As for the LCD screen itself, it is fine. It gets bright enough to use outdoors, but rivals like the Google Pixel 5A 5G ($450) and Samsung Galaxy A52 5G ($500) (soon to be replaced by the A53 5G) use OLED panels which offer more vibrant colors and darker blacks. The latter even has a 120Hz screen refresh rate, which Apple reserves for its expensive iPhone Pro models.
Battery life on the SE is just okay. Most days I found myself with about 30% left by bedtime. (That’s with about six and a half hours of screen time.) On busier days, like when I used the camera a lot, relied on the SE for navigation, and used it as hot spot for my MacBook, it hit 15 percent around 5 p.m., although the phone survived in low-power mode long enough for me to get home. Still, while the aforementioned Samsung and Google phones can last almost two days on a single charge, I wonder why the iPhone SE can’t do it too.
If you are a heavy phone user, bring a battery. It can also be a wireless battery! The SE is one of the only phones at this price to support wireless charging. Too bad there’s no MagSafe support; I would have loved to magnetically stick a thin battery to the back of this iPhone.
These omissions do not mean that the iPhone SE is wrong. Barely. It just means that owning one will cause you to miss some nice perks. The big issue for me is the lack of night mode in the camera. Apple says the new 12-megapixel rear camera steals a few features from the iPhone 13, like Photographic Styles to apply a specific filtered look to your photos and Deep Fusion to bring out finer details. The photos I got from the camera were pretty sharp, with accurate colors and excellent high dynamic range… during the day.
At night, expect muted colors, underexposed scenes, lots of grain, and slightly blurry subjects. Direct low-light comparisons to the similarly priced Pixel 5A saw the Google phone beat the SE in nearly every night shot. The 7-megapixel selfie camera is also unremarkable. (Video performance, on the other hand, is pretty good on the SE.)
All this is a pity, because we to know the processor inside the iPhone SE can support Night mode; the feature is available on the iPhone 13, which has the same chip. Looking at the photos of the SE, I feel like I’m using a phone from three years ago. It’s just not up to snuff, and that’s not to mention the lack of additional cameras. Both the Pixel and Galaxy A52 have ultra-wide cameras for some versatility, which I sorely missed here.
The iPhone SE 2022 is a powerful phone for anyone who prefers classic Apple design. The company promises to support the device for a long time, and I’d say you don’t need to upgrade from the 2020 model of the SE if it still treats you well. If you want to upgrade from the 2020 model, consider the iPhone 11 for $70 more if you give priority to the camera (it Is supports night mode and has an ultra wide camera). But it’s bigger and doesn’t have 5G.
I would like Apple to stop controlling certain features. There’s really no reason not to include Night mode on the iPhone SE. We know the hardware is capable. A beefier battery would be nice, as would a slightly bigger screen (while maintaining similar dimensions). At the very least, I hope the next time Apple refreshes its Special Edition, it will look special and not…”old”.