While the new iPhone SE 3 gets the same A15 chip as the more expensive iPhone 13 and upgrades like 5G, improved battery life, camera enhancements, and more, there are naturally trade-offs with Apple’s most affordable iPhone. Let’s dive into the iPhone SE 3 vs. SE 2, iPhone 11, and more.

As expected, the iPhone SE 3 is the latest iteration of Apple prioritizing a low price while upgrading performance and offering favorite features. But with Apple still officially selling the iPhone 11 for just $70 more than the SE 3 and the iPhone 12/13 in the mix too, there’s a lot to consider.

iPhone SE 3 vs. SE 2, iPhone 11, 12, and 13

Performance

In another move that sets iPhone apart from Android smartphones, Apple has put its current and most powerful smartphone chip in its most affordable iPhone.

With the iPhone SE 3 getting the A15 Bionic, it leapfrogs the iPhone 11 and 12 in performance and matches the iPhone 13 lineup. That’s impressive for a $429 iPhone to have the same processor as the $700–$1,100 models.

iPhone SE 3 iPhone SE 2 iPhone 11/12 iPhone 13
Chip A15 A13 A13/14 A15
CPU cores 6-core 6-core 6-core 6-core
GPU cores 4-core 4-core 4-core 4-core
Neural engine 16-core 8-core 8/16-core 16-core
Storage 64-256GB 64 or 128GB 64-128GB/64-256GB 64-512GB

As far as what to expect with the A15-equipped iPhone SE 3, Apple says it offers 1.2x faster graphics performance than the iPhone SE 2 and has 1.8 times faster CPU performance over the iPhone 8 (A11 chip).

In real-world use, having the A15 inside the iPhone SE 3 means apps will load fast and run smoothly. And, as we’ll cover more below, the new chip enables features like Apple’s computational photography and improved battery life.

Design and display

iPhone SE 3

The iPhone SE 3 keeps the same 4.7-inch design of the SE 2 and iPhone 8, which Apple calls “pocket friendly” and “made to last.”

That includes glass on the front and back – not the extra-durable Ceramic Shield found on the face of the iPhone 12 and 13 – but what Apple says is still “the toughest glass in a smartphone.”

Design iPhone SE 3 iPhone SE 2 iPhone 11/12 iPhone 13
Aluminum chassis
Glass front and back
Ceramic Shield front ❌/✅
All-screen design
Home button
Water resistance Up to 1 meter Up to 1 meter Up to 2/6 meters Up to 6 meters

As far as the overall dimensions, the iPhone SE 3 is the same as the SE 2:

  • 5.45 inches tall (138.4 mm)
  • 2.65 inches wide (67.3 mm)
  • 0.29 inches thick (7.3 mm)
  • 5.09 ounces (144 grams) – actually 4 grams lighter than SE 2

Of course, one of the big cost-saving measures with the iPhone SE 3 is that it uses the same LCD display design as the SE 2 and iPhone 8. That means large top and bottom bezels instead of the modern all-screen design + OLED display of the iPhone 11, 12, and 13.

Display iPhone SE 3 iPhone SE 2 iPhone 11/12 iPhone 13
Display size 4.7″ 4.7″ 6.1″ 6.1″
Display type LCD LCD LCD/OLED OLED
Resolution 1334 x 750 1334 x 750 1792 x 828/2532 x 1170 2532 x 1170
PPI 326 326 326/460 460
True Tone
P3 wide color
Haptic touch
Brightness (nits) 625 625 625/625-1200 800-1200

Other display differences include a bit lower pixels per inch (PPI) and brightness than the iPhone 12 and 13. However, the iPhone SE 3 matches the iPhone 11 with both of those specs.

Battery life

iPhone SE 3 vs SE 2, iPhone 11, more - battery life

With iPhone SE 3, you get two hours more for video playback and 10 hours more for audio than the SE 2. Apple says that’s thanks to the A15 chip, its latest battery chemistry, and internal design changes.

That puts SE 3 battery life on par with the iPhone 12 mini but still below the other modern iPhones.

Note: Battery estimates from Apple feature the “up to” qualifier on all of its specs pages.

