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iPhone SE Review - A Cell Phone Buyers Guide

iphone se

The new Apple iPhone SE came onto the market to provide a premium iPhone experience on a cheaper budget. Apple iPhones are notorious for being both high in quality and price point. The SE was Apple’s answer to critics of that model. The idea was that it would provide all the essential features of an iPhone while scaling down some of the premium features to cut down on cost.

Does this scaled-down version of the iPhone sacrifice too much to be a contender in the market, or does it “hit the nail on the head” by catering the device to a broader demographic?

Here is a rundown of what the iPhone SE offers and whether it is worth the reduced price.

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iPhone SE Overview

The short answer is that yes, the iPhone SE delivers as a lower-budget iPhone. In terms of performance, no other smartphone at this price matches the speeds the SE can reach. It runs on an A15 Bionic chip, just like the iPhone 13 models, and it can handily run the types of games you might find yourself playing on a mobile device.

It also has 5G support, meaning it’s future-proofed from a network perspective. As the nation transitions to 5G connectivity, the iPhone SE will be compatible with the new networks.

One of the more glaring issues is the design of the phone. It feels stuck in the past, taking on a slightly smaller and bulkier look similar to earlier iPhone models. In some ways, this is a plus; the re-inclusion of the home button will make fans of the old designs happy.

But overall, it eschews the updates that Apple has integrated into iPhones in favor of design choices that feel outdated and cheaper.

However, the iPhone SE is a solid addition to the iPhone family. Anyone interested in an iPhone out of their price range should pick up an SE. The performance, camera, and durability are fantastic for the cost. Even though concessions had to be made in materials and design to keep the device relatively cheap, no other budget smartphone offers the iPhone brand of quality.

What’s the Cost of the iPhone SE?

You can buy the iPhone SE for $429, much less than the price of most iPhone models, let alone new products. For context, the iPhone 13 is $699 for its lowest storage model. This low price point is easily the iPhone SE’s most significant selling point.

Who Is the iPhone SE Best For?

The iPhone SE is tailor-made for people who want the benefits of an iPhone without the price.

Apple offers several benefits for family units using iPhones, such as iMessage and iCloud sharing. As a result, the iPhone SE is perfect for teams like this that want to utilize Apple’s features to the greatest extent possible.

The iPhone is also great for people who want a phone reminiscent of early iPhone models. The design and materials harken back to the early days of the iPhone, so people who miss that era can scratch that itch with the iPhone SE.

Breaking Down the iPhone SE in 2024


The iPhone SE comes in three colors: midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED. The SE was purposefully made smaller to reduce resource costs, allowing it to be a cheaper phone than the average iPhone model on the market.

It features an old-school physical home button under the screen, which reduces screen size and caters to those who missed the button when it was removed from recent iPhone models.

One important thing to note about the iPhone SE, as opposed to the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 Pro Max, is that it doesn’t come with Face ID. Instead, the SE uses Touch ID.


The new iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch LCD widescreen multi-touch display with 1334 by 750-pixel resolution. Other features include haptic touch, a true tone display, display zoom, and up to 625 nits max brightness.

Additionally, the SE comes with bezels at the top and bottom of the screen, which could appeal to the retro flavor, although it comes at the cost of the larger screen.


The iPhone SE’s camera comprises a 12 MP Wide camera with a digital zoom of up to 5x. Like other recent iPhones, the SE contains portrait lighting with six effects and depth control.

In addition to portrait mode, the iPhone SE can photograph entire scenes with a panoramic setting (up to 63 MP).

Other camera features include:

  • Optical image stabilization
  • LED True Tone Flash
  • Autofocus
  • Smart HDR 4

The iPhone SE has 4k video recording technology at 24fps, 25fps, 30fps, and 60fps. The camera can also record lower-quality videos such as 1080 HD and 720 HD. Video recordings can zoom up to 3x.

Other features of the video camera include taking slo-mo and time-lapse videos. Other features of the video camera include taking 8MP still photos while recording 4k video, playback zoom, and continuous autofocus video.

Some of these features are only available on the rear camera, while others are available on the selfie camera.

Battery Life/Charging

The iPhone SE allows up to 50 hours of audio playback and 15 hours of video playback. It is essential to note the battery life drops to 10 hours when streaming videos.

The iPhone SE prides itself on fast charging time, regaining 50% of its battery after just 30 minutes. The phone has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery and is wireless-charging capable.

The phone can be charged via USB to a computer or power adapter and uses a 20W adapter or higher.


Like all modern iPhones, the iPhone SE runs on Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 15. The SE is just as advanced at an OS level as any other iPhone. It also comes with the default Apple apps, such as Safari, iMessage, and iCloud access. Undoubtedly, once iOS 16 rolls out, the SE will also run it.


With its Bionic A15 chip, the iPhone SE is best-in-class when it comes to performance. The speeds possible on an iPhone SE are head and shoulders above what you can achieve on any other phone with a similar price point.

It also sports a six-core CPU (with two performance and four efficiency cores) and a four-core GPU. In addition to this, it has a 16-core Neural Engine.

iPhone SE: Pros

  1. Fastest Speed Per Dollar Spent
  2. Compact and Accessible
  3. Extremely Durable
  4. Stellar Camera

Fastest Speed-Per-Dollar Spent

The A15 Bionic chip could make this phone worth the price on its own. At $429, you get the same speed and performance that the iPhone 13 puts out, and that is a steal. No other budget phone comes close to the power behind the iPhone SE.

Compact and Accessible

The SE is small and easy to use since it does not attempt to integrate all of the complex design additions Apple has added to its mainline models over the years.

The iPhone 13 Mini achieves a smaller size by scaling down the iPhone 13, while the iPhone SE is fundamentally designed to be a smaller and less resource-intensive phone.

Extremely Durable

The SE is IP67 water resistant and can handle being submerged up to a meter. The glass is the same high-strength glass used for the iPhone 13, and its smaller, thicker size makes it very tough for an iPhone. That being said, it is still recommended that you get a case for your phone just in case.

The stellar camera may not have all the bells and whistles of the iPhone 13, but it is a powerhouse for the price. The increased processing power allows in-depth computational photography features such as Smart HDR 4 and Deep Fusion technology. The 12 MP rear-wide camera is against much more expensive premium smartphones.

iPhone SE: Cons

  1. Small Display
  2. Camera Lacks Night Mode Feature
  3. Battery Life Worse than Larger iPhones

Small Display

The size was a significant concession to lower the price, so if you are not interested in a small phone, then the iPhone SE is not for you.

Camera Lacks Night Mode Feature

Night mode is also gone from the iPhone 13, and the more straightforward camera system means that taking pictures at night will have many hurdles to jump over. Even with the advanced camera system, the lack of a night mode heavily restricts photographic creativity.

Battery Life Worse than Larger iPhones

Charging speeds are not as optimized as they are for the iPhone 13, and it will take much less time to run out of juice despite the less intensive software entirely.

The Bottom Line

Should You Buy the iPhone SE? Only if you’re short on budget.

The iPhone SE wears its flaws on its sleeves. By Apple’s standards, this is a budget phone, and features had to be cut.

But even with that in mind, no phone will give you this level of quality for the price. The design and tech may be outdated, but the iPhone's camera quality, durability, cost, and performance shine.

The smartphone market is fluid, and you never know what the next big-budget smartphone will be. If you want to stay informed on the best phones and phone deals Navi can help. Our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder can bring you the best offers on the the plan and phone that fit your specific needs. Make sure you are in the loop to know you are buying the phone for yourself.

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