Apple has a new, cheaper iPhone hitting stores Friday that packs the bare minimum of what we need in a smartphone. The latest iPhone SE has a bright display, fast processor, great camera, and robust battery life. He also makes phone calls.
Yet for most of us, that won’t be enough.
Year after year, the majority of customers turn to more expensive iPhones ranging from $700 to $1,100. Even though we have superfluous features that we rarely use, a phone is more than just a phone for many of us. Instead, it’s an investment in how we expect to work, play, and communicate with loved ones. Some of us are even ready to go into debt which has become a status symbol.
All this to say that Apple’s budget iPhone SE is aimed at a certain type of customer: anti-consumers. You’ll probably want this $430 phone if you meet any of the following criteria:
• You don’t care about whiz-bang features like super-fast cellular speed.
• You correctly recognize that smartphone technology has been around for so long that you should pay less for it today.
• You don’t care what the number of camera lenses or pixels on a screen tells your friends and colleagues about your wealth.
• You only upgrade to a new phone when you really need to.
In short, the latest iPhone is for those who just want a no-frills phone that works well for a reasonable price. If that’s you, here’s what you need to know about it.
What you get from a $430 iPhone
For this budget iPhone, Apple took the best parts of its more expensive iPhones and squeezed them into the shell of an older iPhone with a home button and smaller screen.
Let’s start with the highlights.
Like more sophisticated iPhones, the new iPhone SE includes connectivity to 5G, the latest cellular network. In my testing of the device in the San Francisco Bay Area, 5G data speeds were up to 20% faster than 4G. It’s not mind-blowing, but it’s a nice feature to have as 5G networks become mainstream.
The new iPhone also has the same compute processor as the more expensive iPhone 13 models. According to speed test app Geekbench, the cheaper phone’s computing power was the same as the iPhone 13. This meant apps and games opened in a snap and ran smoothly. .
The iPhone SE’s battery was another strength. The previous generation of the phone from 2020 had a below-average battery that drained around 7 p.m. each day. I found the newer model to have enough battery life to last until bedtime.
What you don’t get
Equally important is what the new iPhone lacks compared to more sophisticated models. Here’s some good news: In my testing, the trade-offs were minor.
One of the most notable omissions from the iPhone SE was compatibility with a superfast variant of 5G known as “millimeter wave.” This data connection, favored by carriers like Verizon and AT&T, can deliver speeds so fast that a full-length movie can be downloaded in seconds.
The problem is that 5G millimeter wave technology travels short distances and struggles to penetrate walls and obstacles. As a result, it is even rare to find a connection. People buying an iPhone SE probably won’t even know it’s missing.
The most notable drawback of the latest iPhone is the camera. The sophisticated camera system of more expensive iPhones has multiple lenses capable of capturing more light.
In my tests, the iPhone SE took bright, clear photos in daylight, but it didn’t perform as well in more challenging lighting conditions. In a photo of my dogs on a shady path, the iPhone SE produced an image with less detail and unnatural colors compared to the $700 iPhone 13 Mini. The iPhone SE’s camera also lacks the special night mode found on the fancier iPhones for taking photos in the dark. However, using flash is always an option.
The most obvious difference was the screen. The iPhone SE’s 4.7-inch screen felt constrained and looked darker compared to more expensive iPhones, which have 5.4- to 6.7-inch screens. That was probably the most distinguishing factor – if your eyesight isn’t great or you spend a lot of time streaming video, you’ll probably prefer a bigger screen.
While there are tradeoffs when spending less on a smartphone, the new iPhone delivers more than satisfying results. iPhones over $700 are better, but not 60% better.
It should be remembered that there are other strong competitors in the iPhone SE price range. These include Google’s $400 Pixel 5A, which has different pros and cons. In my testing, the Google phone has a slightly larger screen and takes better low-light photos. But the Pixel phone wasn’t as fast as the iPhone SE, and it might not last as long because Google guarantees software updates for the device only until 2024.
Ultimately, though, both phones excelled at doing what we need – connecting to the internet, making phone calls and taking photos – at a fraction of the price of their high-end counterparts. At a time when the cost of almost everything seems to be skyrocketing, that’s something to celebrate.