The iPhone SE is kind of a brilliant concept. Recognizing that there is a huge market for people who can’t afford the typical price of a new iPhone (or just don’t want to spend that much), Apple takes a somewhat dated model, replaces the processor with the latest one, and sells it for a very low price. reduced.
Back in 2016, the original iPhone SE put the latest processor (A9) into the body of an iPhone 5S from two generations ago for just $399. It took four years for Apple to release a second-generation iPhone SE, again putting the latest processor (A13) in a two-generation iPhone 8, always for just $399.
Now, two years later, Apple has abandoned this winning formula of the iPhone SE. It’s still the latest processor (A15), but instead of putting it in the two-generation iPhone 11, or even the iPhone XR, Apple is going back to using the body of the old iPhone 8. And the price has gone up, to $429.
This is still the least expensive new iPhone you can buy, and it’s not bad, but it’s disappointing to see Apple charging more while failing to advance its budget phone in the most important ways.
These are the best iPhones of 2022.
What the A15 processor brings
The A15 is faster than the second-gen iPhone SE’s A13, that’s for sure. You can expect around 20-30% better CPU and GPU performance, though it can be more or less depending on the exact task. Whether that performance will really be noticeable in everyday use is another thing.
I have found that in most benchmark, the iPhone SE is on par with the iPhone 13, within a small margin of error (but not the iPhone 13 Pro, which has a fifth GPU core).
This makes it by far the fastest phone in this price range. But was performance really a problem to be solved in the iPhone SE of two years ago? The A13 already outperforms most current $400 phones.
The A15 also packs a better image processor, which means it can do more with data from those old iPhone 8 sensors and optics; none of the camera sensors or optics have been updated since that model from five years ago.
It has the new Photo Styles feature found in the iPhone 13, for example, along with excellent 4K 60Hz video recording, Deep Fusion, and Smart HDR 4 does a great job in bright outdoor scenes.
You also get 5G compatibility, with one caveat: you can only connect to the sub-6GHz 5G bands, not the new ultra-high-frequency millimeter-wave (mmWave) bands. That’s where the fastest speeds are, but millimeter waves are very short range and not that widespread yet, so you don’t miss much.
Battery life remains disappointing
One of the second generation iPhone SE’s worst drawbacks was its terrible battery life.
Apple says the more energy-efficient A15 works with the iPhone SE’s updated battery chemistry to deliver better battery life. The good news is that the battery lasts longer. The bad news is that it’s still pretty bad.
In my tests, running the Geekbench 4 test in a loop with the screen at a constant 200 nits, the battery lasted 5 hours and 13 minutes. That’s a big improvement over the second-gen iPhone SE’s 3 hours and 37 minutes, but it’s still the worst battery life of any iPhone you can buy (over an hour less than the not-so-good iPhone 13 mini). . A standard iPhone 13 lasted three hours longer on the same test.
In my tests, I found that I had to recharge at night to last through the day. It’s been a few years since I used an iPhone that didn’t reliably last all day.
It’s nice that battery life has improved on Apple’s most affordable iPhone, but it hasn’t improved enough. If it could last 15 to 20 percent longer, it would live up to our expectations of being up there with the iPhone 13 mini.
In many ways, a five year old iPhone
While there are some real benefits to upgrading to the A15, it’s disappointing that the rest of this $429 phone is an iPhone 8 from around 2017.
The screen is the same old LCD that doesn’t quite get as bright as you’d expect in the sun, has huge top and bottom bezels, and doesn’t display HDR. It’s one thing to be in love with smaller phones, but this old design only gives you a 4.7-inch screen.
Consider that the iPhone 12 mini and 13 mini, while considerably smaller, have larger 5.4-inch screens because there isn’t all that wasted space.
Some of that space is used for the Touch ID home button. There are some users who just refuse to put up with Face ID, but even so – Apple could create a phone with Touch ID on the side button like it does on the iPad Air and iPad mini, leaving room for a much larger screen. large that reaches farther to the edges of the phone.
The iPhone 8’s old camera hardware doesn’t do Apple any favors, either. The A15’s superior image processing does a remarkable job of producing good photos in bright light, but the 12 MP rear camera struggles in low-light situations, producing images that are very grainy and low in contrast.
The 7 MP front-facing camera takes worse photos than we’re used to, with less detail and contrast, and frequent issues like blurred skies and crushed shadows. It does the job for FaceTime calls, and it never ceases to amaze me how well this old guy can perform. hardware in brightly lit scenes, but you’ll want something better if you do a lot of selfie.
You also don’t get any of the features common to newer iPhones, like multiple rear cameras (no telephoto or ultrawide camera), MagSafe, or the U1 chip for doing things like pinpoint AirTags.
Apple still sells the iPhone 11 for €589, and I think most users considering the iPhone SE would be happier overall spending the extra €70 for it. It doesn’t have 5G, and its A13 chip isn’t as fast (not that you can tell), but it does have a bigger and better screen, Face ID, better water resistance (IP 68 vs. IP67), higher-quality cameras, and a much longer battery life.
The 2020 version of the iPhone SE was already pretty fast and didn’t need a faster processor. What it needed was a new design, improved camera hardware, a modern screen with a better screen-to-body ratio, and much better battery life, and it hasn’t delivered.
Apple has updated the part that least needed it and hasn’t touched any of the things that are now hopelessly out of date. The screen is tiny with huge, ugly bezels, the battery life is barely passable, and the camera hardware is incredibly dated and limiting. And while the A15’s top-notch image processing really elevates your photos, you’re still missing tabletop features like Night Mode.
It is a very uneven product. The processor is excessive, much more than any budget phone needs. It’s faster than Android phones that cost more than $1,000. This kind of cutting-edge performance is rarely the main concern of people choosing the most affordable phones. In other areas, it’s way behind the times, even for a $400 phone.
Original article published in English on our sister website Macworld USA.
Note: We may receive a small commission for each purchase made through the links on our page, but this is at no extra cost to you. This does not affect our editorial independence either. More information.