The first iPhone SE was a colossal success for Apple, and the only strange thing about it is that Apple took four years to release a successor. Fortunately, there’s not been so long to wait for SE 3, with a new iPhone SE here just two years later.
Apple unveiled the affordable iPhone at a March launch event where it also revealed an updated
iPad Air and new green finishes for the
iPhone 13 and
13 Pro, all of which are on sale from 18 March.
The design is exactly the same as the previous model, which in effect means it’s the same design as the iPhone 8 – from 2017.
You’ll get the same 4.7in Retina HD display (meaning 1344 x 750 resolution – so not actually Full HD), surrounded by a thick bezel on all sides. It is at least now coated by what Apple calls the “toughest glass in a smartphone,” which also protects the phone’s rear.
There’s no notch, but there is a Home Button which takes up a large space below the display. That does mean Touch ID remains, but in turn there’s no Face ID.
It’s available in three colours: black, white, and red – a.k.a. midnight, starlight, and PRODUCT(RED), to go by Apple’s official (and obnoxiously capitalised) names.
The good news is that once again, it’s powered by the absolute latest iPhone processor. In this case it’s the A15 Bionic, replacing the A13 Bionic found in the previous SE. The long and short of it is that this phone should be just as powerful as even the top-spec iPhone 13 Pro Max, albeit with the disclaimer that Apple has most likely included less RAM here, which may slightly limit multi-tasking performance.
Just as importantly, the A15 brings with it support for 5G, marking a clear step up from the last model.
Apple says the A15, together with a larger cell, has enabled “better battery life”, quoting an extra two hours of charge per day. Wireless charging has at least returned though.
Still, not every high-end iPhone feature has made the cut, with no sign of Apple’s novel MagSafe tech. Waterproofing has been included however, with an IP67 rating.
Inevitably, the camera won’t compete with the iPhone 13 series either. Like last time, the big difference is that there’s only one lens here – meaning you’ll miss out on the ultrawide found in all the premium iPhones, and the telephoto included in the Pro models.
Still, the single 12Mp camera here is likely to impress, even if it looks likely to be the same hardware as last time. The A15 Bionic chip should deliver all the same computational photography processing power that the other iPhones get – and these days that’s more important than almost anything else in a phone’s photo toolkit.
Curiously though, Apple hasn’t confirmed if that includes the likes of Night Mode. This was arbitrarily cut from the 2020 SE, and doesn’t get a mention in Apple’s launch material for the new model – will it also miss out on Night Mode? And in either case, are there other key photography modes that aren’t included here?
If you want to know more, we discuss the iPhone SE and the other new Apple products launched alongside it in an episode of our weekly podcast
Tech Advisor's Deputy Editor, Dom covers everything that runs on electricity, from phones and laptops to wearables, audio, gaming, smart home, and streaming - plus he's a regular fixture on the Tech Advisor YouTube channel.