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iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs iPhone 12 Mini (2020): which is the best cheap iPhone?

Apple
(Image credit: Apple)

The all-new iPhone SE 3 (2022) that Apple announced at its 'Peel Performance' event on 8th March is the company's cheapest, smallest 5G iPhone yet, but how does it stack up against another small, lower-cost phone from the iPhone line, the 2020-released iPhone 12 Mini?

Both phones target a similar price range, even if the iPhone 12 Mini is on average more expensive than the iPhone SE 3 (2022), but the SE 3 has more powerful hardware while the 12 Mini has a larger, nicer screen, among other differences.

To help you decide whether upgrading is right for you, we've assembled the ultimate head-to-head comparison. While we've gone the full twelve rounds with the iPhone 12 Mini, we're yet to do so with the iPhone SE 3 (2022). Still, we can paint a solid picture of both by comparing price, design and specs, including display and camera.

Read on as we compare the iPhone SE 3 (2022) and iPhone 12 Mini.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs iPhone 12 Mini: price

Apple

(Image credit: Apple )

The iPhone SE 3 (2022) costs £419 ($429, AU$719) for the 64GB model; £469 ($479, AU$799) for the 128GB model; and £559 ($579, AU$969) for the 256GB model. 

The SE 3's release date is Friday 18th March, with pre-orders going live the week before on the 11th March, 1pm GMT / 8am ET  / 11pm AEDT.

The iPhone 12 Mini launched at £699 ($699, AU$1199) for the 64GB model; (£749, $749, AU$1479) for the 128GB model; and £849 ($849, AU$1449) for the 256GB model. However, now that it's a couple of years old, you can usually find iPhone 12 Mini for less, bringing today's price more in line with that of the iPhone SE 3 (2022).

On average, the iPhone Mini 12 is more expensive than the iPhone SE 3 (2022), but you can order a 64GB iPhone 12 Mini from Apple today for about the price of a 128GB iPhone SE 3 (2022), so there is considerable overlap in price depending on which model you're interested in.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs iPhone 12 Mini: design

Apple

(Image credit: Apple)

Both the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone SE 3 (2022) are smaller in size than the standard iPhone model, but they're actually fairly different in terms of design.

The iPhone 12 Mini has a larger screen (5.4in vs 4.7in) and is a shorter, narrower device than the iPhone SE 3 (2022). It also has no home button and a screen that stretches from top to bottom without interruption, while the iPhone SE 3 keeps the home button and chunkier bezels of older Apple devices.

Neither phone will give you much trouble trying to fit in your pocket, but while the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is the newer product, it looks and feels less sleek and modern than the iPhone 12 Mini. However, that's not to say the newer iPhone looks or feels like a cheap phone – make no mistake, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is a well-made piece of hardware with the trademark design of an Apple product.

If you're looking for a smaller smartphone and don't have an issue with the boxier design of older Apple products, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is the clear winner. But if you like the sleek look of modern Apple devices but wished they were a bit more compact, the iPhone 12 Mini is the obvious choice.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs iPhone 12 Mini: display

iPhone SE 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

The biggest difference between the iPhone SE 3 (2022) and iPhone 12 Mini comes down to the display. The iPhone SE 3 (2022) has a 4.7-inch HD Retina LCD display while the iPhone 12 Mini has a 5.4-inch OLED Super Retina XDR display.

The iPhone SE 3 (2022) has a resolution of 750 x 1334 with a pixel density of 326ppi, while the iPhone 12 Mini has a resolution of 2340 x 1080 with a pixel density of 476ppi. Not only does the iPhone 12 Mini have a larger screen with all the advantages an OLED panel has over a traditional LCD panel, but it has a higher resolution and pixel density to take advantage of its more premium display too.

Plus, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) has a peak brightness of 625 nits, while the iPhone 12 Mini has a peak brightness of 1200 nits and fully supports HDR content. OLED and HDR are a fantastic combination, and as a result, the iPhone 12 Mini looks excellent.

The 12 Mini has the better viewing experience, but the SE 3's doesn't look like it'll be bad by any means. You won't get the rich blacks of an OLED screen, but Apple's LCD technology is very mature at this point, and the iPhone SE line has a reputation for delivering bright, colorful displays.

