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How the new iPhone SE stacks up against its budget-friendly Android competitors

How the new iPhone SE stacks up against its budget-friendly Android competitors

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Comparing specs with options from Google, Samsung, and Motorola

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While many Android phones look like each other from farther away, the iPhone SE (2022) looks like many iPhones before it.
While many Android phones look like each other from farther away, the iPhone SE (2022) looks like many iPhones before it.
Image: Apple

The new iPhone SE may look eerily familiar to anyone who has seen an iPhone in the last eight years, but as Apple has shown us with its budget line, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The latest entry-level iPhone is set to come out on March 18th, with preorders going live on Friday, March 11th, and when it does it will be packing a beefy A15 Bionic processor and a slightly higher starting price of $429 with 64GB of storage. That’s the same processor found in the iPhone 13 line, making the SE nearly as capable as other current iPhones. But what if you’re not just shopping in Apple’s world? How does a “budget” iPhone compare to Android phones within a comparable range of value?

First off, let’s get the most obvious determining factor out of the way. If you use an Apple Watch, AirPods, AirPlay, or are a blue bubble in iMessage, you most likely want to just turn back now. Yes, there are alternatives to all of these in the realm of Android, but each one will present a level of friction that may be too much for many. Though if you’re considering making a switch, there’s a lot to like outside of Apple’s walled garden.

The strengths of the iPhone SE (2022)

The 2022 iPhone SE may use a dated design with big bezels, but what this line from Apple typically does best is offer a massive performance headroom at a relatively affordable price point. You cannot get another phone for under $500 with as fast a processor or as many years of expected updates as an iPhone SE. Apple doesn’t come out and say how many years of OS updates its phones will receive, but the first-generation iPhone SE from 2016 is able to run the latest iOS 15. Most phones that get three or four years of software updates are considered a triumph in the Android world, but it still pales in comparison.

This year, Apple is promising the performance gains of the A15 processor as well as a bigger battery to accommodate that power-hungry 5G modem that’s now built-in. The cost of all that comes in at a starting price point of $429 — a $30 increase over the 2020 model — but you’re still stuck with the same-old, same-old design with its 4.7-inch Retina display. That said, if you love a good home button, fingerprint scanner, and non-MagSafe Qi wireless charging, then there are reasons to rejoice.

The 2022 iPhone SE continues to prove that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Namely, a beefy processor.
The 2022 iPhone SE continues to prove that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Namely, a beefy processor.
Image: Apple

The 2022 iPhone SE vs. Samsung, Google, and Motorola

That design may seem warm and cozy to longstanding iPhone owners that haven’t upgraded their phones in years, but compared to Android phones, it looks like it’s ripped from a long-forgotten past. For about the same price of the iPhone SE are all kinds of excellent Android phones with larger screens, bigger batteries, more RAM, and extra cameras. The iPhone SE might offer higher performance thanks to its CPU, but phones like the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, Galaxy A42 5G, Google Pixel 5A, and Motorola Moto Edge 5G UW (2021) pack in more modern features and just stuff in general.

Samsung is known to hit just about every price point, and its Galaxy A52 and A42 both offer some beefy battery life. We don’t yet know the mAh specification of the new iPhone SE, but it’s safe to assume that even if it’s a larger battery than 2020’s SE it will remain smaller than its Android competition. The Galaxy A52 and Moto Edge also offer higher refresh rate screens too, hitting up to 120Hz and 144Hz, respectively. They may cost a little more than the iPhone, but those speeds make scrolling and animations look much smoother than the 60Hz that the SE tops out at.

Ssmsung Galaxy A52 5G
The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, along with most phones in the Android world, make the iPhone SE look quite dated by comparison.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

One of the most competitive options to compare with the iPhone SE may be Google’s Pixel 5A, as it is the closest in price. For just $20 more, you get more storage, a larger OLED screen, excellent camera quality, and an ultrawide lens option. Though it lacks wireless charging, the Pixel 5A is a worthy option for cross-shopping with the SE.

