The iPhone 14 highlights the value of the one true budget iPhone


Another yearly iPhone event is in the books and it’s another year where Apple has a smorgasbord of new phones for people to go crazy over. But this year also isn’t like every other year, at least not in some parts of the world. It’s been a tough couple of years and various global calamities have made big spending decisions such as a new phone a lot tougher.

Of course, iPhone is iPhone and Apple rarely struggles to sell a mountain of its latest and greatest. And as ever, previous models stick around with lower prices for those looking to spend a little less. With the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro now on sale, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 have also remained on sale. But they’re no budget offering. One can even argue that the iPhone 14 is a minimal upgrade over its predecessor at best.

What the iPhone 14 does do, however, is highlight the value of the one true budget iPhone. The iPhone I use and love, admittedly, but that doesn’t change facts. The iPhone SE 2022 is looking pretty good right now for those who actually want a budget iPhone.

The iPhone is getting more expensive for a lot of us

iPhone 14 Plus featured

Outside the U.S., buying a new iPhone is a more expensive proposition. Most of the XDA team are in locations where at least one of the new iPhones now costs more than it did a year ago. The iPhone 14, for example, is about £70 more expensive at the entry level in the UK than the iPhone 13 was, and it’s not even that different of a phone. The iPhone 14 Pro has seen a larger price increase here as well. It’s not necessarily Apple’s fault — though you could argue the iPhone is expensive enough already — since everything is getting more expensive.

As inflation bites and prices go up, companies such as Apple will move to cover their increased costs and protect their profit margins. That means we have to pay more. We don’t have to like it, but it is what it is. Business will always be business. That in turn makes buying a phone outright from Apple less appealing. There is the iPhone Upgrade Program, at least, but more expensive phones mean more expensive monthly payments. Same for a two-year carrier contract.

By contrast, the iPhone SE 2022 is actually what you could call still call “affordable”. In the UK, it starts at £400 less than the cheapest iPhone 14. It’s also still cheaper than the iPhone 13 and even the now two-year-old iPhone 12. It is, of course, not entirely comparable to the iPhone 14, but in some key areas, it is. And you can almost buy two of them for the same outlay.

iPhone 14 using last year’s chip helps validate the iPhone SE

iPhone SE 3 2022 setup 28

A lot of people, fans and writers alike, love to poke fun at the “old-fashioned” iPhone SE. Yes it has bezels, yes it has the home button, and yes it only has one camera. But I would argue none of that truly matters considering Apple managed to price it as it has.

Most average consumers probably don’t know or care what chip is in the iPhone SE. But we know it’s the same as the chip in the iPhone 14, albeit with a solitary GPU core less. That and the fact it also launched this year allow for a pretty confident feeling that it will be supported by iOS updates as long as the iPhone 14 family will be. You probably can’t say the same about the older, more expensive iPhone 12.

The iPhone 14 is ‘better’ for sure. The display is larger, higher resolution, and being OLED, much nicer to look at. The camera system is also much better on the front and the back. And it should have the legs on battery life. But here’s the thing: do most iPhone buyers outside of tech enthusiasts even really care?

I settled on an iPhone as my main personal phone for a few main reasons when Windows phones finally died. They’re easy to live with, they get supported for longer than I’ll ever plan to keep the phone, and while iOS is a little uninspiring, the experience usually stays comparably good year on year. My only recently retired iPhone 8 Plus still feels perfectly fine to use to this day. I can’t say the same about some of the Android phones I’ve tried in that time.

All this is important for the masses that are buying smartphones. Especially in a time when finances are getting tighter for all of us. Do you really need that OLED display or the newer camera? I’d wager if the camera is the most important feature you’re probably already a Pro buyer.

Buy the right budget iPhone

iPhone SE 2022

I’m not here saying everyone should ignore the iPhone 14 and buy an iPhone SE instead– far from it. If anything, I want people to really think about what they’re buying, and why. A lot of people wait for the new iPhone to be launched so the previous models drop in price. But based on what they still cost in markets like the UK, I’d say they are a pretty poor purchase.

The iPhone 14 and iPhone 13 are virtually identical. The Mini has been killed off and you shouldn’t buy the iPhone 12 for its current price when it’s two years old. In the U.S. it’s not quite as clear cut, perhaps, with carrier deals and trade-ins, but in locations like my own, there are savings to be had. I’m passionate about encouraging people to make sensible tech purchases, not rushing in and spending more than they really have to.

The iPhone SE 2022 is not a bad phone by any stretch. The single camera might be old, but it’s still serviceable for those of us who only take pictures of our kids or post on social media. The battery life isn’t as bad as some would have you believe and the performance is ridiculous. And it’s a personal thing, but I still prefer a fingerprint sensor over the Face ID system that never did work out what I looked like with sunglasses on. There’s always a case to buy the more expensive models, but I’m not convinced a lot of people really need to spend the extra.

A basic iPhone experience it may be, but it’s a current iPhone experience at almost half the price for a lot of us. I think more people should consider it as their next iPhone.

    Getting past the design the iPhone SE is a modern iPhone inside with the A15 chip at a significant discount over the iPhone 14