When the iPhone SE 3 arrives this week as part of the March 8 Apple event, it's likely to boast the kind of features you'd expect from a cutting-edge iPhone. All signs point to Apple's new phone featuring the same A15 Bionic chipset found in its more expensive models. 5G connectivity seems like a sure bet, too.
But the iPhone SE 3 remains Apple's budget device, and that means keeping costs down in other areas. Some of those decisions you're likely aware of — the new SE is unlikely to add to the single rear camera on the current model, and it should retain the iPhone SE 2020 design as well. As it turns out, MagSafe charging might wind up on the cutting room floor, too — at least, according to reports from a month ago.
Apple added MagSafe with the iPhone 12 lineup, which came out six months after the iPhone SE 2020's release. With MagSafe, Apple has placed a ring of magnets on the back of its phones — every iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 model — which you can use to securely attach MagSafe accessories. For the most part, that means wireless chargers.
Keep in mind that the current iPhone SE works with Qi-based wireless chargers, so you'd imagine the iPhone SE 3 will too. What you'd be giving up with the new phone is the convenience of securely attaching a wireless charge to the back of the iPhone SE 3 using MagSafe. Other MagSafe accessories — attachable wallets and power packs to name a couple — would also not work with the iPhone SE 3.
How important is MagSafe to the iPhone SE 3?
Any omitted feature can be disappointing. But will the lack of MagSafe compatibility matter to would-be iPhone SE 3 shoppers?
In all likelihood it wouldn't, and for several reasons. First, anyone upgrading from the iPhone SE 2020 — or an even older iPhone — has likely never used MagSafe before and doesn't have a bunch of MagSafe accessories that won't work with the new phone. You can't really miss what you've never even had, after all.
The iPhone SE 3's likely support of wireless charging also removes some of the sting of lacking MagSafe compatibility. Not every lower-cost handset can charge wirelessly — Google doesn't include that capability with the Pixel 5a, for example. So iPhone SE 3 owners would still enjoy the flexibility of being able to charge wirelessly even if they can't securely attach a MagSafe charger to the back of their future phone.
Up until now, the primary appeal of the iPhone SE has been its low cost relative to other Apple phones, and we expect that to continue with the iPhone SE 3. The people most likely to buy an iPhone SE have proven that they're willing to give up certain features if it means Apple can keep the cost down. And since MagSafe would probably necessitate a costly redesign for the iPhone SE 3, sacrificing that feature is something the iPhone SE target audience would be willing to do, especially if Apple can keep the phone's price around $399 (or lower, if you believe one particularly optimistic iPhone SE 3 pricing rumor).
Why the iPhone SE 3 should have MagSafe
That said, MagSafe has been a welcome addition to the iPhone ecosystem, and a lack of support with the iPhone SE 3 would mean more than just giving up a more conveniently way to wirelessly charge the device. It also means other MagSafe accessories would bypass the iPhone SE 3. And you'd have to wonder just how willing accessory makers would be to create separate add-ons for the iPhone SE 3 when MagSafe allows them to build something that can attach to multiple iPhone models.
You could also see where Apple might be reluctant to create a situation where the iPhone SE 3 is too segregated from the rest of the iPhone lineup. It's one thing to differentiate between different models of smartphone, with the Pro level devices getting the best features. It's quite another to roll out a new phone that's cut off from the ecosystem that sets the iPhone experience apart from other mobile devices.
At the end of the day, we won't know just what features Apple's planning for the iPhone SE 3 until the March 8 event live stream begins and the company officially confirms what to expect. All signs certainly point to a lack of MagSafe support on the latest iPhone, but we hope Apple has a surprise in store for us this Tuesday.