Third-Generation iPhone SE Is Another Great Bargain

Originally published at: Third-Generation iPhone SE Is Another Great Bargain - TidBITS

Despite its dated design, the third-generation iPhone SE remains a bargain, especially if you prefer a smaller iPhone and Touch ID.

Josh, from the Apple website: Qi wireless charging is supported in the new SE. (iPhone - Compare Models - Apple (CA))

Pretty certain I will be replacing my iPhone SE (2016) with this model. A high-end camera is not an important feature – but small form factor and Touch ID are nice. It’s a winner.

I also need to upgrade my wife’s 3G flip phone – and soon – and will replace the battery on the old SE (currently rated at 89%) before giving it to her.

Yep. The reason I thought wireless charging wasn’t supported was this bit from the comparison chart.

This is nice, but it also reminds me. Long live the iPhone mini.

Right, Qi is supported, but not MagSafe.

I think this is my iPhone 8 replacement. And the trade nets another $100 off. I would keep the 8 as a spare or donate to family member, but the battery life is waning… two 30-minute phone call will reduce the battery 30%. When I thought of having new battery installed, the cost would best be spent on the SE. Not fan of FaceID or spending $$$$ on a iPhone 13pro, and still no sign of iPhone 12Pro refurbs. I mean, have you seen the refurbs in the Apple Store? Only 8 and 11 models. For last 5 months.
So yes, this is a bargain. I may go for it as I don’t need the features of the higher models. YMMV.

Other interesting differences (See also a iPhone 13-vs-SE comparison):

  • The 13 supports CDMA EV-DO, while the SE has no CDMA support. Probably unimportant, since 3G networks are being shut down globally, but interesting nonetheless.
  • The SE has “LTE Advanced”, while the 13 has “Gigabit LTE”. So the 13 will potentially have slower 4G performance.
  • The SE doesn’t have Ultra Wideband. So no precision location of AirTags
  • The SE doesn’t have “Dual eSIM support”. It does have dual SIM (nano-SIM and eSIM), but doesn’t support use of two eSIMs (as the 13 does).

Fingers crossed!

I may have done this had I not gotten the 13 Mini last year. Still happy with that though I miss touch ID at times.


Thanks for those details, David. I’ve added some more detail to the article. Some of that stuff probably isn’t important for the intended audience of this phone, but the slower LTE and lack of Ultra Wideband are noteworthy.

This is actually good to know. The major carriers may be shutting down CDMA, but we frequently roam to US Cellular when we are in NH, and US Cellular I believe is keeping their CDMA network running for calls and text messages while they shut down EVDO for data. (LTE signal in rural NH can be very spotty). We were thinking of upgrading my wife’s iPhone 8 to the new SE and giving her 8 to her mom, who currently uses a Verizon 5c (which can’t do VoLTE so will not work well when she is in Verizon territory after Verizon turns off CDMA/EVDO), so maybe we’ll get my wife a 13 Mini instead.

At least FaceID with masks should be here next week. I think if you can afford a 13 mini, it is obviously the better choice. If you can’t lay out $700 for a phone, the SE is a very nice budget alternative.

The real issue is next year. Will the 13 mini still be sold as a holdover? Sure hope so. I like the new green option.

2020 SE comes with 4 GB RAM. This is the same as the 12/13. A nice upgrade over the previous SE’s 3 GB.

More expensive than the 2nd gen SE for very little benefit as far as I can see. Just seems to be a feeble excuse to put the price up.
According to Macworld it doesn’t support “full 5G” - not important with current coverage but maybe an issue in years to come.
Did I read it correctly that the new SE doesn’t work with some 3G networks? If so, that is a big show-stopper for rural areas in Australia.
Off-topic but it is disappointing that 27" iMacs have vanished from the Apple line-up with no sign of M1 replacements:

Just the CDMA 3G networks, so will depend on whether those rural areas currently have CDMA only or both CDMA and GSM 3G until they are all gone.

It’s great value but the Mini is clearly the better phone. If money isn’t an issue I’d be jumping on the Mini.

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I agree. I went through an exhaustive comparison myself and only found two negatives for the mini, FaceID which I understand I’ll get used to given time and +$270 which seems to be to be a fair price for all the added features:

  • Larger 5.4 OLED HDR Super Retina XDR display vs 4.7 LCD Retina HD
  • Smaller overall size and weight
  • Superfast 5G
  • Adds Ultra Wide camera, Cinematic mode in 1080p at 30 fps, Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 4K at 60 fps
  • Better front camera
  • 2X Optical zoom
  • 2 hours more video playback
  • Ceramic Shield front
  • Compatible with MagSafe accessories
  • Rated IP68 (6 meter water depth) vs. IP67 (1 meter)
  • Supports Dolby Atmos Audio Playback
  • Supports HDR Video Playback
  • Dual eSIM Support (probably never use)
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Nice discussion of the iPhone SE at Daring Fireball.

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I think that the comparison to the iPhone 13 should include the Mini version, since it is closer to the SE3 in form factor and cost.

Other than that, this is one of the better reviews/comparison articles that I have read.

I’ve already ordered two of the SE3 128GB models but I am reconsidering my decision. There are features that the Mini13 has that we may appreciate having, mainly the better display. Since we tend to keep our iPhones for a long time the cost isn’t a big factor. (We used our 5S iPhones for 5 years but upgraded to a 6S because we got them brand new for $200 each). Unfortunately, the old A9 chip in the 6S is a bottleneck when running a newer iOS. Ours are running iOS 12.4.1.

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Deciding on a replacement iphone and I currently have the 8, which I did the update to 15.4 yesterday, and to my AppleTV 4K and my home pods. So far, no issues EXCEPT that the Honeywell Thermostat app for my thermostat has been alerting me every hour for humidity change in my basement. No leaks or such but its unnerving as to make it stop, the notifications for range report “please allow 24hrs to update”… ? So, I have to wait till their “residio formerly Honeywell” servers update? So in the meantime, I turned off notifications. Which is the reason I have the app and water sensor…incase of leaks. Didn’t do this before update.

Anyway, I wanted to also note that iPhone 12 refurbs are back in the Apple store. Someone in Tidbits did note that Apple tends to update models in March so…thank you!

Here is my query: Get the SE (3rd gen) and forgo getting LiDAR and features of 12Pro for $800~ or stick with SE for $500~ which is basically my iPhone 8 but with 5G support, newer battery, faster processor, more ram and still has home button.