iPhone SE 2022: Why you should NOT buy it

Ooh! Aah! The new iPhone SE 2022 may have caught your eye as Apple left you awestruck with its razzle-dazzle selling points: better battery life, 5G support, a zippy processor, upgraded camera software and more. But have you ever heard of the expression, “All sizzle and no steak”? Sure, the next-generation SE looks alluring, but how good is it?

We explored this in our iPhone SE 2022 review. To sum it up, I had my suspicions that the third-generation SE device was all smoke and mirrors, and I was proven correct. Don’t get me wrong — the new SE has many praiseworthy specs. For example, not only does its A15 Bionic chip blow every sub-$500 phone out of the water, but it slaughters every single flagship handset on the market. That, dear reader, is power beyond your wildest imagination. 

However, most consumers opting for a budget-friendly phone are likely not engaging in envelope-pushing activities that would require such beastly processing power. We’ll dive more into this later, but the point is that the SE 2022 has some solid upgrades, but I’m not convinced that Apple’s new tweaks benefit its target consumer base.

That being said, in response to, “Should I buy the iPhone SE 2022?”, my response is “Skip it!” If you can shell out a couple more for the iPhone 13 mini, or snag an Android rival within the same price range (e.g. Google Pixel 5a), you may be more satisfied with your purchase.  

1. The iPhone SE 2022’s battery life is still subpar 

The iPhone SE 2022’s battery life is as short as the Hulk’s temper. According to Apple, the third-generation iPhone SE offers up to 15 hours of video playback, but we all know this isn’t an accurate depiction of the average user’s daily activity. 

Apple iPhone SE 2022 (Image credit: Future)

Our lab tester ran Laptop Mag’s rigorous battery test, which replicates real-world usage (i.e. surfing the web on a cellular network at 150 nits of brightness), and the new SE only lasted 7 hours and 38 minutes. When I tested the SE for myself, using it as if it was my daily driver for the day on WiFi, I got about 8 hours and 25 minutes.

If you’re a homebody or a recluse, this may not bother you too much because you’ll always have an outlet within reach. However, if you have a long commute to and from work, or you’re often on the go, the iPhone SE 2022’s 8-hour battery life may not cut it.

You may be thinking, “Well, you can’twon’t be able to find decent battery life on a sub-$500 phone, anyway,” but prepare to eat your words. The new SE also had the worst battery runtime out of its similarly priced competitors: the Pixel 5a (9:45) and the long-lasting Samsung Galaxy A52 (10:19).

Apple iPhone SE 2022 (Image credit: Future)

Apple said that the iPhone SE 2022 has a bigger battery and a more power-efficient chip, so the device should have more battery life, but it also has a new 5G radio, which may be the culprit behind the power drain. Fortunately, we have a tutorial on how to turn off 5G if you still want to get the compact phone. 

2. The iPhone SE 2022’s design is so 2017 

The iPhone SE 2022 isn’t an eyesore, but it won’t win any beauty contests, either. It’s a total plain Jane. Holding the new SE, you’ll likely get comments like, “Man! What’s that? The iPhone 1?” or “You’re one of those, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it folks’ aren’t ya?”

Apple iPhone SE 2022 (Image credit: Future)

Although the third-generation SE is brand-spankin’ new, it ironically looks old because it’s wrapped inside the iPhone 8’s chassis. It’s got thick bezels, a single camera setup in the rear and a Touch ID-embedded home button — neither of which are au courant. As such, you’ll stand out like a sore thumb among phone owners with dazzling quad-camera systems, button-less panels and waterfall displays.

Speaking of screens, the iPhone SE 2022 has a 4.7-inch, Retina HD panel. Will it blow you away? No, but it does the job. If you’re a stickler for colorful displays, consider the Galaxy A52. It has an incredible DCI-P3 color gamut coverage of 143% (way better than the SE’s 81%). However, the iPhone SE 2022’s Delta-E color score is pretty darn good (0.21), beating all of its rivals on the color-accuracy benchmark.

Apple iPhone SE 2022 (Image credit: Future)

Another factor you must consider is the new SE’s portability. It’s cute and lightweight (it weighs 5 ounces and it’s 0.3 inches thick), but remember, it’s relatively small! If you’re swapping a gargantuan phone for the new SE, you may be startled by the display’s tiny screen real estate (the thick bezels exacerbate this). 

It’s also worth noting that the iPhone SE 2022 has a 60Hz refresh rate (just like the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini). Before you say, “B-b-but the low price,” the Galaxy A52 is less than $400 and has a 120Hz AMOLED display, so what’s Apple’s excuse? 

