Should you buy the new iPhone SE? The reviews are in!

Should you buy the new iPhone SE? The reviews are in!

The 3rd generation iPhone SE 2022 has been released, is this the perfect small phone, what about the photography features, let’s see what some of the reviews say and I’ll add some of my own commentary.

I have already covered some of the basics with the iPhone SE 3 here, going through the specs, what you gain compared to the second generation and what you miss out on from the more expensive models, I went into particular details about the camera advancements and the best Android alternative at a similar price.

These are the reviews that I'll be covering which are from Engadget, Pocket-lint and TechRadar, as follows:

iPhone SE review (2022): A small throwback of a phone

Apple iPhone SE (2022) review: Should you buy the entry level iPhone?

iPhone SE (2022) review

I'll just call this the iPhone SE 3 from here on in! I am not going to call out everything, read the full reviews for that, I'll just include some highlights and paraphrase some of the reviewer's points.

Design

Nothing much has changed with the iPhone SE 3, it's practically identical to the earlier version externally, as Engadget explain:

If you’re familiar with the last iPhone SE, then you’ll know what to expect: This year’s model is so similar that I legit have trouble telling them apart.

Pocket-lint describes the design as dependable but past its prime:

It's a solid design and one that has stood the test of time and will no doubt continue to for older devices. The problem, is that in 2022 as a new device, it feels dated on the iPhone SE.

TechRadar found being reintroduced to the Touch ID button was awkward at first but it had its charms, while ultimately they say it's time for Touch ID to go:

We've been living with Face ID, home-button-free iPhones for so long, that our reintroduction was a bit bumpy. We literally forgot how to use an iPhone with a home button to start with, although, it was a little like riding a bike, and we soon got back in the Touch ID groove. We remembered how much we liked the way the button felt as it read our fingerprint or faked a physical button press with expert haptics.

Display

On paper the iPhone SE 3 screen specs are never going to impress, as Engadget point out:

Like many phones from 2017, this year’s iPhone SE sports a 4.7-inch LCD screen with 1,334 x 750 resolution. Honestly, those specs are downright tragic for 2022 standards, by which OLEDs have become commonplace.

Pocket-lint like the iPhone SE 3 display for what it is but says the iPhone mini offers a better experience:

It's a great display, and despite being LCD rather than OLED like the iPhone 13 models, it is punchy with vibrant colours and deep blacks. You get an extra 0.7-inches of screen real estate with the iPhone mini devices and there is something to be said for that - mainly that everything feels less squashed.

TechRadar start by saying comparing the iPhone SE 3 screen to more expensive phones is pointless, as if you want more, you'll spend more but in its own ways the screen is a fine display:

In isolation though, the display looks good - across a wide variety of tasks from photography and videography, to web browsing, gameplay, and video, it looked good. The screen can struggle in direct sunlight, but indoors, it's still a winner.

Performance

This is where the iPhone SE 3 should do particularly well, and outperform most other phones, other than the iPhones 13, including Android flagship phones that cost much more, as Engadget describe:

Synthetic benchmarks don’t paint the most complete picture of a phone’s performance, but in a pinch they’re a good point of reference. The iPhone SE’s Geekbench 5 scores blew away the Galaxy S22 series, and even came close to matching the iPhone 13 Pro.

It's no surprise, as iPhone SE3 and iPhone 13 both feature the A15 Bionic chip, Pocket-lint says this is one of its strong points and it helps support iOS 15 features like Live Text and on-screen dictation:

Performance is where the Apple iPhone SE shines. It might not offer the newest design or the best display in the iPhone portfolio, but it does match the iPhone 13 models in terms of performance and that's impressive for its price point.

Tech-Radar describes how this powers some of the iPhone SE 3's best features:

Basically, everything that's good or better about this phone (4K video shooting and editing, console-level gaming, AI-enhanced photography) is better because of the A15 Bionic. It pushes the boundaries of what's possible within the confines that 2017 design dictates.

Camera

This is what I was most interested in, does the single main camera of the iPhone SE 3 with the new computational features make a significant difference from the previous generation and is it the biggest bargain for mobile photography as I pondered last week. Starting with Engadget:

It takes surprisingly sharp and colorful photos that are on par with the iPhone 13 mini’s. Ornaments on the red brick facade of a local building looked equally crisp when shot on either phone, even when I zoomed all the way in. It’s clear that with the A15 Bionic and processing upgrades like Smart HDR 4, Apple’s been able to make the iPhone SE’s camera perform as well as the main sensor on its flagship.

That's a good start, the iPhone SE 3 really raises the game for what is an entry-level phone, Pocket-lint notes all the bells and whistles you get with one notable admission:

Despite offering a single 12-megapixel main camera on the rear with an f/1.8 aperture like the iPhone SE (2nd generation), the iPhone SE (3rd generation) has features like Deep Fusion, Photographic Styles and Smart HDR 4 on board.
It also offers Portrait mode with depth control, and the six Portrait Lighting options you'll find on the iPhone 13 models, whereas the iPhone XR only offered three when it launched for example. What you don't get however, is Night mode, which is quite a big omission for a 2022 device.

Pocket-lint goes on to comment that low light results are okay but don't match the iPhone 13, and the iPhone SE 3 needs more light without Night mode. TechRadar like the main camera:

We took the phone out to test the cameras, and were pleased not only by the image quality they delivered but with the speed. There's optical image stabilization which meant we didn't always have to plant our feet and stand perfectly still to grab a good-looking shot (video is supported by optical image stabilization, as well).

Other features

The iPhone SE 3 is of course a 5G phone, it supports wireless charging too which isn't a given at this price point but it has no ultrawideband support, from Engadget:

I do appreciate that, in addition to the Lightning port, the iPhone SE charges wirelessly. It also supports sub-6 5G, and can work with midband networks as well. Those hoping for ultrawideband for more precise AirTag locations will be disappointed; Apple didn’t include it here.

No MagSafe is a shame, you'd think Apple would have added it, to increase momentum in the ecosystem, perhaps it just wasn't possible, from Pocket-lint:

However there's no MagSafe charging here so you don't get quite the same experience as the iPhone 13 offers, nor the option to use any of those MagSafe accessories.

Battery life is good, considering that 5G that you'd think with be a big battery drain, from TechRadar:

The reality is, even with 5G running all day and non-stop activity across a wide range of functions, we got 12 hours of battery life. Apple claims 15 hours of video playback (not streaming), and we can believe that, too.

Verdict

Overall the iPhone SE 3 reviews were very positive, here are the reasons for buying a iPhone SE 3 going by these reviews:

Engadget liked the home button and Touch ID, the A15 Bionic chip performace for the price and that the camera takes surprisingly good photos.

Pocket-lint liked the price/performance combination, solid camera, good battery life, 5G, Touch ID, iOS 15 user experience, punchy display and the new photography features from the iPhone 13 .  

TechRadar went with that the iPhone SE 3 is powerful for the cost, a 5G phone that's affordable and the thin and lightweight design.

It wasn't all perfect, the reviews had these points against the iPhone SE 3:

Engadget thought the 64GB base storage is measly, only one main camera and a small and lackluster screen. Pockelt-lint found it an old design with poor low light camera performace, just one main camera, no display changes and no MagSafe.

TechRadar mentioned the 64GB base storage, that the screen is cramped and a price bump compared to the SE 2.

All things considered I think those were good reviews and it's a fine iPhone for the intended market and price point. I'll have more thoughts later but that's it for now. Thanks for reading!