August 11, 2022


How intelligent does a smartphone actually have to be? A take a look at my Display screen Time app tells me that 85 per cent of my telephone utilization is spent both watching YouTube, listening to music, or scrolling by means of Twitter.

So, I skipped the brand new iPhone 13 to spend a month with the most recent iteration of the iPhone SE as a substitute – a handset that’s lower than half the value of the latest, smartest iPhone accessible – to search out out whether or not it’s time for a rethink with regards to how a lot I spend on my telephone.

What are the upsides?

© Apple


A fast learn of the spec sheet tells you this isn’t simply outdated tech repackaged at a diminished value. Apple equips the iPhone SE with the identical chipset, the A15 Bionic Chip, that it makes use of in its newest, strongest telephones. This implies there’s completely nothing mistaken with how the telephone performs. Apps load instantly, the touchscreen by no means hangs and there hasn’t been a web site or a recreation that has brought on the telephone to stutter. Plus, it’s technically highly effective sufficient to deal with modifying pictures and even 4K video.

It’s an analogous story for the digicam, which punches manner above its weight, because of the chipset inside. The A15 has what Apple calls a Neural Engine, which is there to assist your iPhone perceive the world round it.

When it comes to pictures, which means that, in concept, your telephone’s digicam can inform the distinction between the blue within the sky, and the blue in one thing like a street signal, after which tune one or the opposite independently relying on which ‘photographic fashion’ you’ve chosen.

There are 4 types to select from: Wealthy Distinction, Vibrant, Heat and Cool. You would possibly, for instance, need to seize a photograph with a hotter trying sky, however that doesn’t imply you need each single blue within the picture to develop into extra saturated – that is what the Neural Engine figures out. Equally, Apple says the identical tech improves the way in which your digicam captures pores and skin tones too. In apply, it’s arduous to fault.

The digicam additionally pulls off Apple’s latest software program trick: level the lens at a doc, poster or signal, and the digicam gives you the choice to repeat the phrases off the stay view and paste the textual content right into a be aware, doc or e-mail. It’ll even recognise when a line of textual content is definitely an internet hyperlink, and invite you to click on it to move to the deal with.

On high of a strong CPU, you’re additionally shopping for into Apple’s OS, which is clear, easy and easy-to-use. It additionally comes with highly effective privateness instruments that may assist preserve nosy apps at arm’s size. Plus, the telephone provides wi-fi charging and waterproofing, which you don’t usually discover in equally priced Android gadgets.

What’s lacking?

© Apple


If you happen to’re downgrading, the very first thing you’ll discover is the show. In comparison with the edge-to-edge screens we’ve develop into used to, the black bars on the high and backside that body the show really feel like a step again in time. By itself the display screen is vibrant and crisp, however put it subsequent to an OLED show you’d discover on a flagship telephone and the iPhone SE’s LCD is notably much less vibrant.

Finally, it’s the dimensions of the display screen (4.7”) greater than the image itself that may probably put me off the gadget long-term: it’s only a contact too small for lengthy stints on YouTube or a online game.

The storage on the bottom mannequin, 64GB, is a bit of on the shallow facet. The battery life additionally falls a bit of wanting what you’d hope for, sometimes needing a recharge earlier than the day was out.

As a point-and-shoot digicam, we just like the iPhone SE, although it’s price noting you’ll be lacking out on a couple of options. There’s no zoom or wide-angle lens, and there’s no devoted night-mode, which implies pictures taken in low mild can come out blurry and missing definition.


For the tech-obsessed, the iPhone SE might not be tempting enough for a downgrade. The iPhone 13 mini is probably a better option, if you’re hoping to save some money and aren’t willing to sacrifice that much screen space. For rest of us, this SE is a great option. In fact, I think there are two groups who Apple might have in mind with this phone: our parents and our kids.

The display, though small, is perfectly good for my mum or my nieces, who don’t (yet) spend hours on their phones. The iPhone SE is easy to use, will look after their privacy and will be good enough to take and send all the pictures they take, without breaking the bank. Most of the tech that’s been omitted to make the phone affordable is superficial, while core components are powerful and, to a degree, future-proof.

Ultimately, at half the price, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting half the phone.


Xioami 11 Lite 5G NE

Xioami is the go-to brand if you want to spend less but still want a smartphone that looks good and is equipped with solid tech inside. The sleek, slim design together with the big AMOLED display makes this feel like it’s a flagship phone. Plus, the chipset inside should be powerful enough to last a couple years (though it’s not nearly as powerful as the A15). The triple camera setup allows for a dedicated nightscape mode which is uncommon at this price level.

A great all-round alternative, if you prefer Android to iOS.

OnePlus Nord CE 5G

This phone punches well above its weight in almost every way. It might not look as slick as the Xioami, but there’s a powerful chipset inside, fast-charging feature and a decent-sized battery. There’s plenty of storage on board, and a camera capable of delivering 64MP photos.

If you want to watch videos or TV on your smartphone, then the Nord CE might be best option in this price range, with its 6.43in AMOLED display and HDR support.

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