Review Of The Apple IPhone SE 3 (2023): A Step Backwards
The 2023 iPhone SE from Apple is arrived, and it’s almost certain to be a huge hit with Apple enthusiasts on a budget. Despite being the least costly iPhone in Apple’s lineup, Apple has equipped it with the A15 Bionic chip, making it just as quick (on paper, at least) as the more expensive iPhone 13 models.
For many people, especially those who have only ever owned an iPhone, this will be more than enough to make the £419 asking price acceptable. Having used iPhones frequently, I am familiar with this feeling; there is something about the software’s functionality and the app ecosystem that makes you want to continue with it. Giving up is hard.
Apple iPhone SE 2023 review: What you need to know
But how long will this state last? Apple customers may be famously biddable but the iPhone SE is now looking seriously long in the tooth. The 2023 SE lacks an edge-to-edge display, much like last year’s model, and the little 4.7in screen is still surrounded by substantial chin and forehead bezels. Not to mention the battery life, which has improved this year but is still stuck in the stone age by modern smartphone standards.
Is there anything to convince people to continue with the iPhone SE for one last time, besides its A15 processor and the Apple ecosystem? Yes, there is 5G, so you’ll receive a quicker connection where it’s available. But, except from that, the advancements are negligible.
Apple iPhone SE review: Price and competition
The price hasn’t changed, which is fantastic news. The pricing of the base model with 64GB of storage is still £419 (the 128GB model is £469, and the 256GB model is £569), despite the fact that the iPhone SE was released more than two years after the preceding model.
Whether you think this is excessive for a phone that shares a screen size and frame with the iPhone 8, a device that debuted almost five years ago, is irrelevant. The fact that Apple is keeping the price of its most affordable phone the same must be positive given the rising cost of goods in general.
As for competition, there are plenty of Android alternatives and most at around the same price as the iPhone SE have larger displays with higher refresh rates, more cameras and bigger batteries. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G and the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G are currently our favorites; both are substantially less expensive, and the OnePlus has 128GB of basic storage.
While this may not be something you appreciate when you first buy the phone, you’ll most certainly be grateful for it a few years down the road when other low-cost handsets start to sag. Yet, none comes close to the iPhone SE for sheer performance.
Design and main features of the Apple iPhone SE
Let me emphasize this again in case you missed it: The Apple iPhone SE resembles its predecessor, which in turn resembled the iPhone 8. This is so because the chassis of all three phones is essentially the same. The phone lacks Face ID and has large black bezels that make it look outdated. Instead, you unlock the phone with the haptic fingerprint reader/home button that is located below the screen.
Apple’s adherence to the same design is not necessarily a bad thing. The iPhone 13 mini is slightly smaller and has a larger screen, but it is significantly more expensive. The SE measures 138 x 7.3 x 67mm (WDH) and weighs 144g.
The SE has a respectable rear appeal (in white, black, or red), and its blend of glass and aluminum gives it a pleasant hand feel. The phone won’t catch on the hem of your pocket when you slip it in and out thanks to the rounded corners and radially curved edges of the frame, which I prefer to the square edges of the more expensive iPhones.
Apple iPhone SE Review: audio and visual
The iPhone SE is now the only phone in Apple’s portfolio with an IPS display after the rest of the iPhone series switched to AMOLED technology. Although it is just 4.7 inches in size, the 1,334 x 750 resolution and 326 ppi pixel density make it crisp enough to be referred to as a “Retina HD” screen.
The large bezels above and below the screen are now embarrassing, but the slow 60Hz refresh rate is the actual deal-breaker in this situation. The iPhone SE feels like it’s trapped in the past because it’s substantially slower than the 90Hz and 120Hz displays we see on many Android phones at this price or below.
There is no denying, though, that the image quality is still excellent. The display will represent the P3 color space while playing back HDR content, and it performs admirably in other respects as well. In sRGB mode, I measured an average Delta E color variance of 0.54, which is very, very good.
Peak brightness, which I measured at a remarkable 637cd/m2, means that reading will be acceptable in all but the most intensely light settings. Moreover, the contrast ratio of 1,342:1 gives photographs and moving images lots of pop. You won’t be dissatisfied if you can get beyond the sluggish refresh rate and small size.
Review of the Apple iPhone SE (2023): Camera
On paper, the iPhone SE camera doesn’t appear to be all that amazing either.
There is only one on the back, and it has the same hardware as the iPhone SE before it: a 12-megapixel (f/1.8) camera that can record 4K video at up to 60 frames per second while being perfectly stabilized.
The A15 Bionic processor brings over other features from the iPhone 13 including Photographic Styles (color presets that don’t affect the reproduction of skin tones), Deep Fusion, and Smart HDR 4, which enables the camera to detect and adjust exposure for each face in group shots. However, there is no night mode, which is strange. The Cinematic Mode of the iPhone 13 is likewise absent from the 2023 iPhone SE.
Despite the shortcomings, the iPhone SE outperforms its less expensive Android competitors in the camera department. It generally produces photographs with excellent levels of detail, a nice balance of color, and, when the light gets challenging, it balances exposures superbly. This is especially true in good light.
Just enough dark detail is brought up by its HDR option to keep pictures looking authentic. The camera produces excellent portraits and 4K video that is smooth, stable, and well-balanced in terms of exposure.
The SE’s pictures have a bit less contrast than those taken at the same time with the iPhone 13 Pro, and they have a little less detail in the shadows. Skin textures aren’t captured with quite the same degree of detail in portraits either. Although you have to zoom in rather closely to see the differences, the camera on the iPhone SE (2023) is generally far superior to the one on the OnePlus One CE 2 5G for everyday shooting.
Review of the Apple iPhone SE (2023): Final Thoughts
The Apple iPhone SE (2022) does a lot of things well, as with most Apple devices. The phone boasts an excellent camera, a gorgeous display (as long as you don’t mind the slow 60Hz refresh rate), and a powerful A15 Bionic chipset that will keep it running smoothly long after the battery has died.
Yet, it’s getting harder and harder to defend suggesting a phone with such an outdated design and a poor battery life. Unless you don’t mind purchasing used or refurbished, the iPhone SE (2023) is your only option if you really can’t afford an iPhone 13 mini and just can’t bring yourself to leave the Apple ecosystem. But this time, it’s really difficult to feel excited about it.