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Apple iPhone SE (2022) vs. iPhone SE (2020)

With the recent launch of the new Apple iPhone SE (2022), Apple’s latest affordable iPhone, you might be wondering whether it’s worth upgrading from your old iPhone SE (2020) or iPhone 8. The new iPhone SE packs Apple’s powerful A15 Bionic processor, 5G connectivity, a bigger battery than its predecessor, and an enhanced camera — for a very reasonable $429.

But if you’ve already got the iPhone SE (2020), should you upgrade? Which of these phones should you pick up if you’re new to Apple or upgrading from an iPhone 8? The two phones have a lot in common, but they’re not without their differences. We’re here to help you decide which is for you, comparing the new Apple iPhone SE (2022) and the older iPhone SE (2020) across six core categories like design, display, performance, and battery life.

Specs

iPhone SE (2022) iPhone SE (2020)
Size 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm (5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches) 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm (5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 144 grams (5.08 ounces) 148 grams (5.22 ounces)
Screen size 4.7-inch Liquid Retina 4.7-inch Retina IPS LCD
Screen resolution 1334 x 750 pixels (326 pixels per inch) 1334 x 750 pixels (326 pixels per inch)
Operating system iOS 15 iOS 14
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Apple Pay
Processor Apple A15 Bionic Apple A13 bionic
RAM 4GB 3GB
Camera 12-megapixel wide rear, 7MP front Single 12MP rear, 7MP front
Video

4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps

4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version 5.0 5.0
Ports Lightning Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, front-mounted (Home button) Yes, front-mounted
Water resistance IP67 IP67
Battery TBC 1,821mAh

18W fast-charging

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network support Most major U.S. carriers All major U.S. carriers
Colors Midnight, Starlight, Product Red Black, white, red
Prices $429 $399
Review score 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Looking at the iPhone SE (2022) and the older iPhone SE, you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for each other. They’re basically identical handsets with the same design as the iPhone 8: A smaller screen with big bezels, and a Home button.

Apple’s kept that 4.7-inch Liquid Retina Display with 1334 x 750 resolution, which works out at around 326 pixels per inch. It’s a True Tone Screen that adapts to lighting in your environment, with haptic touch, wide color support, and a 60Hz refresh rate. The screen on both phones feels small — and it is, compared to most phones — but then it’s aimed at those looking for a smaller phone that’s great for one-handed use.

When it comes to durability, the iPhone SE (2022) is slightly more durable than the 2020 iPhone SE, using the same tough glass as the iPhone 13 (minus Ceramic Shield) — which should mean it’s more resistant to scratches but not quite as shatter-resistant as the iPhone 13. Both phones also have Touch ID rather than Face ID, good news if you need to unlock either handset while wearing a mask, and a nice throwback to earlier iPhones. Throw in an IP67 rating across the board, so you can submerge either phone in water for up to 30 minutes, and that’s about it for this category.

It’s too hard for us to pick a winner here as both handsets are so similar, though if durability is a key concern for you, you might want to go for the iPhone SE 2022’s slightly better glass.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPhone SE 2020 Charge Port
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Performance and battery life are where the differences between these two phones start to emerge. The iPhone SE (2022) packs Apple’s A15 Bionic chip, compared to the older A13 chip in the older iPhone SE. The A15 Bionic is the same chip as in the iPhone 13, boasting a six-core CPU, with four high-efficiency cores and two high-performance cores.

There’s been a RAM upgrade too, with the newer iPhone SE packing 4GB over the 2020 iPhone SE’s 3GB. This shouldn’t make much of a noticeable difference in practice. Apple’s A15 chip and upgraded RAM ensure the iPhone SE (2022) is lightning fast and can handle anything you throw at it, including the latest games. That said, the A13 chip is no slouch either and should be up to most tasks, despite its age.

Both phones have 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage variants, but there’s no microSD card slot here, so the storage you choose is all you’ll ever have — and the 64GB version is likely too paltry for most nowadays, so we recommend upgrading to the 128GB model regardless.

