Hands-On With Apple's Most Lackluster Smartphone: The 2022 iPhone SE
Apple last week introduced the 2022 iPhone SE, an upgraded version of its low-cost smartphone. The 2022 iPhone SE looks identical to the 2020 model, featuring only internal upgrades, and it is arguably Apple's most lackluster iPhone. So who is it for? Read on to find out what we think.
If you've seen the 2020 iPhone SE, well, you've seen the 2022 version. Apple has not made any exterior updates, and it still looks like the iPhone 8 that was introduced in 2017. This five-year-old design features thick top and bottom bezels along with a Touch ID Home button. It's the last iPhone to continue to use Touch ID, as Apple has transitioned to Face ID for the rest of the lineup.
Apple didn't even spend too much time thinking about new colors for the iPhone SE. It comes in starlight, which is almost identical to the previous silver, midnight, which is not too far off from the prior black color, and (PRODUCT)RED, which was also available for the 2020 model. Apple did make it out of more durable glass, but glass is glass and it's still going to break when dropped onto hard surfaces, so that's not much of a reason to upgrade.
The new iPhone SE is equipped with the latest A15 chip, which is an upgrade over the A13, though it's hard to tell a difference in terms of day to day usage. Apps and games perform about the same, but the A15 chip will make a difference several years from now as Apple develops new versions of iOS and new features that require more processing power.
There's a single-lens 12-megapixel rear camera that has updated features like Smart HDR 4 and Photographic Styles powered by the A15, but when looking at photos from the 2020 and 2022 iPhone SE models side by side, there's little difference in quality. Battery life is also about the same.
The other major difference between the 2020 iPhone SE and the upgraded model is support for sub-6GHz 5G networks. 5G is still in its infancy, so 5G support is important for future proofing. The new SE doesn't support the fastest mmWave 5G speeds that are mostly limited to more urban areas, but it does work with the wider spread sub-6GHz bands that are going to expand worldwide in the coming years.
From the perspective of Apple enthusiasts who look forward to the latest and greatest each year, the iPhone SE is a disappointing phone, but that's not who it's for. Apple made the iPhone SE for the people who don't care about phones, those who just want a smartphone that's fast, simple, reliable, and most importantly, cheap.
At $429 the iPhone SE is more expensive than the prior-generation model, but in six months or so, it should come down in price with various carrier discounts and deals. It's the go-to phone for those who are upgrading from something like an iPhone 6, iPhone 7, or iPhone 8, because it's familiar and it's going to last for quite a few years to come.