The iPhone SE 3 has a high bar to clear. For a mere $399, the iPhone SE (2020) delivered the same powerful A13 Bionic chip in a compact body. Despite some weaknesses, the phone was overall an incredible value.
Some Apple watchers expect the company to release an iPhone SE 3 as soon at this spring, but the release date is up in the air. But we have heard about some improvements through early leaks, including the design and specs.
The iPhone 12 mini's struggles suggest that there could be a limited appetite for a premium small phone. But the iPhone SE 3 should have a strong value component that will be hard to ignore. Here’s what we know so far.
iPhone SE 3 name: Will it be the SE 3 or the SE Plus?
We’ve heard about an iPhone SE Plus, which may or may not be the same as the iPhone SE 3. Rumours suggest that this may be a larger affordable iPhone and it’s difficult to tell if it’s actually the iPhone SE 3.
Right now, we just don’t know. Apple could release two new models, a smaller version and a larger one. Both handsets would target the affordable mid-range market. We’ll just need to wait for further leaks on Apple's plans.
iPhone SE 3 release date
This is where things get a bit murky. Obviously, we’d guess that the iPhone SE 3 will release this April, but previous leaks make us question this. All the way back in October, Display Supply Chain Consultants' Ross Young said that Apple wasn’t planning to release a follow-up to the iPhone SE (2020) until 2022.
Meanwhile, speaking to 9to5Mac, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that the iPhone SE 3 would release later in 2021. Apple seems to be very happy with SE (2020) sales so far, so a follow-up probably isn’t coming soon. We hope that’s not the case.
However, Japanese blog MacOtakara says that, according to Chinese suppliers, the iPhone SE 3 will arrive in April 2021.
iPhone SE 3 price
We don’t know anything about the iPhone SE 3’s price right now, but we think Apple will still aim for that $399 price point. It’s the price-to-performance ratio that makes the SE (2020) so appealing for a lot of people, and it would be foolish of Apple to buck that.
If there is a iPhone SE 3 Plus or iPhone SE Plus with a larger display, we could see that handset costing $499. But then it would need to be a replacement for the iPhone XR, which remains one of the best iPhones because of its $499 price.
iPhone SE 3 specs
The iPhone SE (2020) packed some hard-hitting specs considering its price — no Android phone could compare. The A13 Bionic is still a great chip, but we think that Apple will use the newer A14 Bionic for the iPhone SE 3. That’s the same 5nm processor powering the iPhone 12 series.
Screen size and resolution remain unknown for the time being, but rumors suggest either a 5.5-inch or 6.1-inch display.
The current storage options for the iPhone SE are 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. The iPhone SE 3 would likely stick with the same options, though Apple could make the base option 128GB since it would be saving costs by not including a charger. This trend started with the iPhone 12 and we don't see it going away.
iPhone SE 3 design
The iPhone SE (2020) used the same exact body as the iPhone 8. It was an effective cost-saving measure, even if that phone’s design looks severely outdated by today’s standards.
Over on YouTube, concept designer 4RMD has released a video showcasing possible renders for the iPhone SE 3. It shows a phone that looks similar to the iPhone XR without the notch. Instead, there’s a Touch ID sensor on the bottom bezel. Everything looks sleeker and more modern, including the dual camera system on the back.
There have also been rumors that Apple may put a Touch ID sensor in the power button of the new iPhone SE, similar to the new iPad Air.
iPhone SE 3 cameras
The iPhone SE 2020 takes good-looking photos, thanks to Apple's computational photography, but it packs only a single lens. We'd like to see Apple add an ultrawide lens for the iPhone SE 3.
Apple also needs to give the iPhone SE 3 a night mode to better compete with the Google Pixel 4a. The front camera could also use an upgrade on the iPhone SE 3, as the current selfie shooter is stuck at 7MP.
iPhone SE 3 battery and charging
A notable weakness for the iPhone SE (2020) was the battery life. It couldn’t match the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro in our best phone battery life list. In the Tom’s Guide battery life test, the iPhone SE (2020) managed 9 hours and 18 minutes.
However, this runtime did beat the Pixel 4a, which lasted only 8:55. We expect that the iPhone SE 3 will sport a bigger battery, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
iPhone SE 3: What we want to see
As good as the iPhone SE (2020) is, we’d like to see a few things improved for its successor.
5G: Now that other phone makers are releasing 5G phones for under $500 and even under $400, it's time that Apple does the same for its budget handset. Although 5G networks are still be deployed, shoppers deserve future-proof connectivity.
OLED display and higher resolution: The LCD on the iPhone SE (2020) is fine, but we’d like to see a better OLED display on the iPhone SE 3. This would mean punchier colors and deeper blacks with better contrast. We’d also like to see a bump in resolution. The pixel density on the iPhone SE (2020) isn’t all that great either at 1334 x 750.
Better battery life: Like we said above, the battery life on the iPhone SE (2020) is just alright. It doesn’t hit the 10-hour mark average that we like to see in our battery tests, but it can get through a day with light to medium use. For the iPhone SE 3, we hope that Apple uses a bigger battery.
More cameras and Night Mode: The iPhone SE (2020) uses a single 12MP wide-angle camera. It produces decent photos, but in some cases Apple falls behind the Pixel 4a. If the iPhone SE 3 adds an extra camera, we’d expect it to be an ultrawide sensor like you find on the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12. We also really want Night Mode since the SE (2020) lacks it.
Slimmer bezels: The iPhone 8 was a nice device for its time, but it predated the radical redesign that came with the iPhone X. As phones use slimmer and slimmer bezels, the iPhone 8 body begins to look old and out of fashion. We hope that Apple will update the design for the iPhone SE 3 and make it look more modern. Other affordable phones, like the Pixel 4a, look really nice in comparison.