iPhone SE 4 — all the rumors and what we want to see

Unofficial renders of the iPhone SE 4
(Image credit: Jon Prosser/Ian Zelbo)

An iPhone SE 4 could be in the works for a 2023 release, if rumors about Apple's phone plans are to be believed. So what can we expect from this updated iPhone?

The iPhone SE 2022 that Apple released in March added 5G compatibility to the company's cheapest phone but retained the aging design of the iPhone SE 2020. That's likely to change with the new model — though expect Apple to recreate the look of another old iPhone for its newest SE.

We've still got several months to go before the likely release date of a new iPhone SE — if Apple even releases the phone at all in 2023 — so definitive rumors about the possible device have yet to fully emerge. 

Here's what we know so far about the iPhone SE 4, and what we're hoping to see should the phone arrive next year trying to join the ranks of the best iPhones.

iPhone SE 4: Rumored release date

The idea that Apple would follow up the release of the iPhone SE 3 — the phone that turned out to be the 2022 model — has been percolating even before that phone made its debut in the spring.

Last January, display expert Ross Young of Display Supply Chain Consultants, was forecasting a 2023 release for the iPhone SE Plus (opens in new tab), a larger version of the iPhone SE. (More on screen size below.) And he's not the only analyst that thinks a 2023 release could be in the works. The usually reliable Ming-Chi Kuo was predicting the same thing in December 2021.

iPhone SE 2022 back of phone in hand at beach

iPhone SE 2022 (Image credit: Future)

That said, releasing iPhone SE models in consecutive years would be a departure for Apple, which tends to space out updates for its cheapest phone. The original iPhone SE debuted in 2016, with a follow-up device arriving four years later. There was a two-year gap between that phone and the iPhone SE 2022.

Furthermore, Ross Young has now claimed the iPhone SE 4 may actually be a 2024 device. That would fit in with Apple's current upgrade cadence but does mean a weirdly long wait.

Apple tends to release the iPhone SE models in either March or April, leaving the fall for its flagship phones. So if there is an iPhone SE 4 on tap for 2023, we'd expect to see it in the spring, well ahead of that fall's anticipated iPhone 15 release.

iPhone SE 4: Rumored price

So far, there's been no word on iPhone SE 4 pricing, and we wouldn't expect those rumors to start surfacing until we get closer to the launch. At $429, the current iPhone SE is one of the best cheap phones available, and we wouldn't expect Apple to give up its pricing advantage so easily, when rival phones like the Google Pixel 6a and Galaxy A53 cost $449.

With that in mind, you don't need us to tell you that prices are rising all around us, and that goes for the cost of components used to make phones as well. External pressures may force Apple to adjust the cost of the iPhone SE 4 from the iPhone SE 2022's price tag. Ahead of the iPhone 14 launch, rumors suggested that Apple was going to boost prices on the Pro models by $100, though, thankfully, that didn't materialize. But again, it's too early to say what might happen with the iPhone SE 4's price.

iPhone SE 4: Possible name

We're calling this rumored model the iPhone SE 4, as that's the name being bandied about on the rumor mill. And since this would be the fourth iteration of Apple's low-cost smartphone, it's no mystery why people have settled on that particular moniker.

But Apple typically doesn't name its cheap phones that way. While flagship phones have sported a number in recent years — iPhone 12, iPhone 13 and so on — the iPhone SE has featured just that name and the year in which new model comes out. Therefore, it's entirely possible that a phone released next year would be called the iPhone SE 2023.

A third possibility would be using the iPhone SE Plus name floated by some analysts, especially if Apple ends up giving this version a larger screen, as is expected. But given the apparent lack of enthusiasm for the just released iPhone 14 Plus, we're not convinced Apple would go in this direction.

iPhone SE 4: Design and display

Unofficial renders of the iPhone SE 4

iPhone SE 4 renders (Image credit: Jon Prosser/Ian Zelbo)

Here's where we're on the most solid ground in terms of iPhone SE 4 rumors. In Ross Young's tweet about a possible 2023 release date for the phone, he mentions the likelihood of the device swapping out its current 4.7-inch screen for either a 5.7- or 6.1-inch panel, and possibly a move from LCD to the superior OLED. That would likely necessitate a change from the current iPhone SE's design, which adopts the look of 2017's iPhone 8, with chunky bezels and a Touch ID button.

