I like small phones. So, you know where we are heading with this review. Each time there’s a new iPhone SE in town, I experience the same joy as reuniting with an old school buddy. Of course there’s nostalgia but just like your school buddy might have evolved, the SE makes significant improvements with every edition. It’s predictable change, since Apple’s playbook for the SE has remained unaltered – old externals stuffed with a powerful new chip and the best of the iOS experience. Does this winning formula still hold good at a time when the average smartphone display has touched 6.5 inches? The short answer: yes.
The iPhone SE sticks to the same design language that we first saw in 2014 with the iPhone 6. The 2016 SE borrowed the same externals as the iPhone 5 (with its 4-inch display), the 2020 and 2022 SE devices take off from where the iPhone 8 left in 2017. One thing has changed since 2020 – the debut of the mini. If you’re a fan of pint-sized phones you can choose from the SE or the Mini. But if your choice is not just about the size but also the price, then the SE becomes a more logical option. It feels great in your hand and the simple joys of one-handed navigation are refreshing. While the design language of the SE might still have its fans in 2022, it’s dated; especially the thick bezels. There’s a flipside to this – the home key. We might have become accustomed to Face ID and a whole new navigation pattern since the debut of iPhone X back in 2017, but it’s still fun to keep hitting the home button every time you’re lost.
It didn’t take me more than a few seconds to experience the power of the A15 Bionic processor. It happened the moment I set up Touch ID, the blazing speeds of this new chipset kicked in. We’ve said this before, the chipset is not just about your usage experience today but also about the longevity of the phone. This processor and Apple’s updates make it future proof. It’s also 5G-ready. The Internet has been swamped with stories about how the SE has been beating Android flagships on benchmark scores. It’s on par with the formidable iPhone 13 quartet. While Apple doesn’t share details of RAM and battery specs officially, the 2022 iPhone SE gets a RAM upgrade and a slight bump in battery over the 2020 edition. It’s not just about ultra-fast gaming but also improvements in everyday tasks. I found a perceptible difference in battery life compared to the 2020 SE but it’s still no battery champion. I was able to get through until 7pm with camera usage and a couple of short rides in the city with Maps on.
It’s the same 12MP rear cam as the previous iPhone SE, but here again it’s the computational photography that elevates the experience. The SE benefits from Deep Fusion as well as photographic styles (that first made their appearance on the iPhone 13 devices) that allow you to tweak the tone of your images. It’s almost like a ‘pre’ filter. The SE also fares slightly better in lowlight than the 2020 edition. The selfie camera snaps decent images. I missed the ultra-wide lens the most but if that’s something you’re not big on, the SE might be all the cam you need.
It’s tough to justify the SE purely on price. You can find deals on the iPhone 11 or the 12 Mini if your only objective is to buy into the Apple ecosystem at the lowest possible price. The SE is for those who like small phones and still do what we used to consider tablet things like ‘Netflixing’ or e-books on their iPad. If you’re one of these users, you will appreciate the buttery smooth experience powered by the A15 Bionic processor and a camera that shoots great images and videos in optimal light. But most of all, it’s the ability to pull your phone out when you’re holding shopping bags in one hand and type an email with the other hand. Small conveniences that many of us have left behind in the 2010s.
The iPhone SE (2022) comes in Midnight, Starlight and (Product) Red. It costs Rs 43,900 (64GB) / Rs 48,900 (128GB) / Rs 58,900 (256GB)