You can save $270/£300 by buying the cheapest iPhone SE (2022) instead of the iPhone 13, but should you? The SE shares the same powerful A15 Bionic processor and 5G connectivity as the iPhone 13, so, as long as you don’t mind the aging design, which is something of a curiosity these days, it’s a great deal. On the other hand, if you are looking for a modern device it’s got to be the iPhone 13.
Price When Reviewed
1: $429 (64GB) | $479 (128GB) | $579 (256GB)
Apple iPhone 13: $599 (was $799)
Best Prices Today: 1
In the spring of 2022 Apple introduced the latest version of its popular iPhone SE series, with a few improvements over the model it replaced. The iPhone SE 2022 is similar in many ways to the iPhone 13 that was introduced in September 2021, but if features an ageing design and other limitations, including an inferior camera. We look at how the 2022 iPhone SE compares to the iPhone 13, so you can make the right decision about which one to buy. For more information about the whole range of iPhones read our iPhone buying guide or our Best iPhone guide.
iPhone SE vs iPhone 13: Price and value for money
The entry-level iPhone SE is the cheapest iPhone sold by Apple at $429/£449, but the first thing to note is that this is a 64GB model. Since we are comparing the SE with the iPhone 13, we really should consider the 128GB iPhone SE ($479/£499) as a fairer comparison with the entry-level 128GB iPhone 13 which starts at $699/£749.
We should also note that the iPhone 13 has had a price-cut since Apple introduced the iPhone 14-series in September 2022. The iPhone 13 was previously $799/£779, so it’s now $100/£30 cheaper. The iPhone SE, on the other hand is now more expensive in the U.K. – up from £419 for the 64GB model and £469 for the 128GB model. In the U.S. the iPhone SE price remains the same.
In this comparison we are going to focus on the 128GB models not just because it’s a farer comparison, but because we would dissuade anyone from buying the 64GB iPhone SE anyway. There is a mere $50/£50 difference between the two iPhone SE models, and you would be a fool not to spend it.
So, comparing the 128GB models, with the iPhone SE at $479/£499 and the iPhone 13 at $699/£749, we have a difference of $220/£250. The big question is: is it worth spending the extra money to get the iPhone 13?
To answer the question we are going to have to examine the differences between the iPhone 13 and iPhone SE, and what the iPhone 13 offers that the SE doesn’t – and even what only the SE brings to the table.
iPhone SE vs iPhone 13: Design
There’s little to differentiate the iPhone SE (2022) from the iPhone SE (2020) or the ancient iPhone 8 for that matter. In fact, the iPhone SE may even remind you of the iPhone 6 from way back in 2014. Depending on your point of view this will either be a good or a bad thing. If you love the old form factor with the Home button and Touch ID, the iPhone SE 2022 is likely to be the last ever iPhone to feature it. If you prefer the full-screen look of Apple’s newer iPhones then the iPhone SE may not be for you.
That’s not to say that the iPhone SE is identical to the older iPhones: While the aesthetics are from 2014, there have been some refinements over the years. There’s no headphone jack, as that disappeared with the iPhone 7, and the rear panel is glass rather than metal, but for the most part it’s the same 4.7in display framed by large top and bottom bezels, the latter of which is the location of the Home button with Touch ID.
Apple does claim that the glass on the front and rear is the “toughest glass in a smartphone”, although we’re pretty sure it isn’t quite as premium as the Ceramic Shield employed on the iPhone 13. The SE does feature an IP67 water and dust proof rating, so any spillages or quick dunks won’t destroy the device.
There’s no Face ID on the iPhone SE – it still features Touch ID on the Home button. For some this will be a benefit – Face ID can be frustrating because it feels like there is an extra step required before you can use it: instead of unlocking the iPhone and readying it for Apple Pay with one touch, Face ID means you have to unlock the iPhone by looking at it and then trigger Apple Pay by pressing the side button twice. Others will prefer the no-notch look of the iPhone SE – although we feel the notch is a fair price to pay for the additional screen space offered (and if you really hate the notch then consider the iPhone 14 Pro).
Another significant difference between the iPhone SE and the iPhone 13 is the colors. The 2022 iPhone SE comes in Midnight (Blackish), Starlight (Whiteish), and (PRODUCT) Red. The iPhone 13 offers a choice of blue, pink, green and also Midnight, Starlight and red. So, if you want more “fun” colors, the iPhone 13 is the one to go for.
Aside from the more extensive color choices, the iPhone 13 has a more modern appearance. The design is the same as the iPhone 12 (and the iPhone 14 for that matter), so there’s squared off edges reminiscent of the iPhone 4 and 5 era, the display is a more spacious 6.1in Liquid Retina OLED panel, and there’s a notch at the top (which is smaller than that on the iPhone 12).
Considering the difference in screen size, the dimensions of the two devices are more similar than you might expect:
iPhone SE (2022, 3rd gen): 5.45in x 2.65in x 029in or 138.4mm x 67.3mm x 7.3mm. 5.09oz or 144g
iPhone 13: 5.78in x 2.82in x 0.30in or 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.65mm; 6.10ox or 173g
Of course, if you want the smallest and lightest iPhone in the current catalogue, there’s the iPhone 13 mini which measures a tiny 5.18in x 2.53in x 0.30in or 131.5mm x 64.2mm x 7.65mm, and weighs 4.94oz or 140g. It is pretty much identical to the larger iPhone 13 except for its smaller 5.4in Liquid Retina OLED display.
Both the iPhone 13 models feature Face ID, along with the requisite notch in the display to accommodate the cameras, so if you’re not keen on that design, then the iPhone SE might be a better choice.
