The less expensive end of Apple's iPhone lineup is expected to be getting a shakeup in the coming months. The iPhone SE 3 is reportedly in the pipeline, possibly arriving as soon as April, bringing us a low-cost 5G-capable device from Apple.
For that reason, it's probably best to hold off on any iPhone SE purchase for now, what with rumors of a new version circulating. But the iPhone SE isn't the only low-cost option available from Apple. There's also the matter of the iPhone 11.
First released in 2019 as a flagship device, the iPhone 11 has remained a part of Apple's lineup through the release of both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13. Each time a new iPhone comes out, Apple knocks down the price of the iPhone 11. It's currently available for $499 — just $100 more than the iPhone SE, but a full $200 cheaper than the iPhone 13 mini.
Don't let the iPhone 11's 2019 release date fool you into thinking this is an outdated phone. We still think enough of the iPhone 11 to include it on our list of the best iPhones. The A13 processor in the iPhone 11 is still plenty powerful, and the phone can easily run iOS 15, supporting nearly all of the iOS 15 features that require a recent Apple processor.
Still, the iPhone 11 lacks 5G support — Apple didn't add that until the iPhone 12 lineup. So if you want your next phone to have 5G compatibility but you don't want to pay more than $500 for the privilege, cross the iPhone 11 off your list and bide your time until the iPhone SE 3 arrives.
While having one of the best 5G phones certainly means your handset will serve you well for years to come, 5G isn't a must for everyone. Networks are still expanding, speeds are still improving, and compelling use cases are still yet to materialize. If you don't consider 5G to be a must-have, the iPhone 11 remains a compelling alternative for bargain hunters as there are plenty of other reasons why the iPhone 11 remains worth buying, even once the iPhone SE arrives.
Still buy the iPhone 11 if...you want a big screen
The current iPhone SE may be one of the best small phones you can still get your hands on, but the vast majority of smartphone buyers prefer bigger screens. The iPhone 11 provides exactly that — a 6.1-inch LCD panel that towers over the 4.7-inch screen on the iPhone SE.
Don't expect the iPhone SE 3 to change that equation any. While early rumors suggested Apple was considering a larger model for its budget 5G phone, more recent reports claim the iPhone SE 3 will heave the same 4.7-inch form factor as the current model. A big screen iPhone SE isn't expected until 2023 at the earliest.
Still buy the iPhone 11 if...you want a second camera
If the iPhone SE 3 keeps the current phone design, that doesn't just mean it will offer the same screen size. It's also expected to offer just one rear camera.
That's not a deal-breaker for some people, since Apple's prowess with computational photography means even a single-lens iPhone SE should produce excellent pictures. But having a second rear shooter opens up more possibilities, and the iPhone 11's ultrawide lens means that you can opt for shots that squeeze in more details when the situation calls for it.
Still buy the iPhone 11 if...you want more colors
We don't know if Apple plans to add more colors to the iPhone SE 3, but the company's past track record with its cheapest phone doesn't suggest that will be the case. The current iPhone SE is available in just three options — white, black and [Product] Red. Again, that doesn't necessarily mean the new iPhone SE will follow suit, but you wouldn't expect big changes here.
The iPhone 11 features the same three colors as the current iPhone SE, but adds some other options to the mix. You can also choose from purple, green and yellow, giving you the chance to pick an iPhone 11 model that better matches your tastes.
iPhone 11 outlook
There should be reasons to consider the iPhone SE 3 beyond just 5G compatibility. The newer phone is rumored to include an A15 processor — the same one Apple uses in the iPhone 13. As strong a performer as the iPhone 11 remains, that would certainly be an upgrade. The chip should provide better image quality from the camera as well. We're also crossing our fingers that Apple holds the line on the iPhone SE pricing, which means that the newer phone would cost less than the $499 iPhone 11.
With the iPhone SE 3's expected arrival still a couple months away, it may be hard to hold out until then if you need a low-cost new iPhone now. If that's the case, you can buy the iPhone 11 with confidence, knowing that it's still going to deliver a few features Apple's rumored device likely won't.