The big winner of the iPhone SE 2022 release — it's the iPhone 13 mini

iphone 13 mini display on in hand with plants in background
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone SE (2022) made its debut this week, with Apple showing off its latest budget phone as part of a product-packed Peek Performance event this past week. While not an extensive update, the latest iPhone SE model adds some welcome features including 5G compatibility and a chipset that's as powerful as the ones inside much more expensive Apple phones.

It also does that which may have seemed impossible at the start of the new year — it also makes the iPhone 13 mini look like a much more compelling option.

It also does that may have seemed impossible at the start of the new year — it also makes the nt one of the best 5G phones but don't want to pay more than $500 for one. But despite some notable additions, the new SE feels a lot like the current iPhone SE (2020) in many ways.

That could drive people to give the iPhone 13 mini a second look. Yes, this phone costs nearly $300 more than the iPhone SE, but it remains one of the best small phones out there. What's more, the smallest member of the iPhone 13 family brings features to the table that are stilling missing in action from the iPhone SE (2022), even after this latest update.

Here's the case for getting an iPhone 13 mini over the iPhone SE (2022), along with the areas where Apple's new budget phone still carry the day.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone SE (2022)iPhone 13 mini
Starting price$429$699
Screen size4.7-inch LCD (1334 x 750)5.4-inch OLED (2340 x 1080)
CPUA15 BionicA15 Bionic
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Rear cameras12MP wide (f/1.8)12MP wide (f/1.6); 12MP ultrawide (f/2.4)
Front camera7MP (f/2.2)12MP (f/2.2)
Size5.5 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches5.2 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches
Weight5.09 ounces4.97 ounces

Why the iPhone 13 mini is a better buy

At $699, the iPhone 13 mini costs $270 more than the $429 iPhone SE (2022). But this could be a case where you get what you pay for. This is what the extra money buys you when you pick the iPhone 13 mini over the iPhone SE.

Two camera lenses: While the iPhone SE certainly makes the most of its single rear camera thanks to Apple's stellar use of computational photography, the iPhone 13 mini offers a dual-lens setup with 12MP wide and ultrawide angle lenses. 

iphone 13 mini zoomed in on camera array

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That gives you greater flexibility — you can switch to an ultrawide angle shot when you want to capture more of the surrounding scene in your photos. But the extra camera lens enables features that simply aren't available on the iPhone SE (2022). Apple's new phone doesn't offer Cinematic Mode and its seamlessly ability to shift focus, which the iPhone 13 mini does support.

No Night mode: While we're on the subject of what cameras can and can't do, Apple opted not to add Night mode support to the new iPhone SE, which would have addressed a glaring absence on the current model. That means the iPhone SE (2022) will be the only phone Apple sells that can't snap clear photos when the lights are low.

That's a shame for a couple reasons, not the least of which is the Google Pixel 5a can take great low-light shots with its Night Sight mode, and that device is in the iPhone SE's price range. It's also disappointing because the iPhones that do support Night mode — including the iPhone 13 mini — produce excellent images in the dark.

Complete 5G support: Yes, Apple added 5G compatibility to the iPhone SE (2022), but the new phone doesn't support every flavor of the faster networking standard. There's no mmWave 5G support on the new iPhone SE, so if you get your wireless service from Verizon, which made mmWave a centerpiece of its initial 5G efforts, you may want to consider another device.

Now, Verizon is in the process of shifting to C-Band 5G, which the iPhone SE (2022) does support, so the lack of mmWave support isn't that big a downgrade. But it's not something you have to worry about with the iPhone 13 mini, which supports the whole range of 5G. At the time of the iPhone 13's launch, Apple said its flagship phones offered the most extensive 5G support of any device; it can't make that claim with the iPhone SE.

The iPhone 13 mini is actually smaller: You're likely considering the iPhone SE (2022) because it's so compact. But it's not actually the smallest phone Apple has to offer.

At 5.2 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches, the iPhone 13 mini is actually shorter and not as wide at the 5.5 x 2.7 x 0.3-inch iPhone SE, even if it has a larger screen (5.4 inches vs. 4.7 inches). Knock the notch on the iPhone 13 models all you want, but in the case of the mini, it allows Apple to squeeze in more screen into a smaller space. 

Apple iPhone SE (2022) color lineup on a red background

(Image credit: Apple)

More color choices: What's black and white and red all over? The only three colors you can select when buying an iPhone SE. Those options expand to half-dozen when you go for the iPhone 13 mini instead. You get the same Midnight (black), Starlight (White) and [Product] Red choices as the iPhone SE, but Apple also adds blue, pink and a brand new green shade to the mix.

Why the iPhone SE (2022) is still the better choice

Despite all those extra features on the iPhone 13 mini, there's no getting around the iPhone SE's attractive price. A $429 phone that connects to 5G networks is impressive no matter how you slice it, and that's before you consider that the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone SE are using the same processor.

Images from the iPhone SE 3 reveal

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone SE (2022) runs on the A15 Bionic processor that Apple included in last fall's flagship phones. With a rumored 4GB of RAM in the iPhone SE (2022), you'd figure the new phone will be able to hold its own with Apple handsets that cost hundreds of dollars more. We'll confirm that with our own testing, but leaked iPhone SE (2022) benchmarks back up this theory.

The choice between an iPhone SE (2022) and an iPhone 13 mini comes down to which features are the most valuable to you. If you want a capable camera phone that's compact, the mini's the better option. But the iPhone SE is going to be a solid choice for people who want a top-performing phone without having to part with big bucks.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.