They are both instantly recognisable as iPhones, but the SE is something of a vintage flavour these days, which we’re not saying is a bad thing, as it’s inexpensive, lightweight and very, very familiar. Plus it has a Home button, which for some people is essential.
Features and Specs
Here’s a more detailed look at how these two iPhones compare in terms of the features and capabilities on offer.
Surprisingly, Apple gave the same A-series chip to both devices, so, you’ll find an A15 Bionic is the brains, no matter which model you choose. In fact even the iPhone 14 still uses the A15 bionic, albeit a slightly better version with more graphics cores.
The A15 will be more than sufficient for the majority of people. The only reason to move up from the A15 would be if you had your eye on some really processor intensive games, in which case you’d probably be looking at the iPhone 14 Pro or iPhone 14 Pro Max.
As is standard with iPhones, you can select from different storage capacities when making your purchase. There’s no way to expand this further through microSD cards, so be sure to think about how much space you’ll need across the lifetime of your device.
Here’s the options:
iPhone SE (2022): 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
iPhone 13: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
As you can see, the cheapest iPhone SE comes with 64GB while it’s 128GB for the iPhone 13. In our opinion, 64GB is a bit tight these days, especially if you want to record video at 4K or store loads of music or other media on your device. Therefore, you should be careful about the model you choose, as managing storage can be quite a pain. To get more perspective, take a look at our article about why you shouldn’t buy the 64GB iPhone SE.
As we said above, the 128GB iPhone SE costs just $50/£50 more than the 64GB model so we would recommend spending the extra money.
One of the main differences between these two iPhones is the size and quality of the display. The 4.7in Retina LCD panel in the iPhone SE is fine and has lasted the test of time, but it may be a bit cramped for some, especially when the iPhone 13 mini exists for those who want a smaller handset. In an age of Full HD+ AMOLED panels on cheap Android phones, the LCD sub-Full HD display does feel a little tired with its 1334 x 750 resolution, 326ppi and 625 nits maximum brightness. But, on the eyes it’s still a bright, colourful panel that many people will enjoy.
With the iPhone 13, Apple uses a much better 6.1in OLED panel that has greater contrast, colour, brightness and is of course bigger. The resolution of 2532 x 1170 and 460ppi means it produces a sharper image, while the 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio knocks the SE’s 1400:1 into a cocked hat. Add HDR and the 800 nits of typical max brightness and it’s obvious which is the winner. As we said, the SE display is fine, but the iPhone 13 one is definitely the superior surface.
For many the camera is one of the most important factors in a decision about which iPhone to buy and it is here where the iPhone 13 really outshines the iPhone SE.
The iPhone 13 boasts twin 12Mp cameras (f/1.6 Wide and f/2.4 Ultra Wide) as opposed to the 12Mp f/1.8 main camera on the iPhone SE. The 13 also offers a 2x optical zoom rather than the 5x digital one on the SE.
The iPhone 13 offers Sensor-shift optical image stabilisation which actually moves the sensor to ensure smooth footage, plus the all-important Night Mode that allows you to capture great images when the light gets dim. Many thought that the inclusion of the A15 Bionic in the SE would mean it would get Night Mode, as it seems to be mainly software based, but that didn’t happen so the iPhone 13 is the only one with this very useful feature. It’s the same with Cinematic mode, which allows a shallow depth of field, so you can focus on things in the foreground and then pull focus to something in the background (or vice versa), giving you the chance to create genuinely movie-like footage. It’s essentially Portrait Mode for video. Both phones get Deep Fusion and Photographic styles.
On the selfie side of town, the iPhone 13 uses the Face ID TrueDepth camera, which has a f/2.2 aperture and 12Mp sensor. This allows the Cinematic and Night modes, plus the usual 4K/60fps recording and support for various photographic and portrait modes.
The top bezel on the SE houses the same 7MP FaceTime HD camera that came on the iPhone SE (2020) and iPhone 8. The FaceTime HD camera in the SE does offer photographic and portrait styles too, with the video maxing out at 1080/30fps. It’s a very serviceable, if basic, camera that will be more than fine for general social media posts, but if video is something you care about, the iPhone 13 is the one to consider.
There isn’t a huge amount of difference in terms of connectivity, as both device come with support for 5G networks. The iPhone 13 does have double the MIMO capacity of the iPhone SE, so transfer speeds will be faster on the former, but both should be pretty quick. Wi-Fi 6 is also standard across the range, as is Bluetooth 5, NFC and GPS and the physical Lightning connector port.
Here’s a breakdown of the technical specs for both devices:
4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, OIS, Cinematic Video Stabilisation
4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, HDR Dolby Vision up to 60fps, Sensor Shift OIS, Cinematic mode, Night Mode
Yes, with MagSafe
Dual (nano and eSIM)
Dual (nano and eSim)
138.4mm x 67.3mm x 7.3mm
146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.65mm
If you’re looking for an inexpensive iPhone that can take good enough pictures and videos, and runs that latest version of iOS and continue to do so for several years, then the iPhone SE (2022) ticks all of those boxes. The SE is a relatively cheap and cheerful device, as long as you don’t mind the ageing design and the fact that the features lag behind the iPhone 13. Our main recommendation here would be to avoid the 64GB model and spend the extra on the 128GB iPhone SE (best prices below).
Those who want a more future-proof iPhone, with a better camera and a much larger screen, should look to the 13. The iPhone 13 might share the A15 chip but that’s where the comparison stops – it’s a thoroughbred next to the workhorse iPhone SE.
To see is you can get any of these models a little cheaper, be sure to check out our best iPhone deals roundup or take a look at our best prices tables below.