iPhone SE or iPhone 13 Mini: Which Should You Buy?

Author: Tara Donnelly

iPhones don’t come cheap. But of the two cheaper options available to you, which is better? The iPhone SE or iPhone 13 Mini?

Apple’s newest budget edition smartphone, the 2022 iPhone SE, is by far the cheapest new iPhone available. But it’s not the only compact and lower-priced device available to Apple buyers.

The flagship iPhone 13 series features an entry-level model in the smaller iPhone 13 Mini. Including all the key features of the standard iPhone 13, the Mini fits premium specifications into a much more pocket-friendly size, and has proved to be a popular purchase for iPhone lovers.

While there’s still a hefty price difference between the two models — the iPhone SE starts from $799 (for 64GB) while the 13 Mini retails from $1249 (although the base model starts at 128GB) — both have been positioned as smaller, cheaper options to the ultra-high-end iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max.

So if you’re looking to switch to an Apple device, or upgrade from your current iPhone, we’re taking a look at how the iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone SE 2022 compare, to help you pick the best handset for your needs and budget.

iPhone SE or iPhone 13 Mini: quick comparison

Below is a quick comparison of some of the main features of the 2022 iPhone SE and the iPhone 13 Mini. We’ll take a closer look at some of the key differences further down.

iPhone 13 Mini iPhone SE (2022)
Price From $1199 From $719
Screen size 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display 4.7-inch Retina XD display
Battery MagSafe and QI wireless charging, up to 17 hours video playback QI wireless charging, up to 15 hours video playback
Chipset A15 Bionic Chip with Neural Engine, 6-core CPU, 4-core GPU A15 Bionic Chip with Neural Engine, 6-core CPU, 4-core GPU
Connectivity 5G-capable 5G-capable
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Rear camera Dual 12-megapixel wide angle and ultra wide cameras with 2x zoom,  Deep Fusion, True Tone flash, Portrait Mode, Photographic Styles, Night Mode and 4K video, plus Dolby Vision and Cinematic Mode 12-megapixel wide angle cameras with 5x digital zoom, Deep Fusion, True Tone flash, Portrait Mode, Photographic Styles and 4K video
Front camera 12-megapixel TrueDepth camera with Portrait Mode and 4K video 7-megapixel FaceTime camera with Portrait Mode and 1080p HD video
Operating system iOS 15 iOS 15
Colours Midnight, Starlight, Pink, Blue, Red, Green Midnight, Starlight, Red
iPhone SE or iPhone 13 Mini: iPhone 13 Mini
iPhone 13 Mini range

Design and display

Released in September 2021, the iPhone 13 Mini is essentially a mini version of the signature Apple iPhone 13. It includes the same features, cameras and processor, and the same design (albeit smaller). The 13 Mini offers a 5.4-inch display, with a tough aluminium frame and Ceramic Shield glass. The screen itself includes Apple’s Super Retina XDR display, which is renowned for offering amazing colour contrast and accuracy. Plus a High Dynamic Range that produces deep blacks and brighter whites in photos and videos.

In comparison, the design of the iPhone SE 2022 is based primarily on the iPhone 8 model. It comes with a 4.7-inch Retina HD display, with much larger bezels than the 13 series and with a physical Home button in the bottom centre. The device itself is actually bigger than the 13 Mini. But the larger bezels give you a smaller screen and a less vibrant viewing experience. It’s still a great display. But it may underwhelm when directly compared to the brighter 13 Mini.

The big point of difference is in this screen real estate, and in the SE’s Home button and fingerprint sensor. If you have a particular affinity for the home button (or a particular distaste for Face ID) you may prefer the cheaper SE. But if you have the available funds for the bigger and sharper display, on a smaller overall body, go for the iPhone 13 Mini.

Both handsets have some level of water and dust resistance. The iPhone 13 Mini is IP68 certified, while the iPhone SE is rated a slightly lower IP67. This means the 13 Mini can be submerged in up to 6m of water for up to 30 minutes, while the SE can withstand only 1m over the same time frame.

Colour-wise, you do get a little more choice with the 13. Available colours include Midnight, Starlight, pink, blue, red, and an all-new green. The iPhone SE is limited to just three choices — Midnight, Starlight, and red. Although you can always pair your phone with a case for more personalisation.

Speaking of cases, the iPhone 13 Mini is also compatible with Apple’s MagSafe line. This series of magnetic, snap-on-and-off accessories includes covers, wallets, chargers and battery packs. Plus a host of third-party accessories, too. The iPhone SE doesn’t offer MagSafe, but you can still pair it with plenty of accessories from Apple, such as cases, AirPods, and cables.

iPhone SE or iPhone 13 Mini: iPhone SE
iPhone SE range

Cameras

When it comes to cameras, there’s no competition: the iPhone 13 Mini absolutely smokes the newer iPhone SE. However, this doesn’t mean that the SE’s cameras are bad, or that buyers won’t be happy with photo and video quality. The 2022 SE may feature just one 12-megapixel wide rear lens and the classic 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera in front, but you’ll still get good quality shots in well-lit conditions — just not quite to the level of the iPhone 13 Mini.