Battery life iPhone SE 3 iPhone SE 2 iPhone 11/12 iPhone 13
Video playback 15 hours 13 hours 17 hours 19 hours
Streaming video 10 hours 8 hours 10/11 hours 15 hours
Audio playback 50 hours 40 hours 65 hours 75 hours

Like other iPhones, the SE 3 offers fast charging, so a 20W+ power adapter will give you a 50% charge in 30 minutes.

Connectivity

iPhone SE 3 vs SE 2, iPhone 11, more - Connectivity

This is where more of the trade-offs become clear with the new iPhone SE. You’re giving up MagSafe that’s available on iPhone 12 and 13 as well as Face ID and ultra wideband support that comes on iPhone 11 and later.

One more limitation is that the 5G connectivity on the iPhone SE 3 doesn’t include support for mmWave (the fastest, but most rare flavor) and instead sticks with Sub-6GHz 5G. That’s not likely an issue in real-world use since Sub-6GHz 5G is the most common, but it’s a good thing to be aware of.

Connectivity iPhone SE 3 iPhone SE 2 iPhone 11/12 iPhone 13
Touch ID
Face ID
Lightning port
MagSafe ❌/✅
Wireless charging
5G ✅ (but no mmWave) ❌/✅
Ultra wideband
WiFi 6 (802.11ax)
Dual SIM

Cameras

iPhone SE 3 vs SE 2, iPhone 11, more - Cameras

iPhone SE 3 gets some nice upgrades for the main rear camera including Deep Fusion (first arrived with iPhone 11), Smart HDR 4 for photos, and Photographic Styles (launched with iPhone 13).

However, you’re still missing out on features like 2x optical zoom out and Night mode available with the iPhone 11 and later.

Rear camera(s) iPhone SE 3 iPhone SE 2 iPhone 11/12 iPhone 13
Wide 12MP camera ✅ (f/1.8 aperture) ✅ (f/1.8 aperture) ✅ (f/1.8/f/1.6) ✅ (f/1.6)
Ultra wide 12MP camera
Night mode
Deep Fusion
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
Sensor-shift OIS
2x optical zoom out
True Tone flash
Portrait mode
Portrait Lighting
Smart HDR 4 for photos
Photographic Styles

When it comes to video recording, here’s how features compare:

Rear camera(s) video iPhone SE 3 iPhone SE 2 iPhone 11/12 iPhone 13
4K recording
1080p recording
Cinematic mode
HDR video recording ❌/✅
OIS for video
Sensor-shift OIS for video
Audio zoom
Slo-mo
Time-lapse
Night mode Time-lapse
Stereo recording

For the front camera, the iPhone SE 3 sticks with a 7MP FaceTime HD camera that offers:

  • Smart HDR 4
  • f/2.2 aperture
  • Retina flash
  • Photographic Styles
  • Portrait mode and Portrait Lighting
  • 1080p video recording with cinematic stabilization
  • Deep Fusion

A few features you miss out on with the SE 3 front camera compared to iPhone 11 and newer are 4K video recording, Animoji and Memoji support, and a 12MP lens.

SE 3 colors, storage, and price

iPhone SE 3 vs SE 2 colors

With a minor tweak to the SE 2 colors, the SE 3 comes in midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED. And the starting price increased by $30 over the SE 2 with the SE 3 starting from $429 (orders start March 11).

64GB $429
128GB $479
256GB $579

What’s in the box?

Keep in mind the only thing you get in the box is the iPhone SE 3 and a USB-C to Lightning cable.

If you need one, Apple sells its 20W USB-C power adapter for $19 but you can pick up more compact options like Anker’s PowerPort III for less.

iPhone SE 3 vs. SE 2, iPhone 11 wrap-up

If you’re looking to spend $500 or less on a new iPhone that will last for years to come, the SE 3 is a compelling option with the latest processor from Apple, improved battery life, a compact design, and some nice camera improvements.

That’s as long as you’re good with the older design with larger top and bottom display bezels, sticking with Touch ID instead of Face ID, skipping MagSafe, and forgoing some of the advanced camera features of the iPhone 11 and newer.

iPhone SE 3 goes up for pre-order on March 11 with deliveries starting from March 18.

For comparisons on iPhone 12, 13, and 13 Pro, check out our detailed guides:

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About the Author

Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.