Think of the iPhone SE as the essential iPhone experience.
No, you won’t get all the fancy bells and whistles of the iPhone 13 line. Forget about the bigger screens or sophisticated cameras or Face ID.
What you get in the iPhone SE, available this Friday starting at $429, is a gadget capable of handling your essential smartphone tasks really well.
After trying out the iPhone SE for a few days, it’s clear Apple’s most affordable smartphone might sacrifice some cool features, but it still provides owners a sleek, speedy device for whatever they may require.
Longtime fans of smaller smartphones will rejoice knowing Apple has retained the SE’s adorable 4.7-inch display.
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It also features a home button, which means you can log in to your iPhone SE using Touch ID, which recognizes your thumbprint. The SE borrows from older models’ design with rounded edges. It’s like revisiting my older iPhone 7 all over again.
There is one key thing iPhone SE shares with the iPhone 13: the A15 processing chip. I was surprised at how fast this phone scrolls and downloads. Flipping between apps feels speedy, as do most other everyday functions. It packs plenty of zip. And just like iPhone 13, the SE has 5G support.
The SE packs only two cameras: a 7-megapixel camera on the front of the phone and a 12-megapixel wide camera on the back. Pictures taken with the SE are still very good for a phone at this price.
For comparison, I snapped pictures of similar objects using my iPhone 12 mini. Although the 12 mini performed better capturing tiny details, it’s tough to really spot significant differences in image quality.
What the iPhone SE won’t get you
There’s only the one wide camera on the back of the SE, so no ultra wide or telephotos lenses like you have on newer iPhones. You also miss out on some newer photo and video features including macrophotography and Night Mode, which helps capture great images under low lighting. There’s also no 4K video recording.
Although the SE supports wireless charging, you can’t use any of Apple’s line of MagSafe chargers. Speaking of batteries, the one tucked into the SE packs similar battery life as my iPhone 12 mini. Based on my iPhone 12 mini experience so far, it’s solid, but you likely won’t get through a full day without recharging if you use it frequently.
The SE has a retina HD display, so the resolution isn’t as high as on the iPhone 12 and 13 models with their super retina XDR displays.
Is iPhone SE worth it?
If you crave the bigger screens and technically superior cameras of newer iPhones, then the SE won’t fit your lifestyle.
What the iPhone SE will do is fulfill your basic needs – email, texting, web browsing, video, music playback, games and so on – and perform those tasks quite well. Yes, it’s a cheaper iPhone, but for under $500, it still feels like you get a great experience.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.