iPhone SE vs. iPhone 13 Buyer's Guide: Apple's Cheapest iPhones

The third-generation iPhone SE and the iPhone 13 are now Apple's most inexpensive iPhone options, starting at $429 and $599, respectively. Apple released the ‌iPhone 13‌ in late 2021 and has bumped it down in price since then to make it more accessible as new models have been released. On the other hand, the third-generation ‌iPhone SE‌ launched in early 2022, refreshing the most affordable ‌iPhone‌ option in the lineup.

iPhone SE vs
With just $170 between them, should you get the smaller entry-level ‌iPhone‌ that still has a Touch ID Home button or the all-screen model that has come down in price over time? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two iPhones is best for you.

‌iPhone SE‌ (third-generation) ‌iPhone 13‌
Design of 2017's ‌iPhone‌ 8, featuring rounded edges, a Home button, and large bezels at the top and bottom of the display Design based on 2020's ‌iPhone‌ 12, featuring flat sides, diagonally arranged rear cameras, and an edge-to-edge display with a "notch" TrueDepth camera array for Face ID
Glass front and back Ceramic Shield front and glass back
4.7-inch Retina HD LCD display 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display
625 nits max brightness (typical) 800 nits max brightness (typical) and 1,200 nits peak brightness (HDR)
1400:1 contrast ratio (typical) 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio (typical)
‌Touch ID‌ ‌Face ID‌
15-hour battery life (during video playback) 19-hour battery life (during video playback)
Single rear camera Dual rear cameras with 2x optical zoom range
12-megapixel Main camera with ƒ/1.8 aperture 12-megapixel Main camera with ƒ/1.6 aperture
12-megapixel Ultra Wide camera with ƒ/2.4 aperture
Optical image stabilization for video Sensor-shift optical image stabilization for video
Night mode
Cinematic mode for recording videos with shallow depth of field (1080p at 30 fps)
HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 30 fps
Audio zoom
Front-facing 7MP FaceTime HD camera with 1080p HD video recording and Smart HDR 4 Front-facing 12MP TrueDepth camera with 4K video recording, Smart HDR 4, slo-mo video support, Animoji, and Memoji
Rated IP67 water-resistant to a depth of one meter for up to 30 minutes Rated IP68 water-resistant to a depth of six meters for up to 30 minutes
First-generation ultra wideband chip for spatial awareness
Supports Dolby Atmos audio playback
Compatible with MagSafe cases, wallets, wireless chargers, and more
Available with 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB storage Available with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB storage
Midnight, Starlight, and PRODUCT(RED) color options Green, Pink, Blue, Midnight, Starlight, and PRODUCT(RED) color options
Starts at $429 Starts at $599

Overall, the ‌iPhone SE‌ remains an excellent entry-level ‌iPhone‌ option for just $429. It contains the A15 Bionic chip, which is still widely available across Apple's lineup of devices and offers more than sufficient performance. With ‌Touch ID‌, wireless charging, water resistance, a capable rear camera, and the latest version of iOS, it is a great smartphone for those new to the ‌iPhone‌ and have basic needs. Some users value the more traditional design, Home Button, and size of the ‌iPhone SE‌ compared to the ‌iPhone 13‌, but there is no escaping the fact that the ‌iPhone SE‌ offers an older and more basic ‌iPhone‌ experience with a design dating back to 2014's ‌iPhone‌ 6.

For $170 more, the ‌iPhone 13‌ offers a decidedly more modern and advanced smartphone experience thanks to a much more modern design and a brighter, OLED display, as well as ‌Face ID‌, an Ultra Wide camera, Cinematic mode, Night mode, considerably better front-facing and rear cameras, ‌MagSafe‌, and longer battery life. There is also the benefit of improved water resistance, the ultra wideband chip for Precision Finding with AirTags, and Dolby Atmos audio playback. There are even additional color options to choose from. All of this makes for a significant upgrade over the ‌iPhone SE‌ if you can afford the $170 extra, but it is worth bearing in mind that they are not essential capabilities for many users.

The ‌iPhone SE‌ is an excellent device if your needs or budget are limited, but there is no doubt that the ‌iPhone 13‌'s larger display, more modern and durable design, brighter OLED display, better cameras, longer battery life, and ‌MagSafe‌ compatibility are universally beneficial. In most cases, this is worth the $170 extra if you can afford it.

It is also worth noting that the next-generation ‌iPhone SE‌, which is not expected to launch until 2025, is expected to be based on the ‌iPhone 13‌'s all-screen design. This means that buying an ‌iPhone 13‌ is also likely to be a much more future-proof purchase, looking reasonably up to date compared to Apple's other devices in the coming years.

Related Roundups: iPhone SE, iPhone 13
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Don't Buy)
Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

subjonas Avatar
8 months ago

My gf decided to stay with the smaller iPhone SE gen 1 size and replace the battery :rolleyes:
Put a ring on that. She sounds like a keeper
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kerr Avatar
8 months ago

iPhone 13
Available with 128GB, 256GB, or 256GB storage
I recommend 256GB. If not, go for 256GB instead.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mrfish84 Avatar
8 months ago
If the 13 mini was still here at 499$… it would have been another story
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
icanhazmac Avatar
8 months ago
Bought an SE (g3) instead of replacing the battery in my 8 and haven't looked back. Personally I don't want anything as large as a Plus or Max and even 6.1" is approaching too large. I also couldn't care less about cameras. We have gotten to the point where devices should be sold as cameras that have phone and app functionality.

The SE/8 format is a true tank, it will be sad when it is gone.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Populus Avatar
8 months ago
As someone who just bought an iPhone SE 3, I cannot say anything but good things about this little boy.

Sure, if you need a big screen, and you enjoy having a big smartphone between you hands, and prefer the OLED screens, then there’s not much to argue.

But if you like compact smartphones, you are used to the iPhone 8 form factor (like me) and prefer the LCD screens for whatever reason, then the SE3 is an excellent pocket device. The only thing I miss on this phone is a better camera or even an ultra wide, but for me the tradeoff is worth it.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jozone Avatar
8 months ago
Why would someone not include the CPU in the comparison table?
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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