The iPhone SE (2022) and OnePlus Nord 2 both offer two of the best mid-range smartphone experiences available.
They’re priced similarly, and both deliver on the promise of flagship-level components for less than half the price you’d normally expect to pay.
Surprisingly, however, they went about their business in very different ways. So what is the best buy?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
iPhone SE (2022) vs. OnePlus Nord 2: Price and Availability
iPhone SE (2022) prices start at $429 / £419 / AU$719 for the 64GB model. The 128GB model costs $479 / £469 / AU$799, while the 256GB model costs $579 / £569 / AU$969. and hit stores on March 18, 2022.
Upon its launch on July 28, 2021, OnePlus Nord 2 prices start at £399 (around $499, AU$703) with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The 12GB RAM and 256GB storage model goes for £469 (about $587, AU$826).
At the end of 2021, OnePlus launched the OnePlus Nord 2 Special Edition, which is basically the best model of Nord 2 with Pac-Man design and software. This phone costs £499 (about $624, AU$874).
However, as this price tag suggests, the OnePlus Nord 2 is not available in the US or Australia. iPhone SE (2022) may lose out on price, but it wins on availability.
iPhone SE (2022) vs. OnePlus Nord 2: Design
iPhone SE (2022) has a very similar design to the iPhone SE (2020) before it. And that phone was basically the iPhone 8, which pretty much stuck to the mold set by the iPhone 6.
All of this is to say that it is not a particularly modern or exciting design. This explains the anachronistically massive forehead and chin, the latter of which houses the Home button.
In comparison, the OnePlus Nord 2 has the perfect 2021/2022 smartphone design. We’ve got a large screen that fills the front, minimal bezels, and a rounded glass back.
Instead of the iPhone’s Touch ID system inside that home button, there’s an in-display replacement. OnePlus’ approach is more than for its time, but there’s no denying the speed or reliability of Apple’s system.
While the design of the iPhone SE (2022) is undeniably dated, there’s something almost refreshing about it. It doesn’t look like any other phone on the market right now, while the OnePlus Nord 2 looks pretty generic.
Also in favor of the iPhone SE (2022) is – at least for some people – its small dimensions. It measures 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm and weighs just 144g. This is much smaller than the OnePlus Nord 2, which comes in with dimensions of 158.9 x 73.2 x 8.3mm and 189g.
Neither phone really shines on the water-resistant front, but at least the iPhone SE (2022) has an IP67 rating. The OnePlus Nord 2 has none.
iPhone SE (2022) vs. OnePlus Nord 2: Display
The main problem with the iPhone SE (2022)’s small retro design is that it means a small retro screen. It’s an unimpressive 4.7-inch IPS LCD with a resolution of just 750 x 1334.
Meanwhile, it has a refresh rate of 60Hz, and a maximum brightness of 625 nits.
Conversely, the OnePlus Nord 2 comes with a 6.43-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400. You also get a 90Hz refresh rate. This is not a major specification, but it is much better than the iPhone screen in every way.
Neither screen impresses much, but the OnePlus Nord 2 still comfortably takes the ride.
iPhone SE (2022) vs. OnePlus Nord 2: Camera
iPhone SE (2022) comes with a single 12MP f/1.8 camera. Like the design and screen, this component seems to come from an earlier era of smartphones — largely because it does.
From a hardware standpoint at least, the OnePlus Nord 2’s camera system is way ahead. It packs the same large 50-megapixel 1/1.56-inch sensor that made its way onto a couple of the flagship phones in 2021.
There’s also a dedicated 8-megapixel one, as well as a 2-megapixel monochrome. It must be said that the last sensor is somewhat meaningless.
While OnePlus has the obvious hardware advantage, Apple is known for its savvy image processing. Thanks to the latest A-series chip and Apple’s unparalleled algorithms, the iPhone SE (2022) is capable of taking shots that are “eye-pleasing, color-accurate, and often beautiful,” according to our review.
You can also take advantage of Apple’s Smart HDR 4 and Deep Fusion technologies, and Apple remains the undisputed king of video capture up to 4K at 60fps.