Instead, leaker Jon Prosser believes Apple will turn to a more recent — though still older — iPhone for design inspiration. He's tipped the iPhone SE 4 to adapt the look of 2018's iPhone XR, including that phone's 6.1-inch display. With a notch in the display — there's no word on whether it would be iPhone XR-sized or incorporate the smaller notch Apple introduced with the iPhone SE — the iPhone sE 4 would also add Face ID support, while shedding Touch ID.

You don't have to imagine what such a phone would look like. Artist Ian Zelbo has created iPhone SE 4 renders based on the design rumors Prosser has put forth so far. Looking at the device, you'll see a lot of similarities with the iPhone XR.

iPhone SE 4: Specs and features

Unofficial renders of the iPhone SE 4

(Image credit: Jon Prosser/Ian Zelbo)

Very few rumors about iPhone SE specs have emerged, though Apple has a pretty clear track record of what it does and doesn't include on this particular model. For instance, the phone generally uses the same processor as the flagships released the previous fall.

Assuming a spring 2023 launch for the iPhone SE 4, that means either the A15 Bionic powering the iPhone 14 or the A16 Bionic inside the iPhone 14 Pro models. If we had to guess, we'd assume, Apple would go with the former, which includes an additional GPU core from the A15 Bionic that debuted with the iPhone 13.

All iPhone SE models have featured a single rear camera, and we don't anticipate that changing with the iPhone SE 4. Apple has to find some way to distinguish its entry-level phone from the least expensive flagship iPhone and keeping an ultrawide lens off the SE seems like one way to do that. We would hope that Night Sight finally makes the leap to the iPhone SE with the next model, though.

A photo of showing the various angles of the iPhone XR.

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has started using OLED panels on its flagships, which now feature 128GB of storage in their base models. The iPhone SE 2022, in contrast, features an LCD screen and starts at 64GB of storage. We certainly wouldn't anticipate the screen type changing for the 2023 model, and Apple seems disinclined to bump the storage on the SE. We'd also expect the display to refresh at 60Hz since an adaptive refresh rate is also missing from the regular iPhone models outside of the Pro versions.

There's one other feature we wouldn't imagine Apple adding to the iPhone SE — wireless charging. Again, this seems to be how Apple is distinguishing its different phone models, while also keeping an eye how how to keep iPhone SE costs down.

iPhone SE 4: What we hope to see

Adopting a new design for the iPhone SE 4 would tackle one of our biggest complaints about the current model, and opting for a larger screen might expand the iPhone SE's appeal, as bigger phones have become more popular since the original iPhone SE's 2016 arrival. But there are some other changes Apple should make to any budget phone it has in the works for next year.

Night mode support: This one's a no-brainer and we're surprised we even to make it, but it's ridiculous that the current iPhone SE can't take a decent picture in the dark. Similarly priced phones offer this capability and plenty of phone makers — including Apple — have poured their efforts into improving low-light photography for mobile. The iPhone SE 4 needs to join the party or risk becoming totally irrelevant as a camera phone, no matter how good Apple's computational photography is.

More storage: We get that Apple wants a divide between its cheapest iPhone and its flagship models. But 64GB of storage is too little for a modern smartphone, especially one capable of running some of the elaborate apps that have hit Apple's App Store in recent years. Find other ways to keep costs low, but don't skimp on storage.

An iPhone 13 Pro Max with a home screen showing Spark, TickTick, Lastpass, Splitwise, Goodnotes 5 and Inoreader

iPhone 13's notch (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A smaller notch: Yes, Apple seems to be moving away from the notch if the iPhone 14 Pro design is anything to go by. But we'd still be happy to have an iPhone SE with a notch if it means shrinking the bezels on the top and bottom of the current phone's display. We just hope that when people say the iPhone SE 4 is going to mimic the iPhone XR's look, they're just talking about the single-camera setup and not the larger notch. Apple shrunk down the phone's notch last year, and it was the right move. We hope the iPhone SE 4 follows that wise path.

A fast refreshing display: We can say right now that this isn't going to happen, not when the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus are stuck with 60Hz displays. But the fact of the matter is, plenty of phones in the iPhone SE's price range offer some sort of fast-refreshing screen, notably the Galaxy A53. By refusing to bring such a capability to its own phone, Apple is really short-changing its audience.

Better battery life: We have hope that this will come to pass, should Apple opt for the iPhone XR's larger form factor to house the next iPhone SE. A bigger phone leaves more space for a bigger battery. That, plus a more advanced chipset could help the iPhone SE 4 last longer on a charge — another move that will help it stand out from similarly priced phones.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.