Money is tight right now. If you’re aching for a new iPhone, there’s a good chance the budget-minded iPhone SE is on your radar. But unless you get a ridiculously good deal, the iPhone SE isn’t worth buying anymore.
Keep in mind that the fourth generation iPhone SE (2023) could resolve some of the complaints mentioned in this article, assuming we get a new iPhone SE in 2023 of course./note]
The iPhone SE used to be a great idea
The original iPhone SE launched in 2016, bridging the two-year gap between Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 releases. And the concept made perfect sense; the 2016 iPhone SE contained the same internal hardware as the iPhone 6S, but used the older, cheaper design of the iPhone 5S.
Apple resurrected this launch in 2020: the second-generation iPhone SE matched the power of the iPhone 11, but was priced at just $400. Sure, this device reused the design of the iPhone 8, but it was significantly cheaper than an iPhone X or an iPhone 11. And, at the time, it offered possibly the best camera quality of any smartphone under $500.
Yes, critics complained about the design of the second generation iPhone SE. The small screen, limited camera selection, and giant “Home” button were outdated. But these design cues were just two years Out of time. People were still buying the iPhone 8, iPhone 7, and older devices in 2020. For true Apple fans on a budget, the iPhone SE’s design wasn’t much of a problem.
But things have changed. The iPhone SE 2022 launched with little fanfare and performed modestly in our review. We are not surprised; a rehashed version of the iPhone 8 doesn’t make sense in 2022.
It’s just not a great phone anymore
The iPhone SE is held back by its design. And I’m not saying that the phone is ugly; in fact, I think it looks better than any modern iPhone. But the 4.7-inch display isn’t made for today’s apps, and the tiny camera sensors won’t cut it in 2022.
Even if you want a small phone, the iPhone SE’s 4.7-inch screen is hard to use. Modern apps like Instagram need to cut off a ton of content to fit on an iPhone SE screen (and good luck browsing modern websites on such a small screen). In addition, the most demanding mobile games are destined for a rather large screen, so it is difficult to take advantage of the powerful A15 Bionic chipset of the iPhone SE.
To be perfectly clear, I am not complaining about the quality of the iPhone SE screen. It’s an LCD panel, it only has a 750 x 1334 resolution and runs at 60Hz. These specs aren’t “modern,” but they are appropriate for a small 4.7-inch display, especially one with such high color accuracy. It’s just that the iPhone SE screen is too small.
The camera sensors are also too small. After nearly a decade of use, Apple’s 12MP rear camera is really showing its age. It produces decent photos, but doesn’t match the quality of similarly priced Android devices (older generation Samsung and Google phones blow this sucker out of the water). The 7MP selfie camera is also a bit weak, though the rear camera is obviously the big disappointment here.
These problems do not exist on modern iPhones. The iPhone Mini is about the same size as the iPhone SE, but has a larger (and much more usable) 5.42-inch display. Plus, today’s iPhone cameras are massive and produce amazing photos.
I should also point out that the iPhone SE has an average battery life. Plus, it falls short of the durability of recent iPhones, which use Ceramic Shield technology for added protection against drops and scratches. The iPhone can last half a decade, and I’m not sure why you would put up with all this trouble for five years.
Apple could solve these problems in 2023
The current generation iPhone SE is a relic of the Steve Jobs era. While it uses an attractive design, it is not suitable for modern applications or users. But Apple could make the iPhone SE a compelling device in 2023; You just need to put the past behind you.
Leaks and rumors suggest that the fourth-generation iPhone SE, which is due to launch in 2023, will be an upgraded version of the iPhone XR. It’ll ditch the “Home” button, get a 6.1-inch display, and inherit a modern selfie camera with Face ID support. (Presumably it will also use the A15 Bionic chipset, as Apple reused this chipset for the base iPhone 13 model.)
Now, to be clear, I’m not entirely sure about this rumor. We hear people make these same claims in 2021 ahead of the release of the 3rd-generation iPhone SE. (To be fair, supply chain issues might have prevented Apple from updating the design of the iPhone SE 2022.)
But there’s no guarantee Apple will even sell a fourth-generation iPhone SE in 2023; this is all just speculation. In the meantime, I suggest avoiding the iPhone SE and buying something else.
So which iPhone should you buy?
If you’re on a budget, skip the iPhone SE and buy an iPhone 11. It’s a simple proposition; The iPhone 11 is just $50 more than the iPhone SE, but it packs a larger 6.1-inch display, improved cameras (with the addition of an ultra-wide lens), and incredible battery life. These updates are hard to ignore.
Now, to be fair, the iPhone 11 is already a few years old. It runs a slightly slower chipset than the iPhone SE, doesn’t support 5G, and its LCD has a pixel density of 326 PPI, so while the displays are different sizes, they are technically identical in quality.
Perhaps the iPhone 12 Mini is a better option. This phone is about the same size as the iPhone SE, but uses a larger 5.4-inch OLED display with improved pixel density and Ceramic Shield glass. It also supports MagSafe and 5G connectivity.
Unfortunately, the iPhone 12 Mini doesn’t have incredible battery life. It’s not a great option for people who use their phone all day, and its screen (although larger than the iPhone SE’s) is still a bit small for normal tasks. But you can find an iPhone 12 Mini for under $500, making it a compelling alternative to the iPhone SE or iPhone 11.
Again, iPhones can last a long time. I strongly suggest that you buy an iPhone that you are excited to own, as you will probably be sticking with it for a while. Unless you need a phone This dayyou might want to put off your purchase, save some money, and try to find an iPhone you’ll enjoy using for several years.
Apple iPhone 11
iPhone 11 packs a 6.1-inch display, dual rear cameras, long battery life, and Face ID support. It is a bargain, although it is a few years old, so you have to buy it renovated or pre-owned.
Apple iPhone 12 Mini
Despite its small form factor, iPhone 12 Mini packs a powerful A15 Bionic chipset, supports 5G connectivity, and works with MagSafe accessories. It also uses an OLED screen, which offers higher quality images than the iPhone 11 or iPhone SE.