iPhone SE 3 reportedly launching early 2022 — and it could be huge

a photo of the iPhone SE 2020
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update: Display analyst Ross Young has claimed that the next budget iPhone will be called the iPhone SE Plus 5G.

The iPhone SE 2020 is coming up to its second birthday, and while the cheapest Apple handset still offers pretty phenomenal value, it is beginning to show its age. Fortunately, Taiwanese research firm TrendForce has reiterated reports that the iPhone SE 3 could be coming in the first quarter of 2022.

And the projected shipment numbers expected for Apple's first mid-range 5G iPhone look pretty big.

“In terms of product development, Apple is staying with the plan to release its third-generation iPhone SE in 1Q22 and four models under a new series in 2H22,” the TrendForce report (opens in new tab) reads. 

Q1 runs until March 31, so if correct the iPhone SE 3 will arrive before the recent iPhone SE turns two on April 24.

“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,” the report continues. “Its production volume for 2022 is forecasted to reach 25-30 million units.”

For comparison, research firm Omdia (opens in new tab) reported that the previous 2020 iPhone SE totaled 24.2 million shipments in its first year on sale. So this would be a sizable jump. 

Of course, iPhone SE 3 is our shorthand, with Apple preferring so far to call each budget handset simply "iPhone SE." But that could apparently change with this generation, with one report suggesting Apple is mulling the name iPhone SE Plus — the ‘Plus’ tag in this case confusingly denoting the handset’s new 5G connectivity, rather than a larger frame as with previous smartphones. 

The upcoming iPhone SE will still apparently be modeled on the 4.7-inch iPhone 8, with a physically larger 5.7 to 6.1-inch SE handset reportedly years away. That means you can expect the same somewhat dated look as the current model, complete with Home button and thick bezels at the top and bottom. 

But it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and if past form is anything to go by, you can expect the same lightning-fast Apple A15 chip that powers the excellent iPhone 13 family.

If that’s correct, and if Apple manages to maintain a price around $399, then the iPhone SE 3/Plus will be enormously competitive. Android handsets around that price point aren’t exactly slow, but even the top-of-the range Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 can’t keep up with the A15 Bionic, and mid-rangers struggle even more. 

Apple will undoubtedly have to make compromises to keep the new iPhone SE’s cost down — screen and camera are the likely areas, if the last generation is a guide. But it would still be a big surprise if this wasn't another sales hit for Apple. Especially if iPhone 13 delivery delays are still a thing come March. Here's hoping Apple figures out the odd Bluetooth issues occurring for a few iPhone 13 users in some cars.

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.