Lastly, there’s the Motorola Moto Edge 5G UW, which touts some of the biggest specs and features of all these phones, including a 6.8-inch screen with 144Hz refresh, a 5,000mAh battery, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Although it does also come with an asking price of $699.99, it is often discounted to a much more competitive $499.99. That’s the thing with Android phones, there are often discounts to be had that are much more uncommon, or outright rare, on iPhones.

It’s hard to buy a bad phone these days, though, midrange phones continue to offer more value while the flagships from companies such as Apple and Samsung tend to get pricier and pricier. If you’re curious as to how the forthcoming iPhone SE compares directly with some of its budget-based competition, however, check out the side-by-side comparison below. We’ll be putting the new iPhone SE through its paces very soon in our full review, where the specs and the software experience collide to see just how good a value this phone really is.

iPhone SE (2022) vs Android mid-range phones

SpecificationiPhone SE (2022)Samsung Galaxy A52 5GSamsung Galaxy A42 5GGoogle Pixel 5AMotorola Moto Edge 5G UW (2021)
OSiOS 15Updated to Android 12Updated to Android 12Updated to Android 12Android 11, planned update to Android 12 in early 2022
Display4.7-inch LCD6.5-inch OLED6.6-inch OLED6.34-inch OLED6.8-inch LCD
Resolution1334 x 7502400 x 10801600 x 7202400 x 10802460 x 1080
Max. refresh rate60HzUp to 120Hz60Hz60Hzup to 144Hz
Dimensions(mm)67.3 x 138.4 x 7.375.1 x 159.9 x 8.475.9 x 164.4 x 8.673.2 x 156.2 x 8.875.6 x 169 x 8.99
Weight144g189 g193 g183 g200 g
Battery CapacityTBD4500mAh5000mAh4680mAh5000mAh
ProcessorA15 BionicSnapdragon 750GSnapdragon 750GSnapdragon 765GSnapdragon 778G
RAM4GB6GB4GB6GB8GB
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB128GB128GB256GB
PortsLightning portUSB-C charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack, microSDUSB-C charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack, microSDUSB-C charging port, 3.5mm headphone jackUSB-C charging port
Rear camera12MP (f/1.8, OIS) wide64MP (f/1.8, OIS) wide, 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide, 5MP (f/2.4) macro, 5MP (f/2.4) depth camera48MP (f/1.8) wide, 8MP (f/2.2) wide, 2MP (f/2.4) depth camera12.2MP (f/1.7, dual-pixel AF) wide angle, 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide108MP (f/1.9) wide angle, 8MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide, 2MP depth sensor (f/2.4)
Front camera7MP (f/2.2)32MP (f/2.2)13MP (f/2.2)8MP(f/2.0)32MP (f/2.25)
Photo ModesSmart HDR 4, Portrait Mode, Portrait Lighting, Photographic StylesMacro, Night mode, Portrait mode, Fun mode (front camera)Night mode, Portrait modeNight Sight, Portrait modeMacro, Ultra-Res Pro (with long exposure), Night Vision
Video modesN/ASuper Steady video modeSuper Steady video modeSlow-moMacro, Super Slow-mo, Dual Capture, Video Snapshot
Video recording4K at 24, 25, 30, or 60 fps. 1080p HD at 25, 30, or 60 fps with 120 and 240 fps Slow-Mo. 4K at 30 fps, 1080p HD at 30 fps Super Steady video mode4K at 30 fps, 1080p HD at 30 fps Super Steady video mode4K at 30 and 60 fps, 1080p HD at 30, 60, 120, and 240 fps4K at 30 fps, 1080p HD at 60 and 30 fps or 120 fps with Slow-Mo
BiometricsTouch IDFingerprintFingerprintFingerprintFingerprint, Face unlock
Water and dust protectionIP67IP67N/AIP67IP52
Wireless charging?Yes, Qi-compatibleNoNoNoNo
5G supportsub-6 GHzsub-6GHzsub-6GHz, mmWavesub-6GHzsub-6GHz, mmWave on Verizon
Starting price$429$499.99$399.99$449$499.99 ($699.99 MSRP)