May 14, 2022

iPhone SE (2022) First Impressions: A Mix of Old and New

To get the obvious facts out of the way first: yes, the new iPhone SE (2022) is priced starting at Rs. 43,900 in India, and yes, it looks very much like the iPhone 6 from way back in 2014. The proposition might seem ludicrous at first – you can find some spectacular phones with all the latest conveniences priced at or around Rs. 40,000 in India right now, such as the OnePlus 9RT 5G, Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G, Vivo V23 Pro 5G, Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G, and even Apple’s own iPhone 11. However, Apple thinks the value and appeal of this phone lie in its A15 Bionic processor, camera capabilities, and software.

I’ll get into all of that in our full review, coming up soon, but until that’s ready, here are some early impressions and thoughts. The new iPhone SE (2022) is pretty much indistinguishable from the iPhone SE (2020) (Review), except in terms of colour options. The new Midnight and Starlight options replace Black and White from the previous generation, and we first saw these finishes on the iPhone 13 (Review) lineup. Midnight has a deep blue tone, while Starlight is a very warm, creamy white. There’s also (Product)Red just like before.

Pricing might disappoint a lot of people who had hoped for a sub-Rs. 30,000 iPhone. The base variant of the iPhone SE (2022), priced at Rs. 43,900 in India, has 64GB of storage. There are also 128GB and 256GB options priced at Rs. 48,900 and Rs. 58,900 respectively. You get only a USB Type-C to Lightning cable, a SIM eject pin, and some stickers in the box.

If you don’t have a USB Type-C charger handy, you’ll have to buy one – up to 20W fast charging is supported. One feature you won’t find on many Android competitors at this price level is Qi wireless charging. Apple’s MagSafe wireless chargers won’t clamp onto the back of this phone but should work fine if you can line one up accurately.

The iPhone SE (2022) itself is a complete throwback. Even when the iPhone 6 came out in 2014, it was seen as behind the curve, playing catch-up to the larger Android phones of the time. Its 4.7-inch screen is absolutely tiny by today’s standards, and the blank space above and below it, plus the physical Home button, are like artefacts of the past.

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The iPhone SE is relatively light and compact, which might be what some people are looking for

None of this is necessarily bad, especially in terms of handling and comfort – a lot of people like having a fingerprint sensor on the front, and this phone is very easy to hold and use. It’s quite slim and light by today’s standards, at 7.3mm and 144g. This device is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance, and the body is made of aluminium and glass. In terms of usability, virtually nothing has changed compared to the previous generation, and you can read our review of the iPhone SE (2020) right here.

A lot of people like smaller phones and really only want the basics. However, this is not a basic budget phone, in terms of the Indian market. The screen is tiny, but high-quality. There’s only one camera, but Apple’s computational photography know-how should mean great results. It supports 5G, which isn’t available here yet. The biggest selling point of the iPhone SE (2022) is the same A15 Bionic processor that you’ll find in any of the iPhone 13 models, but will this phone’s target audience even want to do things that harness its full potential?

Beyond the SoC, the specifications are a mixed bag. There are 64GB, 128GB and 256GB storage options, though if you’re willing to spend Rs. 59,900 there are numerous choices in the Android world with flagship-level features and specifications. Apple doesn’t disclose the amounts of RAM or the battery capacities of its phones, but performance should be on par with the iPhone 13 series.

There’s only a single 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera on the back, and a 7-megapixel f/2.2 one on the front. The A15 Bionic SoC enables some computational photography features such as the Photographic Styles that we saw with the iPhone 13 series, and Portrait Lighting. You do get optical stabilisation, and video recording goes up to 4K 60fps. There’s no 3D Face ID sensor, though people might not miss that so much in the age of masking

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There’s only a single 12-megapixel rear camera but the A15 Bionic SoC enables some computational photography tricks

Many people cannot justify the prices of the latest iPhones, and so the iPhone SE series is intended to be a relatively affordable way to stay within the ecosystem. You might have a lot if your life tied up with iMessage, iCloud, and all the apps you’ve paid for. However, in India at least, the new iPhone SE (2022) is still far too expensive. The iPhone SE (2020) should remain available for a while at much better prices (especially on sale and with offers), the iPhone XR also costs less and is still quite viable thanks to Apple’s generous software update policies, and even the iPhone 11 costs only slightly more. Bank schemes and exchange offers could even bring the iPhone 12 (Review) and iPhone 12 mini (Review) to this price level – as we’ve already seen.

In short, the new iPhone SE (2022) seems a bit out of place in India. Its design feels recycled and there’s no real “wow” moment that you might expect when using an expensive new device. It’s priced way beyond the budget segment and will have to compete not only with Android heavyweights but also multiple other iPhone models.

I do have a lot of questions about how the new iPhone SE (2022) works and who it really makes sense for. The full review will reveal how its SoC, cameras, and battery perform, so do stay tuned to Gadgets 360.

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