The third-generation iPhone SE and the iPhone 12 are now among Apple’s lowest-cost iPhone options, starting at $429 and $599 respectively. Apple released the iPhone 12 in late 2020, and has bumped it down in price since then to make it more accessible as new iPhone models have been released. On the other hand, the third-generation iPhone SE launched in early 2022, refreshing the most affordable iPhone option in the lineup.
With just $170 between them, should you get the new, smaller, entry-level iPhone or the older, larger, standard model that has come down in price over the years? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two iPhones is best for you.
Overall, the iPhone SE is an excellent entry-level iPhone option for just $429. In some respects, the iPhone SE is better than the iPhone 12 since it is a newer device, featuring a faster and more efficient chip, Photographic Styles, and Smart HDR 4.
For $170 more, the iPhone 12 offers a more modern design and a larger, OLED display, as well as Face ID, an Ultra Wide camera, Night mode, considerably better front-facing and Main cameras, MagSafe, and longer battery life. There is also the benefit of improved water resistance, the U1 chip, and Dolby Atmos audio playback, and even additional color options to choose from. All of this makes for a significant upgrade over the iPhone SE if you value these features and can afford the $170 extra, but it is worth bearing in mind that they are not essential capabilities for many users.
The main drawback of buying the iPhone 12 is its age, with the device featuring an older and less powerful chip. Some users may even value the smaller size and weight of the iPhone SE, as well as features like Touch ID. Overall, it comes down to whether you value having a smaller, newer device, or can look past this to get the benefits of a device with Face ID and a larger, OLED display.
If you prefer the iPhone 12’s set of features, then it is still a good option for $599, but generally most users looking for an affordable iPhone should opt for the iPhone SE since it is more future-proof and offers a similar A15 chipset as Apple’s latest iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus models.
It is also worth noting that the iPhone 13 mini starts at the same $599 price point as the iPhone 12 and continues to be available from Apple, but it features a smaller display at just 5.4-inches. The iPhone 13 mini is a newer device and starts with double the storage of the iPhone 12 at 128GB, so the iPhone 13 mini will be a better option for users who are considering the iPhone 12 but do not mind having a slightly smaller display.