It is the pimped Toyota Camry among smartphones – the iPhone SE 2022! Apple’s latest iPhone offers the currently fastest smartphone processor in a chassis that we have known since 2013. In our first hands-on, however, it was another feature that really made me frown. Did Apple focus too much on its processor in the latest iPhone and forget about everything else?
- Insane performance level
- High-quality workmanship
- Solid camera quality thanks to the A15 SoC
- Promising battery life
- Display is too dark and small
- Really inflexible camera setup
- Base model comes with only 64 GB memory
- Increased price
Price and availability
Apple introduced the iPhone SE 2022 at the spring event on March 8. The smartphone replaces the iPhone SE from 2020 and primarily offers technical improvements, and nothing else. You can choose between three versions at 64 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB of storage space.
In addition, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to color selection: You can decide between white (tested), black and red in the Project Red version. Something important to take note of when buying: As with its more expensive models, Apple omits the charger in the SE model in 2022. Thus, only a USB-C to Lightning cable is included.
Design: Bold or imposing?
Apple adopted the iPhone SE 2020 design without making any obvious changes on the outside.
Thus, the latest iPhone inherits the design of the iPhone 6 which was introduced in 2014, with several improvements in between. However, Apple has installed more shatterproof glass on the front and back and protected the device against water and dust based on the IP67 certification.
For everyday use, it turns out that this design is still practical and functional in 2022. The iPhone SE 2022 is nice and compact without a protective case, and Touch ID still works smoothly. However, you also buy a smartphone that simply does not look like a modern smartphone. Thick bezels in the iPhone SE 2022 are rarely seen on the streets anymore.
Even though it is impressive how Apple does not care about certain trends in the smartphone industry, I personally find the design to be too old-fashioned. However, sticking to old traditions also leads to functional problems, which I will discuss in more detail in the next chapter!
Display: The SE’s biggest weakness?
A 4.7-inch LCD display with a 1,334 x 750 pixels resolution is firmly entrenched in the iPhone SE 2022.
With a maximum brightness of 625 nits, Apple hoped to balance things out with True Tone and a larger P3 color space. The refresh rate stands at a positively sluggish 60 hertz, just like in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini.
Thus, you will look for improvements in the SE 2022’s display in vain – and that is fully noticeable in everyday use. While we are used to 90 or 120 Hertz refresh rates today, where we constantly look at super-bright AMOLED displays with a crisp resolution, the iPhone SE display is simply unsatisfactory. I also feel that the display’s brightness is insufficient to be able to display content perfectly under direct sunlight.
Smartphone screens are a good indicator of how technology has developed over the past few years. At a price of $429, you get more out of that amount from other models – even in the iPhone 11 from 2019. This is especially so since Apple’s design prevents the possibility of installing a larger display with the same chassis size, like in the iPhone 13 mini. A lot of potential of the iPhone SE 2022 is lost here.
Performance: Similar performance as the iPhone 13 Pro Max
The stroke of genius of the iPhone SE 2022 is the processor.
This is because Apple installed its own A15 Bionic SoC in the phone, which makes the performance level on par with the iPhone 13 Pro Max in terms of CPU, GPU, and NPU. However, Apple installed less RAM in the smartphone and also took a step back when it comes to internal storage.
Even without a 90 Hertz display, iOS 15.4 looks extremely smooth on the iPhone SE 2022. This is because the performance is higher than that of all Android smartphones in 2022 thanks to the modern SoC. The system consists of 6 CPU cores, 4 GPU cores, and 16 NPU cores – so Apple surprisingly does not throttle the performance compared to the high-end iPhone 13 Pro Max. Even though Apple did not confirm this information, the iPhone SE 2022 offers less RAM. However, this is not really noticeable in everyday use, since switching between apps and also the picture-in-picture function runs smoothly at all times.
However, another Apple decision continues to annoy me when it comes to the iPhone SE 2022 because the manufacturer announced at the iPhone 13’s launch that the new iPhones would come with 128 GB of storage space at the bare minimum, instead of the 64 GB found in the iPhone SE 2022. By offering a larger capacity base model, Apple can ensure that the smartphones are also future-proof for the next few years in this day and age of 4K videos and image floods on WhatsApp and other instant messengers. At the same time, the price-performance ratio improved compared to the previous generation.
In the iPhone SE 2022, however, Apple takes a step back and so you have to pay a surcharge of $50 for the basic storage variant of the iPhone 13. That is annoying and I already explained why the whole thing seems like a money pit in some cases.
Camera: Single lens with good software processing
The back of the iPhone SE 2022 is adorned by a single camera that offers a 12 MP resolution.
Its light intensity is solid thanks to an open aperture of f/1.8 – but the real magic happens in the phone’s software. Because thanks to the ISP of the A15 Bionic, features like Smart HDR 4, Deep Fusion and Photographic Styles are available to you. However, you will have to do without Cinematic Mode, an ultra-wide-angle camera, and a Night Mode.
The camera of the iPhone SE 2022 surprised me a bit after the first 20 test photos. Because even though it is far less flexible than the dual and triple cameras in the iPhone 13 series, you can expect similarly good results under good lighting conditions. This is due to the image processing capabilities of the A15 Bionic, which obtains the maximum out of the sensor’s 12 megapixels with Smart HDR 4 and Deep Fusion.
Compared to its larger siblings, however, the Night Mode, which ensures good photos even without light, is missing besides the flexibility of shooting in low light conditions. Furthermore, digital zoom is not really useful for sharp photos from a distance.
When it comes to videos, you benefit from 4K recordings at 60 frames per second, which you cannot really watch on the display, as it does not even come with Full HD resolution. However, the biggest drawback of the iPhone SE 2022’s camera is that Apple omits the Cinematic Mode. I have easily filmed three hours of videos with the iPhone 13 mini and liked to activate the virtual bokeh. But Apple might rely on the depth information of the other cameras to distinguish foreground from background.
In my gallery of test photos, I have compiled shots of the iPhone SE 2022 for you. Feel free to tell me in the comments which ones you like and which ones you don’t like.
Apple iPhone SE (2022) battery
Apple does not officially reveal the battery capacity of the iPhone SE 2022. Instead, we have the usual information about its runtime –
up to 15 hours for video playback, five hours less for streaming on Netflix and the like. You
can recharge the battery from empty to 50% in 30 minutes via a separately available 20-watts charger. Wireless charging is also supported, but it is unfortunately achieved without Apple’s own MagSafe.
Since this article is a first impression, I cannot make my own statements about the battery runtime yet. However, the runtime looks solid for such a slim smartphone, but I’ll find out over the next few days whether it will also prove itself in everyday use. However, there is one point of criticism in the specifications: The iPhone SE 2022 supports wireless charging with Qi chargers, but MagSafe is not supported.
My first impression of the iPhone SE 2022 is less euphoric than that of many colleagues. Certainly, it cannot be denied that Apple offers a real powerhouse at a price of just $429. However, from my point of view, the SE model comes with particularly many compromises this year.
What begins with the underwhelming display continues with the rather limited memory in the base model. On top of that, Apple only improved the camera on the back using software processing, and you will also have to accept limitations compared to the more expensive iPhone 13 models. I would have liked to see Night Mode available in the iPhone SE 2022 at the very least. As another shortcoming, I miss the Cinematic Mode, for which Apple probably needs several cameras to obtain depth information.
Over the next few days, it’s now up to me and the iPhone SE 2022 to form a more concrete impression. Will the idea still work after a few days of everyday use? And what do you think of the new SE model with its hybrid specifications sheet from 2021 and 2016?