The aforementioned Mini includes a 12-megapixel camera in the back, as well as an additional wide-angle lens. While both the SE and 13 Mini include 5x digital zoom, the Mini also gives you 2x optical zoom out for wider shots and group photos. The Mini’s front-facing camera is Apple’s excellent 12-megapixel TrueDepth shooter, so is the better choice if top-tier selfies are a factor.

Both devices offer features such Photographic Styles, Portrait Mode and Apple’s Deep Fusion AI. However, the SE doesn’t include Night Mode, so low-light and night-time shots are going to fall flat. In terms of video, the SE also misses out on Cinematic Mode and HDR video with Dolby Vision. Both of which are available in the 13 Mini.

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Performance and battery

Both the iPhone SE and iPhone 13 Mini include Apple’s newest A15 Bionic chip, which features a six-core CPU and a five-core GPU. So whichever device you pick, you’ll get a fast, efficient performance that’s great for multitasking, and even on-the-go gaming.

If speedy processing is your priority, the SE gives you industry-leading power that far outpaces its price tag. It’s also the first iPhone SE to offer 5G network connectivity, which opens customers up to blistering-fast mobile speeds where available (provided you’re on a 5G-ready phone plan).

The 2022 SE is a powerhouse phone in a deceptively lower-priced package, which is where much of its appeal lies. The latest processing power, without the price tag. But buyers wanting a premium performance might feel let down by the smaller, less vibrant display, particularly if they are looking for a gaming handset.

The iPhone 13 Mini has the edge if you want a state-of-the-art chip, combined with features that can show it off to the fullest. It also boasts better battery life: Apple states that the Mini offers up to 17 hours of video playback on a single charge, and up to 13 hours of streamed video. In comparison, the iPhone SE can offer up to 15 hours of video, and up to 10 hours of streaming. However, both devices are fast-charge capable, and can be recharged up to 50% in 30 minutes when connected with a 20W adaptor or higher.

If you consider long-lasting battery to be a must-have, the Mini is more suited to all-day use, but iPhones generally have never been known for outstanding battery life. The 13 Mini does offer MagSafe charging in addition to wireless and fast charge, so this may make it easier to top-up your device when away from a power socket.

Should you buy the iPhone SE or iPhone 13 Mini?

Overall, it seems like Apple is aiming the iPhone SE and iPhone 13 Mini at two different markets.

The 2022 SE is a great option for first-time iPhone owners, especially kids or older users who are familiar with Apple devices but don’t want or need the flashiness of an iPhone 13. So if you are still plugging away on an iPhone 8, the SE is a great option. It could also suit those who desperately want an iPhone, but just can’t afford any other option. Although if this is you, you could always look into getting an older, refurbished model.

→Related article: Should I Buy a Refurbished Phone? Everything You Need to Know

The iPhone 13 Mini feels as if it’s marketed to those who want an iPhone 13 but prefer smaller devices, or just want to save a few hundred dollars. It offers Apple’s excellent dual rear cameras, as well as extra features such as Cinematic Mode and Night Mode, and is the better pick based on photography alone. Throw in the better display and battery life and the iPhone 13 Mini offers the look, feel, and performance of the latest iPhone. Only at a slightly lower price point and size. Not a budget iPhone, as the SE can sometimes feel.

If you’re upgrading from one of the iPhone’s older models, such as the iPhone 8, the SE’s design will feel instantly familiar. And the price is hard to beat; you’ll get high-end performance for your money, and from five to seven years of Apple software upgrades.

With prices beginning at $719 for the 64GB model, up to $969 for 256GB, the 2022 iPhone SE isn’t cheap, but it’s a good $480 less than the iPhone 13 Mini, which starts at $1199 for 128GB of storage. If it comes down to budget, the iPhone SE is the clear winner. But the iPhone 13 Mini is definitely the better phone overall, which is reflected in the price difference.

Consider the Apple iPhone SE (2022) if you:  Consider the Apple iPhone 13 Mini if you:
  • Want the cheapest iPhone
  • Are familiar with the older design
  • Don’t need  multiple cameras or a top-of-the-line phone photography set-up
  • Want the latest iPhone and features
  • Don’t stream shows or game on your phone and don’t need a large display
  • Want a top-notch camera set-up
  • Find smaller phones more comfortable
  • Can’t quite stretch for the iPhone 13 model

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author andrew broadley

About the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.


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