If picture quality is your top priority, the iPhone 12 Mini is the obvious choice, but if you're just looking for a phone with a screen that looks good for casual internet browsing, video watching, and occasional gaming, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) won't give you any problems.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs iPhone 12 Mini: specs

iPhone SE 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

In terms of its display and overall design, the iPhone Mini 12 has some clear advantages over the iPhone SE 3 (2022), but as the latter is the newer iPhone by two years, there's a pretty big power differential between them.

The iPhone Mini 12 relies on Apple's iPhone 12-era A14 Bionic chip, which is still an extremely capable mobile chip today. However, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) comes packaged with the latest A15 Bionic chip, which also powers the iPhone 13. On average, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) will have about 50 per cent more CPU performance and 30 per cent more GPU performance than the iPhone 12 Mini.

This is a meaningful upgrade, but for most users, there won't be much they do that will take advantage of the extra power on offer with the iPhone SE 3 (2022). Both are powerful phones, but when it comes to raw performance, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is the clear winner. 

Both phones support 5G, and the battery life on the two devices is also similar. We've tested the iPhone 12 Mini, and it has around 15hrs of video playback on a single charge. The iPhone SE 3 (2022) will reportedly last for the same 15hrs of video playback on a single charge, which is an improvement from the 13hrs of video playback possible on a single charge on the last-generation iPhone SE.

Outside of the major differences detailed above, the biggest feature difference between the two boils down to Touch ID vs Face ID. The iPhone SE 3 (2022) supports only Touch ID, while the iPhone 12 Mini has both a Touch ID sensor and supports Face ID. Both work well, so this comes down to a matter of personal preference.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs iPhone 12 Mini: camera

iPhone SE 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone SE 3 (2022) has a single 12MP f/1.8 camera system which supports the latest and greatest photo tech courtesy of Apple's Smart HDR 4. We at What Hi-Fi? liked the last-generation iPhone SE's 12MP camera, calling it "a sold point-and-shoot snapper," so there's not much to worry about with the iPhone SE 3 (2022).

However, the iPhone 12 Mini's camera is on another level. The iPhone 12 Mini has a 12MP dual-lens camera setup (the same found on the standard iPhone 12), which will undoubtedly result in much better quality images with even sub-optimal lighting conditions. The iPhone SE 3 (2022) may have a solid camera good for the occasional picture, but the iPhone 12 Mini is capable of a lot more if you appreciate a higher-end camera in a smartphone.

The front-facing camera situation is much the same. On the iPhone 12 Mini, there's a 12MP front-facing camera, while the iPhone SE 3 (2022) has a 7MP front-facing camera. The camera on the iPhone SE 3 (2022) will get the job done when it comes to the casual selfie, but the camera on the iPhone 12 Mini will offer meaningfully better image quality.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs iPhone 12 Mini: early verdict

The iPhone 12 Mini has a better display, a better camera, and a more modern design, while the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is a bit cheaper on average and has the latest hardware but is limited to just Touch ID. 

If you're a smartphone user that cares a lot about their viewing experience and camera, stick with the iPhone 12 Mini – it'll surely serve you better. If you're not too concerned with having the latest and greatest in display technology or a fancy camera, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) seems like the clear choice.

If you're in the market for a new iPhone but can't stretch the budget to the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13, or simply prefer using a smaller device, either the iPhone SE 3 (2022) or iPhone 12 Mini are great choices. Only consider leaving the iPhone 12 Mini behind if you don't mind a worse camera and display, though.

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Ruben Circelli
Ruben Circelli

Ruben is a Staff Writer at What Hi-Fi? and longtime consumer technology and gaming journalist. Since 2014, Ruben has written news, reviews, features, guides, and everything in-between at a huge variety of outlets that include Lifewire, PCGamesN, GamesRadar+, TheGamer, Twinfinite, and many more. Ruben's a dedicated gamer, tech nerd, and the kind of person who misses physical media. In his spare time, you can find Ruben cooking something delicious or, more likely, lying in bed consuming content.

  • Cg84
    iPhone 12 mini doesn’t have a Touch ID sensor! At least not in the US. If it does please tell me how to activate it because I HATE face unlock.
    Reply