Why the New iPhone SE Is Worth it

Why the New iPhone SE Is Worth it
Image: Apple

Apple updated the iPhone SE for the third time at the Peek Performance event. From the outside, it looks the same, but like many things in life, what’s inside that matters.

What’s different about the new iPhone SE?

Apple has essentially added the guts of an iPhone 13 to the iPhone SE, and all they’re charging for it is A$719. Granted, this is in the body of an old iPhone 8 with a physical home button, a 720p screen, and a single camera on the back — that’s as far from an edge-to-edge display flagship as you can get — but we’re glad that Apple updated the iPhone SE.

Our editor Jake Peterson has already covered the little things about the iPhone SE that Apple failed the mention in the event, so here we’ll focus on why we think the iPhone SE is the budget smartphone to buy, even at the new A$719 starting price.

The iPhone SE comes with 5G

This might sound trivial right now, but it’s going to play a huge role in the coming years: The iPhone SE comes with 5G (not mmWave, but sub-6 GHz, which means no gigabit downloads). In 2022, American carriers are already phasing out 3G networks, and in the next couple of years, it will be 4G’s turn.

The iPhone SE isn’t the kind of phone that users buy and upgrade in a year or two; it’s usually a phone that stays for four or five years, maybe longer, so this feature will really come in handy at the tail end of the cycle. So even though the iPhone SE costs more, and you can find the older 2020 iPhone SE for a cheaper rate, we’d suggest buying the 2022 model just for the 5G alone.

The iPhone SE has a better processor

Apple put the processor from their flagship A$1,349 iPhone 13 into the iPhone SE. The A15 Bionic is a 6-code CPU with two performance cores and four efficiency cores. Plus a 4-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine.

What that basically means is that you have more than enough power to play high-end games, and apps will launch in an instant. The older iPhone SE is no slouch, and with this processor, the new iPhone SE will be lag-free for years to come. Plus, it’s more about what this processor enables — and that’s computational photography, our next point.

The iPhone SE has better camera features

The iPhone SE comes with a single 12MP sensor on the back, which is a rarity because Android budget smartphones have three or four cameras on the back. But it’s better to have one great camera than four mediocre ones.

A similar story as the chip, Apple has added the physical sensor and the computational smarts from the flagship smartphone. That means you get access to technologies like Smart HDR 4 and Deep Fusion that work behind the scenes to enhance your photos.

But the best of all might be the addition of Photographic Styles. This feature lets you tinker with the look of the photos, making them warmer or cooler, and you can actually make it the default so you can click photos like they came out from a Pixel or a Samsung smartphone. Not all iPhone 13 features make their way over here though — there’s no Night mode and no Cinematic mode.

You should get security and feature updates for 5+ years

In 2021, the iPhone 6s Plus — a six-year-old device — got an update to the latest version of iOS 15. The fact that the iPhone SE has a processor from an iPhone 13 means that it will continue to receive major iOS updates for more than five years, at least. And you’ll get security updates for even longer than that. As budget smartphones go, this is unprecedented. In the land of budget Android smartphones, you’re lucky if you get updates for two years, let alone six.

The iPhone SE has a slightly better battery life

One of the issues with the 2020 iPhone SE was its battery life, and it looks like Apple has listened to the complaints. Because the reviews aren’t out yet, we don’t know the real-world impact, but you get a slightly better battery life, according to Apple. Video playback is up to 15 hours from 13; streaming video is up to 10 hours from eight; and audio playback is up to 50 hours from 40.

The iPhone SE has a stronger frame

Sadly, there’s no Ceramic Shield on the iPhone SE — that’s still reserved for the iPhone 13 Pro — but according to Apple, the iPhone SE has a tougher body. Apple says it has “the toughest glass in a smartphone” both front and back, but again, we won’t know more about these claims until the iPhone SE is released and put through its paces.

Still, progress is progress, and we’re glad the iPhone SE is clad in tougher glass. Other than that, the iPhone SE is still rated IP67, which means it’s splash, water, and dust resistant. It can survive under one metre of water for up to 30 minutes.

And while the colours are broadly the same — black, white, and red — Apple has changed them slightly to make them look more like the iPhone 13.

The iPhone SE has a home button and Touch ID

All things said and done, the iPhone SE is all about that home button and Touch ID. While it comes at the cost of the big bezels, that alone might be worth the asking price for the 64GB model. If you don’t like the gesture interface of the iPhone 13, the iPhone SE still comes with a physical home button and will continue to do so for years to come.

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