The new iPhone is also said to have a bigger battery, though we’re still waiting on confirmation as to its size. Regardless, the faster processor should boost battery life and ensure you get more screen-on time with the new iPhone SE (2022) — Apple claims the battery lasts up to two hours. In our review, an average day left us with around 10% battery by dinner time, which means you may not make it through a full day if you’re playing demanding games or streaming a lot of videos.

When it comes to charging, both phones are pretty much identical — both support 18-watt fast charging (though you’ll need to buy a separate charger) and Qi wireless charging. There’s no charger in the box with either phone, though you do get a USB-C to Lightning cable.

The iPhone SE (2022) is a clear winner here thanks to that beefed-up battery life and more powerful processor.

Winner: Apple iPhone SE (2022)

Cameras

iPhone SE 2020 Camera Bump
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

On paper, both models offer just a single rear 12MP camera and 7MP front camera, but it’s Apple’s software that makes the difference here. Both phones take excellent, well-balanced photos in most environments. However, the iPhone SE (2022) adds several computational upgrades, including Smart HDR 4, Deep Fusion technology, and Photographic Styles, which allows you to apply preferences across various subjects and scenes — plus improved Portrait Mode. If we had to pick fault, neither iPhone SE has Night Mode, which might be something worth bearing in mind if you shoot a lot of images after dark or in low-light environments.

We’re giving this round to the newer iPhone SE (2022), but only just. There isn’t much difference between the cameras at all, and both handsets take excellent shots.

Winner: iPhone SE (2022)

Software and updates

iPhone SE 2020
Matthew Smith / Digital Trends

The iPhone SE (2022) ships with iOS 15 out of the box, compared to the older iOS 14 on the iPhone SE (2020). iOS 15 comes with new features like a new Notification Summary, Focus Modes, which lets you set various modes to prioritize notifications, new SharePlay features, and Live Text, a handy text scanning camera feature.

In terms of future-proofing, you’re probably best with the newer iPhone SE. The iPhone SE (2022) will probably receive five or six years of OS updates, though we’re looking at around four to five more updates for the older iPhone SE (2020). Both phones also come with a standard one-year limited warranty.

We’re awarding this round to the iPhone SE (2022) in terms of future-proofing and those additional iOS 15 features.

Winner: iPhone SE (2022)

Special features

iPhone SE 2020's Touch ID sensor.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There’s one thing the iPhone SE (2022) has that its predecessor lacks: 5G connectivity. This is one of the main reasons to opt for the newer iPhone SE, although it’s worth noting only sub-6GHz 5G (and C-Band) is supported, not mmWave, so you can’t take advantage of Verizon’s Ultra-wideband network. With that said, sub-6GHz 5G is still a big upgrade in terms of speed over 4G, though you’ll need to live in an area where 5G is available.

Both phones pack Touch ID through the Home button, and despite this aging the phones’ appearance somewhat, it’s fast, fluid, and secure.

That’s about it for special features, unless you count the new features you get with iOS 15 on the iPhone SE (2022). So we’re crowning the iPhone SE (2022) the winner here thanks to that 5G connectivity.

Winner: iPhone SE (2022)

Price and availability

The iPhone SE (2022) is available right now from Apple starting at $429 for the 64GB variant, $479 for 128GB of storage, and $579 for the 256GB version, supported by all major networks. Right now, you can also get up to $650 off when you trade in an iPhone 8 or newer.

The iPhone SE (2020) is available from most places phones are sold, including Amazon and Best Buy. Pricing starts at $398 for the 64GB version, rising to $532 for the 256GB variant.

Overall winner: Apple iPhone SE (2022)

Apple’s older iPhone SE (2020) did its best here, but our overall winner has to be the new Apple iPhone SE (2022). For just a $30 price bump, you’re getting a more powerful A15 Bionic chip, better battery life, 5G connectivity, and enhanced camera features, not to mention five to six years of OS updates. The iPhone SE (2020) is still a solid choice for those upgrading from an older iPhone or switching to Apple, but it’s a no-brainer to splash the extra $30 for the latest model.

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