal hardware. Here, instead, we have a smartphone that might look a little old, but has bleeding-edge internals and will last just as long as the new iPhone 13 lineup.

Which brings us to our next point.

The Cons: Looks Old, Feels Old

The SE’s design plays a big factor in the public opinion about this phone. The A15 chip gives it a much-needed stamina boost, but it doesn’t fix the fact that it looks dated compared both to current iPhones and to other Android smartphones.

The iPhone SE 2022 recycles the same exact design as the SE 2020. Which, in turn, borrowed its design from the iPhone 8. Which borrowed its design from the iPhone 7. Which was a slight iteration of the design of the iPhone 6. And that phone launched in 2014—a whole eight years ago.

The 4.7-inch, 16:9 display with thick bezels and a Home button, complete with Touch ID, hasn’t exactly aged like fine wine either. These days, 16:9 displays and bezels are pretty much unheard of unless you delve into the bottom of the barrel of sub-$100 Android phones. And even then, a lot of those phones offer 18:9 aspect ratios, or even full-on notched displays. Unless you haven’t purchased a new phone since 2017, you probably have a phone with a notched display, too.

The fact that this is a rehashed design also means we don’t get Apple’s new MagSafe, Face ID, or gesture navigation on this phone. This phone will feel distinctly old-school.

But it’s not really the design alone that is dividing people; it’s the fact that it feels lazy. Apple managed to get away with the iPhone SE (2nd generation) because it was the first time the company re-did the old iPhone 8 design after making only full-screen phones for two continuous years (like the iPhone XR, XS, and 11). This time, it’s essentially just the same iPhone SE, with a new chip and a bigger battery. That’s pretty much where the changes end.


How Does It Compare to Other Mid-Range Phones?

As we mentioned before, the iPhone SE takes a radically different approach from the typical Android mid-rangers, which makes a comparison between the iPhone SE a Samsung devices, or any other competitor, a little more curious and not as straightforward.

A prime example of what we mean is the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G. This phone costs pretty much the same as the new iPhone SE. But it looks just as modern and slick as the Samsung Galaxy S22, the company’s flagship offering, launched earlier this year. And it incorporates many of the same features, including a multi-lens camera, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and much more.

But it doesn’t come with the same chip. The Galaxy S22 is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (or the Exynos 2200 in some markets), while the A53 is instead packing an Exynos 1280 chip. By contrast, the iPhone SE 2022 has the looks and features of an older phone, but the internals of the high-end iPhone 13.

In a hand-to-hand comparison, the iPhone SE would crush the Galaxy A53 in terms of performance and raw horsepower. But when it comes to actual features, and design, the Galaxy A53 probably has the upper hand in this fight.

Should You Buy the iPhone SE 2022?

It’s a complicated answer, but it mostly comes down to what you want in a phone—and whether the iPhone SE fulfills it.

On one hand, the iPhone SE 2022 offers a phone with flagship performance at a fraction of the usual flagship price. You get amazing software support, an improved camera experience, and a bigger battery. But it also has a dated Home button with Touch ID, dated looks, and less versatile cameras.

And at its $429 price, some people might instead prefer to go for an iPhone 11. This has an older A13 processor, but it offers Face ID and a more modern design for just $70 more than the iPhone SE.

That being said, the A15 Bionic chip in the iPhone SE is nothing to scoff at. It enables many improvements, which allow this 4.7-inch iPhone to be a silently amazing piece of equipment. Many call it the “sleeper iPhone”—it might look old at a first glance, but it can trade blows with the most expensive smartphones on the market. And if you’re coming from an iPhone 6, 7, or 8, and you don’t care about a full-screen iPhone, this might just be the perfect upgrade for you.

If you’re coming from a full-screen iPhone, though, like an iPhone X or an iPhone XR, you might find this to be rather unfulfilling—there’s more to a phone than the chipset. This also applies to Android phones. Unless you’ve had older smartphones, or this form factor works better for you, it might be worth it to look at higher-end alternatives.

Then again, it’ll all come down to your budget and how much you need a new phone. If this is the most you can reach for, then it’ll still be an amazing phone. But the full iPhone experience as Apple intends it definitely sits in the full-screen models.

A Great Upgrade, But Only for Some

The iPhone SE 2022 is an amazing device for the right kind of people. If you’re used to the classic, retro iPhone look, and you want a phone that comes with the same oomph as the iPhone 13, this is definitely the phone to get.

However, for people who are already used to a larger display, Face ID, and a notch, this might feel like a step back, regardless of what chip it comes with.



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