The new iPhone SE 3 is here, and the news pretty much matches up with all of the rumors that we've heard. Sure, there's the slight surprise of the price increase to $429, but I think most shoppers can live with that given that you're getting a more powerful A15 Bionic chip and 5G connectivity.
However, the new iPhone SE for 2022 has two surprise weaknesses that I didn't see coming. The first is that this phone doesn't offer mmWave 5G, which means that the new iPhone SE won't work with Verizon's Ultra Wideband 5G network. This network offers the fastest speeds from the carrier.
The good news is that the iPhone SE 3 will support the new C-Band networks that AT&T and Verizon are rolling out, which offer wider range than mmWave. And at least based on our early testing for Verizon C-Band, the results could be fairly strong.
The bigger surprise to me is that the iPhone SE 3 doesn't offer a Night mode at all in the camera. Yes, the new iPhone SE offers other computational photography upgrades, including Smart HDR 4 for better results in challenging lighting conditions, Photographic Styles, Deep Fusion and Portrait Mode. So the single rear camera here is no slouch.
However, being able to get great photos in very low light is an area where Apple excels with Night mode. So if you want Night mode you'll have to spend more on the $499 iPhone 11 or buy a newer iPhone 12 or iPhone 13.
I could understand why Apple might want to reserve Night mode for more premium handsets, but it's still a bummer that you can't get this feature on the new iPhone SE. And keep in mind that the Google PIxel 5a, which costs only a bit more at $449, offers a Night mode along with a much larger 6.3-inch display. The iPhone SE sticks with a 4.7-inch panel.
I get why the iPhone SE 3 doesn't offer a feature like Cinematic mode video, which lets you switch focus between subjects. You just can't do that with a single lens camera. But I think Apple could have included Night mode on this device if it wanted to.
Do I think either of these missing features is a dealbreaker? Nope. But I do think shoppers should be aware before they pre-order the new iPhone SE 3. And you can be sure we'll be putting the new camera and 5G to the test to see how good this budget iPhone really is.
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Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.