3. The iPhone SE 2022 doesn’t have Night Mode 

After experimenting with the iPhone 13’s impressive Night Mode feature, I vowed that I would never purchase a phone without a feature that compensates for low-light conditions. Take a look at the stark difference in photo quality between the iPhone SE 2022 (no Night Mode) and the iPhone 13 mini (Night Mode). 

Apple iPhone SE 2022 (Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 13 mini captured the true essence of the ink-blue sky as well as the warm, orange-yellow hues emanating from the church. Its well-manicured lawn is verdant with sprinkles of yellow-green tones. The iPhone SE 2022, on the other hand, failed to capture the bold colors, including the ruby-red car.

Speaking of the iPhone SE 2022’s camera, it only has one rear lens (f/1.8, 12MP lens). There’s no ultra-wide lens, which I find to be quite handy for taking wide-ranging landscape shots or large group photos. Although the iPhone SE 2022 doesn’t perform too well in low-light conditions, in the daylight, the 12MP wide lens outputs impressive photos, accurately reproducing cityscapes, portraits, and more. Admittedly, its f/2.2, 7MP front-facing camera is *chef’s kiss*, too. No, it’s not a 12MP selfie camera like the iPhone 13, but trust me, you don’t want a front-facing camera that’s too sharp anyway.

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(Image credit: Future)

iPhone SE 2022 night photo (swipe right)

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(Image credit: Future)

iPhone 13 mini night photo

The iPhone 13 mini captured the true essence of the ink-blue sky as well as the warm, orange-yellow hues emanating from the church. Its well-manicured lawn is verdant with sprinkles of yellow-green tones. The iPhone SE 2022, on the other hand, failed to capture the bold colors, including the ruby-red car.

Speaking of the iPhone SE 2022’s camera, it only has one rear lens (f/1.8, 12MP lens). There’s no ultra-wide lens, which I find to be quite handy for taking wide-ranging landscape shots or large group photos. Although the iPhone SE 2022 doesn’t perform too well in low-light conditions, in the daylight, the 12MP wide lens outputs impressive photos, accurately reproducing cityscapes, portraits, and more. Admittedly, its f/2.2, 7MP front-facing camera is *chef’s kiss*, too. No, it’s not a 12MP selfie camera like the iPhone 13, but trust me, you don’t want a front-facing camera that’s too sharp anyway. 

4.  The iPhone SE 2022 has powerful features, but you likely won’t use them 

The iPhone SE 2022 is packed with the A15 Bionic chip, the same processor under the iPhone 13’s hood, but all I have to say to that is a sarcastic whoop-tee-doo! Apple’s A-series chips have been the world’s fastest mobile processor for several years now, which speaks to Apple’s determination to keep innovating and remain a couple steps ahead of competitors, but no iPhone SE 2022 user needs all that power.

Apple iPhone SE 2022 (Image credit: Future)

The Cupertino-based tech giant boasts that the iPhone SE 2022, thanks to the A15 Bionic, is capable of conquering machine-learning tasks and graphics-intensive mobile gaming, but I’m not convinced that iPhone SE’s target consumer base —  budget-conscious users who surf the web, use iMessage, initiate FaceTime calls, cycle through several apps and capture photos for social media — are all that into artificial intelligence operations and weighty gaming apps. I’m just sayin’!

On the plus side, the A15 Bionic chip upgraded the iPhone SE 2022’s camera software, which appeals to a wider audience. Its Image Signal Processing (ISP) allows users to take advantage of features that were once exclusive to the iPhone 13 line, including Photographic Styles. The new SE also has Smart HDR 4 (refines lighting, contrast and more) and Deep Fusion (optimizes for detail and texture). Other than that, the average Joe likely doesn’t care about the A15 Bionic’s 16-core Neural Engine and that it can execute 15.8 trillion operations per second. Sorry, Apple!

Bottom line 

At the end of the day, Apple isn’t going to make the iPhone SE 2022 too attractive. It’s purposely keeping the SE series inside an obsolete chassis with a few passé features. After all, it wants you to get the pricier, sexier iPhone 13, so if the Cupertino-based tech giant modernized the SE, it would be shooting itself in the foot.

You’ll get more bang for your buck opting for the Samsung Galaxy A52. It has a 10-hour battery runtime, a 120Hz, AMOLED display, and impressive DCI-P3 color coverage — and, well, the iPhone SE 2022 doesn’t.

The new SE’s battery life is concerning, too. I don’t know about you, but 7-8 hours is not sufficient for me. If you can afford it, the iPhone 13 mini is a better option if you want a pocket-friendly phone and you’re not willing to give up the Apple ecosystem. I really wanted Apple to quell my skepticism and prove me wrong about the third-generation SE, but just like I predicted, the new phone is unremarkable. 



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