I’ve had this for several weeks iPhone 14 Pro Max tested and all its advantages: the huge 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display including 120 Hz, the Dynamic Island, the top camera system and, of course, not forgetting the extremely large battery. And then, by accident, the iPhone SE came into my hands.
What were we ranting about back then! Apple fans labeled it when it was unveiled in March 2022 as “cheeky” and also in our test we came to the conclusion that Apple screwed up the SE and the fans deserve better. For some inexplicable whim, my fingers itched: what if I traded the best iPhone ever for the heavily criticized iPhone SE of 2022? My colleagues thought I was crazy! “Who does that voluntarily,” I was told, another colleague completely lost his composure and asked: “Are you stupid?”
I too thought that this test was unfair and that I would soon lose interest in this self-experiment. To my own surprise, the exact opposite is the case. But not only that: I owe the iPhone SE a big apology.
Current best price: iPhone 14 Pro Max with 128 GB in black
iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone SE have more differences than similarities. They differ in so many ways that you don’t even know where to start: If you hold both devices in your hands, the first thing you will notice is the difference in size: the iPhone 14 Pro Max is significantly larger with a 6.7-inch display than the 4.7-inch iPhone SE. This is also noticeable in the weight, the 14 Pro Max is around 100 grams heavier with a weight of 240 grams. However, the biggest differences are inside the smartphones. Below you will find the most important specs at a glance:
iPhone 14 Pro Max
iPhone SE (3rd generation)
from 1,449 euros
from 549 euros
128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Dark Purple, Gold, Silver, Space Black
Midnight, North Star, (PRODUCT)RED
6.7″ (Super Retina XDR)
4.7″ (Retina HD display)
up to 2,000 nits peak brightness
Face ID (Dynamic Island)
Touch ID (home button)
12 MP TrueDepth front camera (ƒ/1.9 aperture)
7 MP FaceTime HD camera (ƒ/2.2 aperture)
48 MP (ƒ/1.78 aperture)
12 MP (ƒ/1.8 aperture)
ultra wide angle
12 MP (ƒ/2.2 aperture)
12 MP (ƒ/2.8 aperture)
up to 15x
up to 5x
4K at 24, 25, 30 and 60 fps
4K at 24, 25, 30 and 60 fps
Up to 29 hours of video playback
Up to 15 hours of video playback
When switching from the 14 Pro Max to the third-generation SE, I was missing one feature from the start. The first thing you probably think of is the new Dynamic Island or the large 120 Hz display. In fact, it turned out that I can very well do without both. No, the feature I miss the most is something you can’t even see: Magsafe.
With Magsafe, Apple has established a very special feature that has so far proven to be extremely practical in everyday life. Be it the magnetic charging cradle on the bedside table, the Magsafe holder in the car to be navigated by the iPhone or the Magsafe wallet so that you always have the most important cards at hand. You have to do without all of that with the iPhone SE, with the only consolation being that the entry-level iPhone can at least be charged wirelessly (although this has been possible since 2017 with the introduction of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X).
Surprise: I don’t miss these pro features at all
At the beginning of the experiment, I expected that I would miss many of the new Pro features of the new 14 generation. After all, Apple has a lot to offer here:
120 Hz display (featured in the iPhone 13 Pro)
I overestimated the 120 Hz display because after a few days of use you get used to the fact that not all content and animations run smoothly across the screen. The Dynamic Island is also a feature that I don’t miss. I still stand by what I said that the new notch is revolutionarybut I had to realize that I didn’t notice its advantages in everyday life as much as I initially thought.
However, I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t miss any pro features of the 14 Pro Max. I especially like the camera of the 14 Pro Max. As I did in mine detailed test of the 14 Pro Max could prove, great snapshots with lots of details are possible at any time thanks to the 48MP sensor. The video recordings are also very impressive, and the new Action mode does an excellent job of image stabilization. The camera system in the iPhone SE is of course disappointing in direct comparison. But here, too, it turns out: An iPhone SE is completely sufficient for snapshots and thanks to iOS 16, pictures under good lighting conditions are very acceptable.
Since I can take better photos with my Canon 5D Mark IV and Fuji XT-30 ii anyway, the camera in an iPhone without was never as important to me as it is to other users. But I’d be lying if I said the iPhone 14 Pro Max isn’t a great replacement. After all, you don’t always have a camera with you, but the iPhone usually does.
In addition to an improved camera in the iPhone SE, I would like an improved battery. I was able to use the iPhone 14 Pro Max for a day and a half on one charge without any problems. Since using the iPhone SE, I’ve learned to better manage the battery and always carry a Lightning cable with a power bank or power adapter with me.
What makes the SE better
Some love big smartphones, some small ones. The fact that Apple is not launching a successor for the 14 generation after the iPhone 12 Mini and 13 Mini and instead is launching a 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Plus is proof enough that the majority of users prefer larger iPhones. But the 4.7-inch iPhone SE definitely has its advantages. I can operate the device with just one hand, which is not possible with the iPhone 14 Pro Max with my hands. It’s pretty light and fits in every pocket. This was actually an issue with the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
And finally, an “unpopular opinion”: The iPhone SE showed me that I’m actually an advocate of the home button – even if many critics consider it to be outdated. However, it has undeniable advantages. The navigation is completely different than on an iPhone 14 Pro Max and I personally like it even better.
An apology is due
Apple’s price for the third-generation iPhone SE cannot be justified compared to the competition, even eight months after its release. Other manufacturers bring significantly more features to their entry-level models for less money. And that’s exactly what an iPhone SE should be: an option for smartphone beginners or all those who prefer the old design including the home button.
When using the SE, one thing above all became clear to me: the iPhone is not just an iPhone because of its visual appearance. But this is exactly the mistake many people make, and I made the same mistake: Small display, home button, “outdated” design? That can’t be a good iPhone in 2022. Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that! Thanks to the A15 chip, the new iOS 16 runs on the SE. Features like the new lock screen (explained here) including widgets turns even an old-fashioned looking iPhone SE into a modern smartphone. So an apology is in order: the iPhone SE is a great smartphone. If Apple lowered the price, the overall package would be right. The SE of the third generation can now be bought at a greatly reduced price.
Current best price: iPhone SE (3rd Gen) with 64 GB in midnight
Of course, Apple missed an opportunity, because the third-generation iPhone SE differs from its 2020 predecessor in only a few ways: a slightly improved battery and 5G are the main differences. With a better camera and features like Magsafe, the iPhone SE would be a more attractive alternative.
Switching from the iPhone 14 Pro Max showed me which features are actually needed in everyday life – and which are not. And for the iPhone 14 Pro Max costing almost three times as much as an iPhone SE, you get a lot in the SE. For many, the iPhone SE will not be a serious option, but there is a certain target group that will be very happy with it.
Tag: iphone design, iphone 14, apple iphone, iphone release