Apple iPhone SE 2022 review: dated design but bargain price

Top performance, 5G, good camera and long software support ensure cheapest iPhone is worth buying

Apple’s cut-price iPhone is back and has been upgraded for 2022, with a faster chip and 5G making it an even better bargain than before.

The third-generation iPhone SE costs £419 ($429/A$719) and is the cheapest smartphone Apple sells, priced to compete with myriad mid-range Android devices.

On the face of it, the iPhone SE doesn’t look that tempting a proposition. There are cheaper smartphones available and it only comes with 64GB of storage. The 4.7in LCD display is bright, but cramped and markedly less crisp and vibrant than competitors. It is basically the same as the previous version from 2020 on the outside, which already looked extremely dated.

The bottom of the iPhone SE showing the home button
The iPhone SE has huge bezels around the screen and the old-style Touch ID home button, a design that was first seen with the iPhone 6 in 2014. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

But while the phone may look decidedly old school on the outside, internally it is anything but. It has Apple’s latest A15 chip, which is the fastest on the block and the same one in the top of the line iPhone 13 Pro.

The phone is extremely responsive in use and will continue to be so for years. It runs the latest version of iOS and all the apps and games you might want, except Fortnite. It has 5G, wifi 6, Bluetooth 5, wireless charging, water resistance and all the things you’d expect of a modern phone in 2022.

Battery life is average for a modern smartphone, lasting in the region of 30 hours between charges with the screen on for about four hours using various messaging services and apps, and two hours of 5G. That’s a couple of hours longer than its predecessor but miles behind the 46-hour iPhone 13.

the lightning port in the bottom of the iPhone SE
The iPhone SE fully charges in 90 minutes, hitting 50% in 24 minutes with a 20W or higher power adaptor (not supplied). Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Use more 4G or 5G mobile data than wifi and battery life will be shorter but the iPhone SE should generally last about a day of use as long as you’re not gaming for long sessions.


  • Screen: 4.7in Retina HD (LCD) (326ppi)

  • Processor: Apple A15 Bionic

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 64, 128 or 256GB

  • Operating system: iOS 15.4

  • Camera: 12MP rear camera with OIS, 7MP front-facing camera

  • Connectivity: 5G, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5, Lightning, and GPS

  • Water resistance: IP67 (1m up to 30 minutes)

  • Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm

  • Weight: 144g


The camera app on the iPhone SE
The iPhone’s camera app is super simple for point-and-shoot photos and supports photographic styles, portraits for people and some other advanced features, but not night mode for low-light photography. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The iPhone SE has a single 12-megapixel camera on its back. It produces very good images in decent light with good colour balance, detail and dynamic range. Even in dull indoor settings it does admirably, but it lacks Apple’s night mode so images shot in the evening are dark and grainy by comparison. It shoots solid video too, particularly at this price point, while its selfie camera is similarly decent in good light but weak at night.


Apple does not provide an expected lifespan for the iPhone SE’s battery but it can be replaced for £49. You should expect it to maintain at least 80% of its original capacity for 500 full charge cycles. Out-of-warranty screen replacements cost £146.44. The previous iPhone SE 2020 was awarded six out of 10 for repairability by the specialists iFixit.

The phone contains 91% recycled rare earth metals, 100% recycled tungsten and at least 35% recycled plastic in various components, plus 100% recycled tin in the solder of its main board. The company breaks down the phone’s environmental impact in its report.

Apple also offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.


The Apple iPhone SE 2022 costs from £419 ($429/A$719) with 64GB of storage, £469 ($479/A$799) with 128GB or £569 ($579/A$969) with 256GB.

For comparison, the iPhone 13 mini costs £679, the iPhone 13 costs £779, the OnePlus Nord 2 costs £369, the Samsung Galaxy A53 costs £399, the Fairphone 4 costs £499 and the Google Pixel 6 costs £599.


The iPhone SE is one of the best bargains in modern smartphones. It is not the flashiest or most feature-rich but it offers more bang for buck for longer than any other.

It has an almost vintage design, lacks the MagSafe charging and accessory system, Face ID and other niceties of Apple’s more expensive models, but is otherwise a solid phone. At £419 it is Apple’s cheapest model, competing with mid-range devices from Samsung and myriad Chinese phone companies, many of which offer bigger, better screens, more cameras and greater storage.

But unlike its rivals, it has Apple’s top chip, 5G, the latest version of iOS and will, crucially, be supported for a very long time with software and security updates – it should be safe to use for seven years or more.

When even the best competition at this price tops out at only four years of updates, the iPhone SE will last longer than any other mid-range phone. And because it is an iPhone, it benefits from a huge ecosystem of third-party accessories, plus you can get it fixed if you break it and the battery can be replaced when it wears out. The starting 64GB of storage will be enough if you store your photos in the cloud and don’t download lots of games and movies.

That makes the iPhone SE the best new smartphone for people who don’t really care about phones – it gets the job done and will last as long as possible.

Pros: lowest-cost new iPhone, about seven years of software support, A15 chip, 5G, wireless charging, decent single-lens camera, top performance, easy to handle, water resistance, Touch ID, amazing value.

Cons: battery life could be better, no headphone socket, no zoom camera, no Face ID, dated design, very slow charging, no MagSafe.

The back of the iPhone SE laying on a table
The front and back of the iPhone SE are hardened glass, while the sides are aluminium – shown here in red but available in a choice of three colours. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Other reviews


Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
iPhone SE review: Apple's cut-price smartphone king
Top performance, good camera, long support and manageable size make cheaper iPhone a bargain

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

01, May, 2020 @6:00 AM

Article image
iPhone 14 review: familiar design but now easier to repair
Same performance and battery of predecessors with better camera and significant changes on the inside

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

10, Oct, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Apple iPhone XS review: two steps forward, one step back
The iPhone XS hasn’t broken mould like the iPhone X, and it has weaker battery life, but its camera, design and performance are class-leading

Samuel Gibbs

04, Oct, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Apple iPhone 13 review: cheaper, longer lasting and better camera
Small upgrades on last year’s best iPhone, now with twice the starting storage

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

04, Oct, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
iPhone 12 review: Apple's best since the iPhone X
Fresh, iPhone 4-like redesign is slimmer with long battery life, good camera and smash-resistant screen

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

29, Oct, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
Apple iOS 14: new features coming to iPad and iPhone
Firm announces latest innovations including for iPad and watch at US conference

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

22, Jun, 2020 @6:46 PM

Article image
iOS 13: Apple launches faster iPhone software with more privacy
Update opens apps twice as fast, includes Sign in with Apple to protect personal data

Samuel Gibbs

03, Jun, 2019 @6:26 PM

Article image
iPhone 11 review: an iPhone XR with a better camera
Apple’s lower cost model has latest chips and longer battery life but is identical on outside to predecessor

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

01, Oct, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
iPhone 11: Apple launches new Pro smartphones with better cameras
iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max have faster processors, better screens, and new double and triple camera systems

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

10, Sep, 2019 @7:04 PM

Article image
iPhone XR review: Apple's cheaper battery king
With Face ID and a decent screen, this phone attempts a happy medium between quality and price – but £750 still isn’t a bargain

Samuel Gibbs

31, Oct, 2018 @6:00 AM