Apple iPhone SE 3 versus iPhone 13

Apple's latest iPhone SE is here, and it's not holding back, packing the same cutting-edge chip as the flagship iPhone 13. That's right. The new $429 iPhone SE 3 gets the same ultra-high-performance A15 Bionic processor as Apple's range-topping $1,099 iPhone 13 Pro Max. As such, it's streets ahead of the existing iPhone SE 2. It's also more powerful than either the iPhone 11 or iPhone 12.
But, quite aside from its identical chip, can it truly compete with the much more expensive iPhone 13? The SE 3 is a whole $300 cheaper than even the entry-level iPhone 13 Mini, which costs $729, and a massive $670 less than the $1,000+ iPhone 13 Pro Max. It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that there's more to consider than just processors.

First, Some Good News

The good news is that despite the iPhone SE 3 getting Apple's A15 chip, iPhone 13 owners needn't feel cheated. Because while the SE 3 gets the same processor, it's not a match for the iPhone 13 in terms of the overall package. At the same time, for those seeking an affordable, current-generation iPhone, the latest SE represents a fantastic option that's now more powerful than ever.
Essentially, it's less about which smartphone is better and more about appreciating the two models on their respective merits. To demonstrate, it's a good idea to take a side-by-side look at the iPhone SE 3 and iPhone 13.

A Side-By-Side Look at the Latest iPhones

The iPhone 13 lineup arrived back in September last year. Boasting various models, the biggest difference between the likes of the iPhone 13 Mini and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is their sizes. While the Pro-tier models also pack in a few extra bits of functionality like LiDAR scanning, it's an impressive lineup across the board.
Meanwhile, the iPhone SE 3 represents just a single handset. All the same, given its low price and latest-generation chip, it's an impressive proposition. Improvements in its camera, battery life, and more all help to make sure that's the case. That said, there are various areas where it simply can't compete with the iPhone 13, starting with its appearance.

iPhone SE 3 Versus iPhone 13: Appearance

Of course, looks are subjective. And while the iPhone 13 won't be to all tastes, most would agree that it's a handsome and modern-looking smartphone. Albeit, it's not dissimilar to the iPhone 12 that it replaced.
While the SE 3, too, is a nice-looking handset, it's also identical to the existing SE 2. With that, it bears a striking similarity to Apple smartphones as far back as the iPhone 6. As a result, it's not at all apparent that it's a new model. And despite its otherwise good looks, viewed side-by-side with the iPhone 13, it's hard not to find its appearance at least slightly dated.
The iPhone 13 is also available in black, white, gray, silver, blue, pink, gold, green, and red finishes across the lineup's various models. By contrast, iPhone SE 3 buyers can only choose from black, white, or red.

iPhone SE 3 Versus iPhone 13: Camera

The camera on the latest SE is better than ever. It's something made possible by including Apple's cutting-edge A15 Bionic chip. With that, it's a huge improvement over the camera found on the SE 2.
iPhone SE 3 buyers can expect features like Smart HDR 4, Photographic Styles, and Deep Fusion from the new handset. However, at the same time, it lacks much of the hardware that makes the iPhone 13's camera setup so impressive.
It also misses out on features like Night mode, Animoji and Memoji support, and 2x-6x optical zoom. The iPhone SE 3's video-recording abilities and its front-facing camera can't compete with those on the iPhone 13, either. So while the identical A15 Bionic chip in both models works wonders, it's fundamentally limited in what it can achieve in the SE 3.

iPhone SE 3 Versus iPhone 13: Display

While its chip is massively impressive and there's never been a better camera on an SE model, it's not necessarily the same story for the phone's display. The iPhone 13 gets a Super Retina XDR display, with added ProMotion functionality on the two range-topping models. Meanwhile, the iPhone SE 3 makes do with Apple's existing Retina HD display.
And while it's a fine screen, it's the same found on the two-year-old iPhone SE 2. Not only that, it's the same display now used on models dating back as far as the iPhone 8. So, while there's definite value to be had in the SE 3, it's not overly difficult to see where Apple has saved money, with its display being a perfect case in point.
At just 4.7 inches, it's also starting to feel overly small when up against the 6.1- and 6.7-inch displays on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Oddly enough, the same is true when it comes to the iPhone 13 Mini, too, where even the smallest handset in the iPhone 13 lineup now has a 5.4-inch screen.

iPhone SE 3 Versus iPhone 13: Other Features

Like its display, some of the other technology in the iPhone SE 3 is starting to show its age simultaneously. For example, the SE 3 still only gets Touch ID, not Face ID. And while the batteries in the various iPhone 13 models promise up to 28 hours of video playback, the SE 3 manages a maximum of just 15 hours.
It also misses out on the Ceramic Shield front of its costlier stablemates and is waterproof to a depth of just one meter, rather than six meters in the case of the iPhone 13. Available storage on the iPhone SE 3 tops out at 256GB as well, whereas iPhone 13 buyers can opt for up to 1TB with the Pro Max.
Elsewhere, the SE 3 further lacks the MagSafe compatibility of costlier models. However, there's now 5G connectivity across the board. That said, the iPhone SE 3 gets standard sub-6 GHz 5G cellular with 2x2 MIMO, while the iPhone 13 gets faster 4x4 MIMO and mmWave.

The Bottom Line

It's vital to remember that the iPhone SE 3 costs anywhere from $300 to $670 less than the iPhone 13, even before any storage upgrades. It gets the same cutting-edge proprietary Apple processor and various other features from the manufacturer's much more expensive models.
However, potential buyers must also remember that the SE 3 is, first and foremost, an affordable alternative to costlier Apple flagships. As a result, it can't compete on a like-for-like basis with the iPhone 13. Still, it's a marked improvement over the SE 2 it replaces. And, all told, it represents excellent value for money at under $430.
Ultimately, the choice between Apple's iPhone 13 or SE 3 will, more often than not, likely come down to budget. The iPhone 13 is a fantastic flagship smartphone that's wholly capable of standing up to even the toughest of competition. Meanwhile, and for those on a budget, it's hard to argue with the iPhone SE 3's offering, especially for the money.

Protect Your iPhone With Upsie

Whichever Apple handset a buyer chooses, pair your smartphone with a smartphone subscription warranty from Upsie. That includes the iPhone 13 and iPhone SE 3. A comprehensive, affordable, and easy-to-understand alternative to AppleCare+, benefits include complete coverage against manufacturing defects, mechanical faults, and other failures.
Each Upsie iPhone warranty package also includes accidental damage protection, further safeguarding against drops, cracks, and spills. Moreover, all extended iPhone warranties include access to Apple's Genius Bars – just like with AppleCare+. To learn more, head to or download the Upsie app.

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* This article is over 6 months old and may or may not be updated.