I wish I was an iPhone SE person. Since its relaunch in 2020, the entry-level iPhone has transformed from a nod to relic-era format into a prime example of a smartphone “just what it should be and nothing more”.
Even if Apple kept the smaller 4.7-inch screen and Touch ID authentication system, it aggressively ramped up the insides of the SE models, making them incredibly performant per dollar. The 2022 model will run on the A15 Bionic chip, which also powers its flagship iPhone 13 Pro. This is not a parts bin iPhone from a core computing perspective.
The approach here is instead to trim the tech in the display department — the Retina HD display looks fine, but any iPhone 13 Pro user would immediately notice the lack of Apple’s 120Hz ProMotion display — and the camera. Instead of the triple camera system, you get a single rear camera with a capable but not comparable 12MP wide-angle lens. We were all very used to that before the multi-camera smartphone race kicked off with the iPhone 8 Plus.
The original iPhone SE, if you remember, was very much positioned as a “special edition” of the iPhone that brought back the iPhone 5 style and small size for one last hurrah. Since then, the world has moved much further with small phones, but there remains a segment of people who still prefer the 4.7-inch form factor for usability or lack of need. As with last year’s device, I find that 4.7″ remains the lower limit of what I now comfortably type.
For Night Mode you will find no lidar, no ultra wide-angle or telephoto lenses, no Cinematic mode and no Dolby Vision. What you will find is a simple camera that still captures one of the better smartphone images out there. While the wide angle in this iPhone SE is functionally identical to the 2020 version, you get improvements delivered by the A15’s ISP and Neural Engine, including better low-light performance, improved HDR, portrait mode for photographic styles, portrait lighting and Deep Fusion – of which there are several firsts in the SE’s 7MP front camera.
This is a very solid camera, especially for those who see the iPhone as their most useful memory maker rather than a photographic tool. The lack of night mode in stills is probably the biggest flaw of what is otherwise a completely serviceable little camera system.
While daylight or well-lit interior images will look very similar to the casual user, your ability to capture photos without flash just doesn’t compare to the incredible capabilities of the iPhone 13’s multi-lens Night-Mode series.
As far as I know, Apple hasn’t slowed down the A15’s performance, at least not from a benchmark or practical perspective. This phone feels as fast as the iPhone 13 for any driver’s daily activity.
The case is also pleasingly thin and light in a way that is no longer a high-end phone. They are all jewel-like in their density, sharp edges and texture. The iPhone SE is a sleek, sandblasted round glass pill. It is extremely pleasant to hold and use and does not ask much of you at all. It is there to serve and disappear, not to be present.
The issues I have with Touch ID changing the way you interact with the phone are still in my review of the 2020 SE. I just prefer the seamless swipe mechanics and paradigm now, after years of using the top end iPhone models. I know many don’t care and are fine with the faux button push haptics and thumb auth. That’s a compromise that also lives between two decent options rather than between “good” and “terrible”.
At $429, it’s a small jump in price over the previous SE, but still by far the most affordable in the iPhone range. You can buy cheaper phones, but there are several factors to recommend the SE as the best budget option in the smartphone market. First, Apple has given this device the same powerful chip as its more expensive phones. Second, the company has shown a serious commitment to supporting its devices with updates to security, features and quality of life for about five years after release – an unusual stance in the wider industry. And third, while it lacks some high-end features, the design and materials used still feel very premium.
Like flying economy, I think people have gotten used to being treated like dirt if they don’t opt for the most expensive option. The iPhone SE manages to be that rare situation where choosing the option that just gets you from point A to point B doesn’t also mean you’ll have to live with being disrespected.
Using this phone for a few days, I wish I was an iPhone SE person. Unfortunately, I’m too obsessed with the advanced advancements that high-end devices are bringing in screen and camera technology to really be satisfied with anything other than “the latest”. I fully admit that this is a byproduct of my fascination with photography and seeing what the edge of the envelope looks and feels like. And it’s kind of my job.
If I were a different kind of person, just interested in owning a phone that was simple and competent, the iPhone SE Life has a lot to recommend. If you’re a more accomplished person whose life doesn’t revolve around technology like an electron orbiting a nucleus, this might be the option for you.
This post The iPhone SE is the platonic ideal of a smartphone – TechCrunch
was original published at “https://techcrunch.com/2022/03/14/the-iphone-se-is-the-platonic-ideal-of-a-smartphone/”