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Apple iPhone SE 3 review – why the basic budget handset is worth your cash

Our verdict on the new £419 smartphone

apple iphone se 3 review
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If it’s time to replace your trusty iPhone and you’re not bothered about fancy top-spec features, you’re probably looking for a handset that packs in value. After testing out the newly launched iPhone SE for a week, we’d recommend the budget-conscious go for this one over any model in the iPhone 13 lineup.

Why pick the basic option? Well, it’s more like the newest models than you might expect with just a handful of tradeoffs. It’s over £200 cheaper than the 13 mini – the smallest and most affordable iPhone announced last September – yet the SE has a similar compact size, the exact same chip on the inside, and the same fast 5G mobile data speeds.

Related: Best deals for Apple's 5G iPhone SE 202

iPhone SE 3 key specs

  • Screen size: 4.7 inches
  • Resolution: 1334 x 750
  • Camera: Rear camera (12MP wide-angle) and 7MP front camera
  • Storage space: 64GB, 128GB or 256GB
  • Battery life: Up to 15 hours
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Micro SD card slot: No
  • Weight: 144g
  • Colours: "Midnight", "Starlight" and "Product (Red)"
    Apple iPhone SE (64 GB)
    amazon.co.uk
    £419.00

    iPhone SE 3 design

    An update to the 2020 version of the SE, this phone maintains the same familiar design that first debuted in 2017’s iPhone 8 and isn’t that different from the 6 or 7 too. Apple has now taken to calling it an "iconic" design, but we’d be lying if we said this look isn’t a bit outdated and tired in 2022. On the plus side, you won’t have to relearn how to use it and the home button is still a reliable way to unlock the phone and buy stuff with Apple Pay.

    apple iphone se 3 review
    Digital Spy

    iPhone SE 3 5G data speeds

    The big selling point is 5G. If you’ve got yourself an unlimited data SIM card, you’ll find this invaluable. Once you’ve experienced the rapid downloads, you’ll be amazed you ever put up with anything else. To put the new iPhone SE to the test, we turned off wifi and tested the capabilities. On Spotify, we grabbed an hour-long album for offline listening in a zippy 32 seconds, and we downloaded The Adam Project from Netflix in just a minute and 20 seconds.

    iPhone SE 3 camera

    How much you like the iPhone SE’s camera will depend on the kind of snaps you want to take. You can get great photos out of its single rear lens, but it’s worth knowing that it shares the same camera system as the previous generation SE so the changes aren’t that major. It also means there’s no night mode whatsoever, and you should be prepared for murky or blurry results in low light conditions. In good lighting, the photos are excellent and the addition of Apple’s latest AI smarts means you’ll get improved colour, contrast and detail, along with true-to-life lighting for each subject in a group photo.

    iPhone SE 3 processor and battery life

    It's all about the chip upgrade here. Apple's gone and put its newest processor – the A15 Bionic (aka the same one that’s in the 13 and 13 Pro) – in its most familiar form factor. When we compared it side-by-side with our old iPhone XR, it was easy to see the difference. The SE will outpace old handsets when it comes to its boot-up time, launching apps and handling the dozens of Safari tabs you’ve probably got open at any given time. It’s also better for avid mobile gamers and the chip enables the AI camera features mentioned above.

    iPhone SE 3 drawbacks

    If you’re tired of the iPhone 8 design, you probably won’t even give this phone a second thought. There’s not that much room on its 4.7-inch screen compared to the 6-inch displays we’re used to seeing. It’s also typical to get an extra ultra-wide camera in most phones these days, so you could feel like you’re missing out with just a single lens. Most crucially, though, the starting capacity of 64GB is just far too small by today’s standards. If you want more space for your downloaded videos, apps and photos, you’ll need to go for the 128GB version of the iPhone SE, which costs £469.

    apple iphone se 3 review
    Digital Spy

    iPhone SE 3 verdict

    The new iPhone SE is reliable and familiar, even if there’s little "wow factor" here. It’s especially worthwhile if you’re upgrading, as it’s got some of Apple’s newest improvements from its 13 lineup but at about half the cost of the 13 Pro. It may not grab headlines with its innovation, but this comfortable design delivers top performance, better battery life, 5G mobile data, and AI improvements that you couldn't get on the old SE.

    Apple iPhone SE (64 GB)
    amazon.co.uk
    £419.00

    What about the iPhone 13 models?

    If you’re not too worried about the cost, we've also compared the differences between the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Pro and have a review of the pocket powerhouse that is the iPhone 13 mini. Apple has kept some of its features for these handsets, so if you want extra camera lenses, cinematic video improvements or significantly better batteries, we’d recommend picking one of these – they come in green now too.

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