Apple unveiled its newest iPhone during its 'Peek Performance' March event. The new third-generation iPhone SE takes the place of the 2nd-gen SE as Apple's more budget-conscious option within the iPhone range. We're breaking down the key differences to help you decide whether it's worth upgrading and whether a 2nd gen or 3rd gen SE might suit you.

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Firstly, for context — Apple's SE phones ditch the higher-spec cameras and a few other bells and whistles found on the main iPhone range. As a result, they're much more affordable. For example, the SE's camera is a 12MP wide-angle lens, whereas the iPhone 13 packs two. A wide and ultra-wide lens, plus apertures, additional settings and AI assistance. So, if you're looking for the best photography you can get from an iPhone, the SE isn't the choice for you. It still takes more than serviceable snaps though!

So, how does the new SE compare to its predecessor? Notably, it's been beefed up with a new chip and some additional AI support. Here's a detailed breakdown of how the two handsets compare.

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iPhone SE (2nd gen) vs iPhone SE (3rd gen): key differences at a glance

  • The new SE is more powerful, equipped with Apple's A15 Bionic chip, the same chip that powers the iPhone 13.
  • 2022's iPhone SE has full 5G capabilities. The old one only offers 4G.
  • There's a larger 256GB storage option on the new SE.

iPhone SE (2nd gen) vs iPhone SE (3rd gen): in detail

Specs

The stand-out spec boost for the third-gen SE is the addition of Apple's A15 Bionic chip, replacing the A13 chip from the 2020 SE.

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That same A15 chip powers the iPhone 13, so we know it's a powerful all-round performer. It's a real selling point for the new SE, but it needs to be because the specs are largely unchanged elsewhere.

The 2022 phone offers the same display with the same 625 nits max brightness, the same 12MP wide-angle camera, the same 7MP selfie camera and the same IP67 rating for water resistance. Both phones are also capable of recording 4K video.

There is the addition of 5G capabilities though, which is a real bonus in terms of connectivity and go-anywhere ability. Plus the camera — while offering no more megapixels — does have some more AI support and will take slightly better snaps as a result.

Storage

The new SE is available in three storage variations, with 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage. That's a boost, considering the older handset was only available with either 64GB or 128GB. Of course, the more storage you want, the more you will have to pay.

Price

iPhone SE 3

The iPhone SE 2020 started at a £419 price point and the new model does exactly the same. It's available for pre-order from Friday.

Compared to the iPhone 13, which starts at £779, the iPhone SE (3rd gen) is a much more accessible, affordable handset.

For more buying info on the iPhone SE and the whole iPhone range, check out the links below.

There are likely to be one or two good deals on the 2020 model too now, thanks to the release of the 2022 SE. However, it's worth bearing in mind that Apple may offer less longevity in terms of software and security updates for the older model. If you are interested in a 2020 SE, take a look at the deals below.

Battery life

In our full iPhone SE (2nd gen) review, the phone's battery life was listed by our experts as one of the phone's few shortcomings.

Apple fits smaller batteries in its phones than many competitors, but the note-worthy power efficiency of their Bionic chips means that the phones can still perform passably well in the battery life stakes.

Our reviewers said of the 2020 model: "A full day with the iPhone SE (2nd gen) is just about doable, but if you’re a power-user, shooting and watching videos and spending many hours chopping between apps, then you might find you’re in the danger zone before bedtime."

We're expecting a slight improvement for the iPhone SE 2022 and Apple claims battery life will be improved. However, it's not something we can guarantee until we've tested the phone in-depth.

Camera

There are no huge shocks or improvements in the camera department. The new SE carries the same 12MP wide-angle camera on the back and the same 7MP selfie camera.

However, both are bolstered by an improved AI image processing system that Apple calls 'Deep Fusion'. This means the AI of the phone is a little smarter and better able to process your images for colour accuracy and clarity.

As a result, we're expecting a decent — but not revolutionary — improvement to camera performance, but we can't render a full verdict on this until we've reviewed the phone for ourselves.

Display

The newer SE is almost indistinguishable from its predecessor in looks. At the heart of those looks, of course, is its 4.7-inch retina HD display. It's the same panel from the old phone and makes it an appealingly compact handset, compared to the 6.1-inch display on the standard iPhone 13, for example.

The iPhone 13 also offers a super retina XDR display though, giving you higher resolution streaming, images and more. It's one of those small specs shortfalls that helps the SE come in a little cheaper.

5G compatibility

5G compatibility is increasingly widespread, with more and more handsets counting it among their features and more and more areas being able to offer 5G connectivity.

Now, the new iPhone SE (3rd-gen) is fully 5G compatible and this is one of the key areas in which it surpasses its predecessor. So, if high-speed connectivity is high on your list of phone-finding criteria, this new handset from Apple could be a good option.

Design

iPhone SE 2022 and 2020

The 2022 iPhone SE is almost entirely indistinguishable from the 2020 iPhone SE. It's got the same small camera on the back, the same flat back and front panels that have become a hallmark of Apple phones and the same curved edges.

It also comes in the same three colours, black, white, or red. The last of which Apple lists as '(PRODUCT) RED' as part of their campaign to raise money for lifesaving AIDS treatment.

The image above, from Apple's own listings, shows the two phones side by side. It's the most challenging game of spot the difference anyone has ever played, but likely keeping the design simple was another way Apple saved some cash on making the SE. As a result, it's still available at that relatively appetising £419 price point.

iPhone SE (2nd gen) 2020 vs iPhone SE (3rd gen) 2022: which should you buy?

On balance, it definitely seems worth going for the newer model, largely thanks to the experience offered by that more powerful chip. However, if retailers offer particularly good deals on the older handset, it too could be a tempting proposition. The new SE offers good value though, especially if you're already sold on the wider Apple ecosystem.

Pre-order availability for the new SE begins Friday 11th March. Check out the links below for up-to-date buying and pricing information on the iPhone SE (3rd-gen) and the whole iPhone range.

You can shop for the iPhone SE (2nd gen) below. We're expecting some good deals on the older handset, thanks to Apple's big reveal of the new SE.

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