Come to think of it, what do you buy when you buy an iPhone? For some, an image, a status symbol. But this image is the result of related elements. First, it is the serenity of the user experience, which consists of flexibility, fluidity and a sense of security. The security that creates peace of mind and that Apple touts so much as an excuse for a lockdown pinned to the App Store in particular.
Then comes the integration of hardware and software, which is an important and unique advantage in the highly competitive smartphone market. Integration is also Apple’s ecosystem of cloud and services.
Then you have to count on a certain idea of innovation. Not always top notch, but still clever enough to have a historic Apple feel.
Finally, of course, another pillar of Apple’s image, the art of design, essential, which belongs to the first legislative point, but also serves a purpose. Typically, this is a vision of what the product should bring to the user – a vision that Apple sometimes imposes against the odds without much insight – connecting to a MacBook between 2016 and 2021 is one of them.
In any case, as a rule, all Apple products are built on these principles, with more or less emphasis on one or the other. It is a balance that must be found, a shifting balance depending on the type of product, sometimes an unreliable balance because it is also based on the last important pillar, price.
Price is a cardinal factor that has two aspects. The first is very tangible: its impact on your budget. The second is more difficult to evaluate. Depending on whether the criteria mentioned above are balanced or not, the price will be considered acceptable or overpriced. In the first case, it sublimates the positive aspects. In the second, on the contrary, it will strengthen the negative moments and unbalance the equation in a kind of game of chaos.
To shed more light on our remarks, we bring you this little infographic. It very schematically represents the (subjective) scores we assign to each of the criteria mentioned above for the three generations of the iPhone SE, from 2016, hence to 2022. The closer the score is to its maximum of ten, the better the price, design, etc.
If the above infographic does not appear, click here.
Design – between visual fatigue and a brake on innovation
Let’s take an example of a note in design to start and explain our point of view. We give the first iPhone SE (2016) an 8/10. At the time, the design of the iPhone 5S, released in 2013 and chosen for the first SE (4 inches), still looked good in a proposal consisting of iPhone 6S and 6S Plus equipped with 4.7 and 5.5 inches.
In 2020, the iPhone SE 2 uses a different, more recent design from the iPhone 8 that was released in 2017. Except that in the meantime, Apple has introduced the iPhone X with a new design and new Face ID technology that frees up a lot of space on the front, providing more screen real estate. Therefore, the rating of design falls, because in addition to visual design, functional design begins to age.
Then we arrive in 2022, Apple retains the design of the iPhone SE 2, which officially dates back to 2017 and the iPhone 8, but actually goes back to the iPhone 6, which means 2014… Eight years for a design is a long time. , especially when everything else on the market, including the iPhone, is a thing of the past.
As edge-to-edge designs proliferate, the last straw lives up to our 3/10, the arrival of the iPhone mini, which is more compact but comes with a bigger, better screen.
Innovation that puts everything at stake?
With each generation of the iPhone SE, Apple has integrated what it offered best in terms of SoC: the A9, the A13 Bionic, and finally the A15 Bionic. A very good thing that allows him to set a high “low” technical threshold for his entire range every time.
However, this year’s A15 Bionic feels a bit suffocated in that tiny body behind that too-small screen.
SoC cannot increase the autonomy of the device as much as on other models that equip it. The reason for this is too small a battery, of course.
In terms of photos, the single rear camera module is too limited to allow us to offer a photo section worthy of an iPhone in 2022. Especially since here we touch on a widespread problem, in our opinion, in the whole range. In the photo, Apple, which was king, is long gone. If it’s going to evolve and continue to offer a quality experience, it should work twice as hard and offer a lot more (larger sensors, more variety in focal lengths, better digital processing, etc.).
Returning to innovation, the third-generation iPhone SE plays the card of delay and technical overhaul too much, with the exception of its chip, for the latter to save it.
Status, permanent downgrade
To say that the iPhone is the official smartphone is not just to say that it is thrown away because it is more expensive, and this proves that we are rich enough to afford it. The status is also associated with the image transmitted by Apple in general and the device in particular.
The iPhone SE is Apple’s “affordable” smartphone, so it’s not one you take out of your pocket to burn. In a way, this is the iPhone of the mind. In 2016, it benefits from the appeal of novelty, a design that is still reasonably fresh, or at least close to the entire range.
In 2020, while most iPhones have adopted the design born from the iPhone X, the status takes on its meaning and eventually collapses in 2022, when it is now the only one to offer such a small screen in a small body, but proportionately too large.
The Western market is unlikely to benefit from the bright and high-quality image of Apple. In emerging markets, we believe that its price will not make it easier for them.
Integration and security, safe bets
The next two criteria are integration. By this we mean both the integration into services, the uniformity of use, and the convenience offered by the device.
In an environment where iOS is playing more and more with touch gestures rather than the home button, in a universe where HDR content is becoming increasingly important, where the OLED experience goes beyond movies and everyday use, where Apple offers services for watching a quality video game or video content, the iPhone SE cannot claim the highest integration rating. It requires too little effort, the comfort it provides no longer matches what the market offers.
However, in terms of security, it is in the same boat as other iPhones, and if the ecosystem is not perfect, if there are flaws zero day sometimes exploited, iOS remains the relative haven of the world.
Price, symbolic thresholds
Let’s finish with the last criterion, the price, the essential point. If the iPhone SE has always been an expensive “entry level”, Apple has taken the symbolic step of increasing its price by 40 euros this year to over 500 euros. Because it is the band that often limits the middle of the upper limit.
However, in 2022, a so-called entry-level smartphone – and its design, its screen, its good but outdated ergonomics are heading in that direction – can’t display a price that now stands up against what competitors have better or nearly better.
Too big a gap between its price positioning and the reality of what it brings. Admittedly, the iPhone SE is an enjoyable iPhone, but not enough to claim to be the epitome of a gateway to this rather upscale range and focus on a quality experience.
Still an iPhone?
So what if you want an iPhone?
- Take part in the farce with the iPhone SE, which is only a chip. We must admit that it is difficult for us to guide you towards this decision.
- Pay attention to other smartphones in this line, such as the iPhone 11 or 12 mini, which are still sold by Apple. They are, of course, more expensive.
- Or, finally, turn to the updated market, which in recent years has become more structured and offers great deals for those who know how to be on the lookout. There are iPhone 12 mini, which are hardly more expensive than the iPhone SE, and almost all the boxes are ticked.
You can even add a new factor that we intentionally excluded from our criteria: environmental reason. Recycling will always be more sustainable than buying a new iPhone… especially when it’s disappointing.