Want a phone for Rs 45,000? Should you consider the iPhone SE (2022)?

Is the new iPhone SE worth its asking price?

So you are in the market for a new phone. You have a budget in the vicinity of Rs 40,000, which you can stretch by about ten percent to around Rs 45,000, if you think you can get good value for the extra money. There is no shortage of options with budget flagships like the OnePlus 9 RT (Rs 42,999), the ASUS 8Z (Rs 42,999), the Xiaomi 11T Pro (Rs 39,999), boasting super-fast processors, modern design, multiple cameras and large batteries with super-fast charging, all coming in your range.

So with all this around, should you even be considering a phone that looks as if it just stepped out from 2017, in terms of design and even spec sheet (to a large extent)? We are talking of the latest iPhone SE, which Apple released recently, and which is available at a starting price of Rs 43,900.

The new iPhone that is not a no-brainer

Generally, a new iPhone could walk into any list of candidates that fall within its price range and emerge as a no-brainer option for many. The iPhone SE, however, has always been a little different. It has come with an older design and fought mainly on its compact size, new processor, and relatively affordable price tag. The original iPhone SE (2016) was broadly based on the iPhone 5S, and the iPhone SE (2020) was an iPhone 8 with a modern heart (processor). The latest iPhone SE follows the template of its predecessor, and looks every inch an iPhone 8, although it comes with the same processor as the new iPhone 13 series – the A15 Bionic. Like the other iPhone SE devices, it too is significantly more affordable than the new “number” iPhones. The iPhone 13 series starts at Rs 69,900 (for the iPhone 13 mini) while the new iPhone SE starts at Rs 43,900.

This places the new iPhone SE into the budget of anyone wanting a smartphone with a budget of about Rs 40,000 – Rs 45,000. However, unlike other iPhones, buying this one is not a no-brainer. In fact, we would say that it faces far more competition than any of its more expensive siblings, and unlike them, actually seems to lose out on many parameters to the Android devices around it. The iPhone 13 series has mainly to deal with premium Android flagships and for the most part, holds its own very comfortably against the best that the likes of Samsung, Vivo and OnePlus throw at it. The iPhone SE has a much tougher task on its hands.

Compact, but blast from the past

That is because the iPhone SE is an almost exact copy of the iPhone 8, which was released in 2017, although it does come with the A15 Bionic chip that powers the far more expensive iPhone 13 series. Apple claims to have used the toughest glass in a smartphone in its build, but we still could not tell it apart from the iPhone 8. It has the exact same proportions – 138.4mm tall, 67.3mm wide and 7.3mm thin – and is almost the same weight (144 grams as compared to 148 grams). That does make it one of the most compact phones out there in the market, but the large bezels around the display and the large fingerprint scanner cum home button below the display give it a very dated appearance. It is not a bad looking phone by any means, but neither does it have the modern vibes of the newer iPhones.

That feeling of encountering a phone that’s stepped out of a time machine stuck in late 2017 continues when you look at the phone’s spec sheet as well. The iPhone SE is perhaps the only new phone in its segment that comes without a full HD display (it has a 1,344 x 750 resolution), has an LCD display rather than an AMOLED one, has a 60Hz refresh rate rather than a higher refresh rate, and also features only a single camera on the back. There is no charger in the package either, which is a rarity in the price segment, where most of its rivals are packing in extremely fast charging power bricks.

Yes, the iPhone SE is compact, features excellent stereo speakers, has IP67 dust and water resistance (something not too many phones at this price have), and also comes with support for wireless charging (again a rarity at its price). Still, all said and done, you can get phones with bigger, brighter and higher resolution displays with higher refresh rates, with bigger and faster charging batteries, with more cameras that have several times the megapixel count of the 12-megapixel snapper on the iPhone SE, with very good processors and with way more contemporary design at similar price points. Heck, if you are willing to compromise a little on the processor, then even at much lower price points.

So, should you EVEN be considering the new iPhone SE? It seems to make very little sense on many fronts – you can get much more for much less.

Where USP stands for “Updated Software and that Processor”

What keeps the iPhone SE in contention are two factors that are not available on anything the competition can offer at its price – its processor and its software. Forget about the price point, no Android phone around can offer the combination of A15 Bionic chip and iOS that the iPhone SE brings to the smartphone table. It is not just a matter of benchmarks or running games and apps smoothly – you can get that from a number of Android devices as well. What makes this combination of software and processor special is the fact that it keeps working smoothly for a considerable amount of time, often for more than half a decade.

If that sounds hard to believe, then do consider that the original iPhone SE, released in 2016, also runs the same version of iOS that is on the iPhone 13 series, and still works very smoothly. What’s more, it is likely to keep receiving updates in the coming days as well, if sources are to be believed. The reason for this is Apple’s excellent combination and control over both software and hardware. This is why most iPhones get updated to new versions of iOS while only a bare handful of Android devices run the latest version. Software might not seem to make a big difference to those who keep switching phones regularly (say every year), but if you are the sort that purchases a phone once every few years, then software performance takes on new importance. And that is a department where the iPhone SE aces the competition. It not only packs in enough power to run whatever you throw at it (you can even edit video on it, if you are comfortable doing so on that tiny and low-resolution display), and does most things reasonably well, but promises to be alive and kicking for at least five years. We cannot say the same about any Android phone, irrespective of their prices.

It is this long-term appeal that places the iPhone SE in the list of phones you should be considering if you have a budget of around Rs 45,000. It is not a phone to show off, its dated design kills its vanity value and most of its specs are hardly boast-worthy. But unlike most of its competitors, it is likely to be still ticking along smoothly for five years down the line, running the same software that you see on the iPhone 18 (or whatever Apple chooses to call the iPhone that year). If you are in the market for a phone that looks spectacular in terms of both design and specs, the iPhone SE is unlikely to make the cut, but if you want a compact phone that might look from another age, but refuses to act aged, this is the phone for you.

With inputs from Akriti Rana