[Updated] Is Apple out of design ideas for the iPhone SE series?

New updates are being added to the bottom of the story…

Original story (from April 04) follows:

The mention of Apple’s iPhone is often associated with prestige. This explains why many consider the iPhone a premium product only “elites” can afford, but Apple has been out to change this narrative.

The iPhone SE series is Apple’s entry into the budget smartphone market. The 2016 model came as a surprise to some of us, only for the 2020 release to add weight to the idea of actually having a budget iPhone.

With the strong market performance of the 2nd-gen iPhone SE which saw over 24 million units exchange hands in 2020, there was no denying the series would likely get a new member sooner or later.

And indeed, the iPhone SE 2022 arrived a few weeks ago. The 2020 model’s market performance must have been a huge incentive for Apple to halve the wait time before refreshing the series.


The 3rd-gen iPhone SE follows the same design ethos as its predecessors, where Apple simply reboots an older model with new guts. The OG model came dressed in an iPhone 5S body while the 2020 variant took after the iPhone 8.

This way, Apple is able to re-use existing design materials and thus save significantly on the cost of production. The cost-saving then trickles down to the end-user, hence the budget-friendly price tags seen on SE models.

While it was quite easy to recommend the iPhone SE 2020 to anyone looking for an iPhone on a budget. There’s just something about this year’s edition that makes it desirable only to a small bracket.

The iPhone SE 2022 goes for $429. This gives you the latest A15 Bionic chipset found in the iPhone 13 series alongside 5G support. Apple also says the battery life has improved, which is just about that.

Despite the higher price tag, you get the same HD screen with 60Hz refresh rate, same Touch ID, same design language, same colors but with fancy names, same 64GB base storage, and even the same camera hardware.

Other than the A15 chip and its 5G support, the iPhone SE 2022 specs are incredibly average. Heck, how is the 2018mAh battery unit expected to handle the power hungry 5G networks?


Even though Apple retained the same camera hardware, the software advancements mean the 3rd-gen SE packs modern-day features like Portrait mode and Smart HDR 4. These should encourage owners to take even more photos and videos.

Couple this with the many apps and media downloaded for offline listening and you see why having a base model of 64GB simply doesn’t cut it in 2022.

In comparison, Samsung recently launched the Galaxy A53 5G, a phone that seems well positioned to take on the iPhone SE 2022 in North America where the likes of Xiaomi and Oppo have no sniff.

Apple focused on equipping the latest iPhone SE with a flagship-level chipset while trading off things like battery life, display technology and most significantly, modern looks.

On the other hand, the Galaxy A53 took the opposite approach. It has modern looks with an AMOLED screen and 120Hz refresh rate, a massive battery with 25W fast charging, and a quality camera.

Samsung Galaxy A53

You even get up to five years of software support. Not as good as Apple, but no one’s trying to hold onto the iPhone SE 2022 for seven years. You also get a base storage of 128GB alongside a microSD card slot. The A53 costs $449.

For the most part, only the geeky appreciate the internal hardware on any smartphone. The rest are usually after camera performance and looks. Apple underdelivered on the former, and even more on the latter aspect.

The company calls the iPhone SE design “iconic” due to the nostalgic hardware fingerprint button (which has since been replaced by an in-display scanner) and 4.7-inch HD screen. Not so many special things to write home about this “Special Edition” phone for sure.

While it’s possible the iPhone SE 2020 was inspired by the previous year’s iPhone 8 demand, which sold over 17 million units. The fact that the 2020 model performed well doesn’t mean the “iconic” design is still desirable today.

By rehashing the iPhone 8 design, Apple clearly got it wrong, which should partly explain recent reports of the “weaker-than-expected” demand for the iPhone SE 2022.

iPhone 8
iPhone 8 & iPhone 8 Plus

And after three attempts, it’s becoming clear Apple doesn’t have much to offer in the budget segment. Make no mistake, the iPhone SE 2022 is a top budget phone, but rebooting older models with a newer chipset won’t always cut it.

The fact that this seems like the only trick in Apple’s sleeve implies the Cupertino company still hasn’t mastered the art of producing budget phones. Or maybe it has run out of design ideas for the SE series.

There’s still plenty to learn if the iPhone SE series is to stay relevant, though. But hard to see it moving forward when we already have reports of planned reduced production due to weaker demand.

The good thing is Apple has in the past spent up to four years planning its next move for the SE series. There’s still plenty of time to rethink the current strategy, which gives me some hope for the 4th-gen SE, if it ever comes.

What do you think? Are you buying the 2022 iPhone SE or bought it already? Let us know through the following poll or in your comments below.

NOTE: The article will be updated after a week with poll results.

Update 1 (April 10, 2022)

The results for the poll are out. A majority (80%) of those who voted agree that Apple should discontinue the iPhone SE series. While the remaining (20%) disagreed.

In case you missed the poll, you can still share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Update 2 (August 30, 2022)

03:50 pm (IST): According to a rumor, Apple’s upcoming iPhone SE 4 might come with a similar design to that of iPhone XR. The iPhone is expected to feature a 6.1-inch display with Face ID, 12MP rear camera and IP67 water and dust proof rating.

(Click/tap to enlarge)

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Hillary Keverenge

Review Editor. Besides phones, I also enjoy the farm, music, football, and, of course, food.