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Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: A powerful and compact smartphone with dated looks

iPhone SE models are the budget line-up of Apple’s smartphones. They are not as affordable as most people would want, but they definitely do not cost an arm and a leg like the other iPhone models do. In this Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen review, I share my experience with using the 2022 SE model as my daily driver for over a month. It has been quite a ride, and it isn’t all pleasant. 

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Our review unit is the 128GB variant (there are also 64GB and 256GB variants available, depending on your needs and how much cash you are able to shell out). The 64GB variant costs $379.99, the 128GB trim costs $449, while the 256GB variant has a price tag of $579.99. Apart from the differing built-in storage of these three variants, everything else about them are exactly the same, so information provided in this Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen review is applicable to all of them.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Quick Specifications

Let’s have a quick look at the phone’s specifications to see what to expect.


    • 4.7-inch IPS display
    • iOS 15.4
    • 7MP selfie camera
    • 12MP main camera with LED light
    • 2018mAh battery with 20W fast charging
    • Apple A15 Bionic
    • 4GB RAM
    • 128GB internal storage

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Quick Pros And Cons

Before we dive into the review proper, starting with the major pros and cons of this device.

    • 5G, 4G LTE, 3G, and 2G support
    • Good physical build
    • Good battery life
    • Compact size

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: In the box

Apple iPhone SE 3rd generation review - phone with box
    • Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen phone
    • SIM ejector tool
    • Lightning cable
    • Paper documentation

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Hardware And Design

If you hate bezels, the design of the iPhone SE 3rd Gen will repulse you, and that is understandable. This is 2022, and the bezels on this gadget are from as far back as 2014. Unfortunately, it is the price to pay for a cheaper iPhone – at least till this year. Rumour has it that next year’s SE 2023 will have the design of the iPhone XR from 2018. Back to the SE 2022, which is another name it is called, the dated design does not take anything away from the build quality.

The iPhone SE 2022 is well built. The back side is made of glass and is susceptible to breaking should you let it keep an appointment with the concrete or tiled floor. The frame is made out of aluminium, It has a premium feel all round. In addition, thanks to the small 4.7-inch display, this is a rather compact smartphone. Many people will find it too small, as most phone users in the world clearly want bigger screens. Yet, lovers of compact smartphones will find it perfect, or good enough.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review - hardware

As already mentioned, the iPhone SE 3rd Generation model has the design of older iPhones. This means it is the only iPhone in Apple’s current lineup that has a fingerprint scanner, thanks to the Home button located below the display. There is no 3.5mm audio port here, though you can still use a headset with the phone, if you hook it up with an adapter. Lastly, the phone has an IP67 rating, providing dust and water resistance in depths of up to 1 metre for 30 minutes.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: 360-degree Hands-on Video

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Software

Out of the box, the iPhone SE 2022 runs iOS version 15.4. But iOS 16 was waiting for it and it was promptly upgraded. You can look at a detailed breakdown of iOS 16 features, to see what it brings to the table. At the core, the operating system and user interface have remained the same, so if you have used an iPhone before, you already know your way around, minus the minor changes to iOS 16.

One of the new features are lockscreen widgets. They are cool for keeping an eye on important information even when your iPhone’s screen is locked. We set up a few weather widgets and they worked fine. One of the big deals about iOS is the ability to seamlessly back up your iPhone with iCloud. It happens automatically in the background, and is a lifesaver if something happens and you lose the data on your device, lose the device itself, or want to switch to another iPhone.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review - hardware - software

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Network And Telephony

In addition to 4G, 3G, and 2G networks, the iPhone SE 2022 supports Standalone (SA), Non-Standalone (NSA), and Sub6 5G networks. Phone call quality is not impressive. In many cases, it is disappointing. Telephone call audio breaks too often, for a phone that costs this much. Compared to the call quality on phones from other brands, the iPhone SE 3rd Gen is poor in telephone call quality.

When it comes to WiFi Internet access, though, the SE 2022 is problematic. If used in direct line of sight of a router, WiFi Internet works as expected. But if you move to another room with a concrete wall in between the phone and the router, the connection slows down badly, and online images and video take time to load. It is an unpleasant experience. We tested this with other devices, including multiple Android phone s and Windows laptops. None of them had this issue. I have discussed this issue in greater detail in another article.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Display And Multimedia

The display has basic resolution (a mere 750 x 1334 pixels), but it is a tiny 4.7-inch screen, so it doesn’t look bad at all. Also, there is no high refresh rate, but that doesn’t mess up anything. Viewing pictures and videos on the iPhone SE 2022 is a pleasant experience.

The stereo speakers on this smartphone are of good quality. You hear the bass and the timbre of music. It really is a pleasant experience. If you choose to use a wired headset, you need a 3.5mm adapter for that. The experience leaves a lot to be desired, though.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Photography & Video

Photography and video on the iPhone SE 2022 is quite good. It isn’t fantastic. Apple made sure to give you a reason to want the more expensive iPhone models. Photos are good, but often lack a measure of brightness. For example, the Google Pixel 3 camera does a better job with brightness. You will not find the camera disappointing. It is good; it just isn’t among the best, and that is understandable.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen selfie Photos

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review - hardware - camera

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Performance

This is where this phone shines. It uses a top-end Apple A15 Bionic processor, after all. Performance is excellent. That chip paired with a small, 4.7-inch screen means that you get solid performance. The iPhone SE 3rd Gen may be tiny, but it is mighty.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Battery life

The iPhone SE 2022 has a smallish 2018 mAh, and if you were worried about how it would hold up, that would be a valid concern. iPhones had a reputation for poor battery life, until recently. So, we approached the SE 2022 with some concern – and we were proved wrong. On a full charge, the battery runs for a full working day. This is on a moderate use case – a few hours of web browsing, email, and the odd telephone call and SMS. It will take you home from work.

If used more intensively, the battery will empty much faster. Depending on how intense the usage, it can empty in 6 hours. Charging is via 20W standard. While it isn’t super fast, it got us a 50% charge in about 30 minutes. I would have loved to have 30W or 33W fast charging.

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review: Should You Buy It?

Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen Review

The iPhone SE 3rd Generation is a decent budget smartphone. I love that it has a fingerprint sensor, 5G support, and decent battery life, and fairly fast charging. The slow WiFi and poor call quality issues suck, though, and are sour spots on an otherwise excellent smartphone. You should buy it if you want an up-to-date iPhone without breaking the bank. You should buy it if you are comfortable with a small screen. This one is really small. From where I stand, those are the only reasons to get the iPhone SE 2022.

Don’t buy iPhone SE 3rd Generation if…

If you prefer an up-to-date design or if you want a large screen, the iPhone SE 3rd Generation is not for you. This is an extremely compact smartphone with a 4.7-inch display.

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