The reviewer concluded, “Overall, the picture quality on this mid-range phone still rivals that of competitors’ phones that sell for nearly twice as much.”
Of course, the OnePlus Nord 2’s camera is no slouch either. The reviewer called it “a highly capable main camera that not only shines in daylight but provides excellent low-light performance with a night mode as well.”
Saturation levels, dynamic range, and white balance are all solid, while HDR does an admirable job of balancing extremes of light and shadow. In particular, the night mode shots are great, with the kind of sharpness we usually expect to see on flagship phones.
While it doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto, all of the sensor’s main pixels enable serviceable 2x and 5x digital zoom shots.
The 8MP wide-angle camera does a good job during the day, but less so at night. Still, at least it gives you a new angle option, unlike the iPhone.
iPhone SE (2022) vs. OnePlus Nord 2: Specifications and performance
As we just mentioned, the iPhone SE (2022) runs on Apple’s latest custom chip. This is the same A15 Bionic processor that powers the flagship iPhone 13 Pro Max, no less.
While the OnePlus Nord 2 runs on MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI, which is pretty impressive in its own right, it remains a mid-range chip. Apple A15 Bionic simply makes it out of the water in every way.
Still, we can’t fault the Nord 2’s performance. It’s a smooth worker in day-to-day operation, and its benchmark tests beat most of its midrange competitors. It’s even capable of running fast-paced 3D fare like CoD Mobile on high settings, which is impressive.
Naturally, with that chip and its lower-resolution display, the iPhone SE (2022) can eat quality games for dinner. This also means that it is more future-proof than the OnePlus Nord 2.
There’s a choice between 8 or 12 GB of RAM with the OnePlus, two or three times more than the 4 GB of the iPhone. But the different ways that iOS and Android work makes this a moot point.
Both phones offer a choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage, but the iPhone SE (2022) also offers a 64GB option. This seems like a win for Apple, but we’d have preferred it to start at 128GB like the OnePlus — especially considering it’s a bit more expensive.
Another major difference lies in the provisions of the respective programs. iPhone SE (2022) comes with the latest version of iOS, just like any other iPhone, while OnePlus Nord 2 gives you Android 11 with the company’s OxygenOS 11.3 user interface. Getting an upgrade to Android 12 is also in line.
OnePlus’ custom UI is one of the cleaner efforts in the Android world, so this isn’t a clear win for Apple. Ultimately, it comes down to which operating system you prefer, though Apple’s history of extended legacy support gives it an edge in a straight fight.
iPhone SE (2022) vs. OnePlus Nord 2: Battery
One of the biggest drawbacks of the iPhone SE (2022)’s old design is that it comes with a relatively small 2,018mAh battery. This is larger than its predecessor, however, and Apple’s aforementioned A15 Bionic helps it work more efficiently as well.
Of course, you also have to deal with 5G this time around, which is a notorious drain on power.
Compare that to the OnePlus Nord 2 and its larger 4,500mAh battery. It also has 5G connectivity to contend with, as well as a larger, more vibrant screen.
Overall, our reviewer managed to get about 12 hours of battery life per day with the iPhone SE (2022), which isn’t a full day. By contrast, the OnePlus Nord 2 will reach the end of a full day with about 15% left in the tank.
Use cases vary, of course, and this comparison is not an exact science; But the Nord 2 seems to have the advantage in stamina.
It also has a feature when it’s time to recharge. OnePlus bundled in a 65W fast charging brick, while Apple didn’t include anything like that. The iPhone SE (2022) only supports up to 20W of wired charging, and you’ll have to provide for that yourself.
One of the iPhone’s upsides is its support for 7.5W wireless charging. Nord 2 does not support wireless charging at all.
iPhone SE (2022) vs. OnePlus Nord 2: The takeaway
These are two of the most attractive mid-range smartphones in the market. Both offer neat designs, solid performance, great cameras, and fun clean software.
However, the OnePlus Nord 2 is a bit cheaper, and offers a more spacious and modern smartphone experience.
Pulling Apple’s iOS, its brand cache, and unparalleled customer support would be too much for many people to resist. However, in a head-to-head, the OnePlus Nord 2 simply offers more phone for your money right now.