The iPhone SE (2020) is easily one of the best-value products in Apple’s entire catalogue, matched only by the iPad 10.2in (2021). But does the tech giant intend to change its sporadic update of the SE line to one that is more regular? We take a look at the rumours surrounding the third-generation iPhone SE.
When will the iPhone SE 3 be released?
Apple’s approach to the iPhone SE hasn’t exactly been predictable. The original iPhone SE appeared way back in March 2016 and, aside from a storage bump in March 2017, then went four years without an update. In fact, Apple actually retired the iPhone SE in 2018, leaving many suspecting that the cheaper iPhone had had its day.
But the arrival of the iPhone SE (2020) in April 2020 was a welcome addition to the range and signalled that maybe Apple recognised the need for a more affordable option.
Here’s when the previous iPhone SE models made their debuts:
iPhone SE (16 & 64GB versions): 31 March 2016
iPhone SE (32GB & 64GB versions): 24 March 2017
iPhone SE (2020): 24 April 2020
Industry watchers have speculated that there will be another iPhone SE, with the quite reliable Ming-Chi Kuo expecting an Autumn 2021 release, although that never happened.
JP Morgan supply chain analyst William Yang suggests that we shouldn’t expect a new iPhone until the first half of 2022.
That’s backed up by a July 2021 DigiTimes report, which also suggests that Apple is preparing to launch the next-gen iPhone SE in the first half of 2022, suggesting we might be waiting a little longer for the next budget-friendly iPhone – possibly until April 2022, matching the release schedule of the 2020 variant.
Taiwanese market research firm TrendForce suggests that the third-gen iPhone SE will be released in 1Q22, which runs between January and March. Given that Apple has hosted March events in the past, it could be the perfect opportunity for the company to reveal the new budget iPhone.
Interestingly, Apple has quietly stopped selling the top-end 256GB variant of iPhone SE (though it remains available at third-party retailers and carriers for now). The move could signal that the third-gen iPhone SE is indeed in development, and it’s beginning to wind down production on the current model.
It’s also the most expensive of Apple’s budget iPhone range, so it was likely the least popular of the range.
How much will the iPhone SE (2021) cost?
We don’t think Apple will stray too far from current pricing, as the iPhone range now has a good structure that keeps the various models available in their own strata without cannibalising those around them.
Here’s how they stack up:
iPhone SE – £399/$399
iPhone XR – £499/$499
iPhone 11 – £599/$599
iPhone 12 mini – £699/$699
iPhone 12 – £799/$799
iPhone 12 Pro – £999/$999
iPhone 12 Pro Max – £1,099/$1,099
iPhone 13 mini – £699/$699
iPhone 13 – £799/$799
iPhone 13 Pro – £999/$999
iPhone 13 Pro Max – £1,099/$1,099
The current iPhone SE (2020) starts at £399/$399 and we fully expect any updated version to do so as well.
What new features will we see in the iPhone SE (2021)?
As Apple is yet to even confirm the existence of a new iPhone SE, there are no official details currently available on what it may contain. Of course, that hasn’t stopped plenty of rumour-mongering in the tech world, so here’s what we think you might see in the new iPhone SE.
The most obvious addition to a new model would be 5G connectivity. All of the iPhone 12 models that arrived in 2020 had this feature, and it’s one that we’ve also seen on a number of Android phones, including those at similar price points to the iPhone SE (2020). Models like the OnePlus Nord, Motorola Edge and Realme 7 5G, boast the feature, all of which you’ll find in our roundup of the best cheap 5G phones.
That’s backed up by a report from Macotakara, a Japanese Apple-focused site with a decent track record when it comes to Apple predictions.
Market research firm TrendForce also believes that 5G is on the way, suggesting that the third-generation iPhone SE “is expected to be a major instrument in helping Apple establish a presence in the market segment for mid-range 5G smartphones”.
Apple leaker @Dylandkt also believes that 5G connectivity is imminent, along with a slight spec bump.
5G isn’t definite though, as the iPhone 11 remains in the current catalogue, above the iPhone SE, and it doesn’t offer 5G connectivity.
A15 Bionic processor
Easily one of the most surprising things about the iPhone SE (2020) is that it received the same A13 Bionic processor as the iPhone 11 range that were the flagships at the time. If Apple follows suit and releases an iPhone SE upgrade in 2021, we think it’s likely that the upgrade may also feature the A15 Bionic found in the iPhone 13 line-up.
It won’t be a disaster if this doesn’t happen, as the A13 is a very fast processor, but Apple didn’t skimp on the iPhone SE (2020) so there are signs that the same might be true of a 2021 edition. JP Morgan analyst William Yang believes so, suggesting in a note to investors that the next-gen iPhone SE will sport an upgraded chipset, and Macotakara goes a step further by suggesting it’ll feature the A15 Bionic.
While the iPhone SE (2020) may only have been given a makeover last year, taking on the frame of the iPhone 8 and its predecessors, some speculation has been doing the rounds that Apple may continue this practice with the new model.
Moving into the roomier chassis of an iPhone XR or iPhone 11 would mean Apple could leave Touch ID behind and bring its full-screen iPhone experience to those who have previously baulked at the entry price.
Face ID is now well established, and as such the price of construction and parts should have dropped enough that it would be viable on a cheaper device. There’s also the advantage that moving to the iPhone XR or 11 frames would only require updating the innards of those models while delivering a true upgrade to the SE badge.
However, Apple leaker @Dylandkt suggested in early 2021 that the iPhone SE would sport an in-power button fingerprint scanner like the iPad Air rather than including Face ID. He also suggested a form factor close to that of the iPhone 11 “but with a smaller display size”.
But in an update just over a year later in January 2022, the leaker now claims that this redesign has been pushed back until 2024, and that the 2022 model will feature “the same design as the 2020 model”.
That aligns with Japanese Apple site Macotakara, which also suggests that the upcoming iPhone SE will sport the same design as the current model, complete with a Home button and Touch ID.
Display analyst Ross Young is the latest to make a prediction about this year’s iPhone SE, also pointing towards a spec bump rather than a redesign, and even suggesting it’ll be branded the iPhone SE+ 5G and not the iPhone SE 3. While it’s worth taking with a pinch of salt, Young does have a 100% track record at the time of writing.
Next SE model is rumored to be called SE+ 5G and will have a 4.7″ LCD. Previously said the next SE model, SE3, would either have a 5.7″ or a 6.1″ display. It is now looking like it will be 5.7″. May be launched in 2023 rather than 2024.
— Ross Young (@DSCCRoss)
January 17, 2022
Young does tease that a 5.7in iPhone SE will be released, but not until 2023 or 2024, meaning we may have to wait a little longer to get an iPhone 11-esque design on Apple’s entry-level smartphone.
With so many rival cameras now featuring some kind of Night Mode, it would make sense that this low-light photography feature comes to the iPhone SE (2021). It’s off that the current SE doesn’t have one.
As you can see, there’s still much to be revealed about the new model of iPhone SE. We’ll be updating this article as more news appears, so be sure to check back. In the meantime, take a look at our guide to the best iPhones and best iPhone 12 deals to see which will suit your needs.
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