The iPhone SE 4 should launch at WWDC 2024 — here's why

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

If an iPhone SE 4 was on its way this year, you'd figure it would be here by now. Apple announced the current version of its lower-cost phone — the iPhone SE 2022 — in March, and that was the same month when the original iPhone SE made its debut. True, the iPhone SE 2020 didn't arrive until April of that year, but you may remember a worldwide pandemic in the spring of 2020 that made phone launches somewhat predictable.

Anyhow, it's now April 2024, and there's no iPhone SE 4. So you'd probably be inclined to think that all those folks predicting a 2025 launch date for the iPhone SE successor are probably on to something.

Then again, there's still an opportunity for Apple to show off a new iPhone SE, and it wouldn't even have to go through the fuss of scheduling an entirely separate event. Instead, WWDC 2024 — now officially scheduled to begin on June 10 — provides a potential setting for any surprise hardware announcement, phone or otherwise.

Yes, on paper, a new iPhone SE and a week-long developers conference generally focused on new software seems like a poor fit. Apple's already going to have its hands full previewing iOS 18 and all the rumored AI-powered features that's expected to deliver, not to mention software updates for the Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple Vision Pro. 

On the occasion that there's been hardware news at WWDC, it tends to laptops and desktops that will be met with whoops and hollers by the developers attending the event. A sub-$500 phone doesn't bring people their feet when they're preoccupied with porting apps between Apple software platforms.

Still, there's a case to be made that there's no time like the present to bring out the iPhone SE 4. And if that time happens to overlap with WWDC, well surely we can take a few moments to give the iPhone lineup the refresh it needs.

Why I'd like to see an iPhone SE 4 at WWDC 2024

WWDC 2024 logo from Apple

(Image credit: Apple)

Look at the current lineup of best iPhones, and the iPhone SE 2022 sticks out like a sore thumb. Every other model has an edge-edge screen with either a Dynamic Island feature (in the case of the iPhone 15 models) or a notch for some of the older phone Apple sells at a discount. But the iPhone SE still has the chunky bezels needed to house a Touch ID sensor and physical home button. It makes the phone look older than the two years it actually is.

While the iPhone SE has remained the same since its 2022 release, the competition among midrange phones has gotten better. Devices with prices in the iPhone SE's range either take better photos than Apple's handset (the Pixel 7a), offer more power and longer battery life (the OnePlus 12R), or look like a phone released in this decade (pretty much all of them). 

All that's before the likely arrival this spring of the Pixel 8a, which figures to widen the gap between Google's midrange phone and the iPhone SE. In addition to Google's usual camera tweaks, we've heard that the Pixel 8a will benefit from a new Tensor chip, a brighter screen and possibly even a boost to the display refresh rate. Oh, and where is the Pixel 8a most likely to make its debut? At a developer conference (Google I/O 2024, specifically).

Check and mate, Apple.

Room for iPhone SE improvement

Google Pixel 7a vs. iPHone SE

The iPhone SE 2022 (right) next to the Pixel 7a (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Not only does the timing demand a new iPhone SE this year, there are plenty of areas where Apple could spruce up its midrange offering to offer shoppers a little something more than what the current model brings to the table. 

I'm not talking about adding cameras. The iPhone SE 4 seems likely to maintain that single rear lens if a newly leaked design is to be believed, even if it means the phone won't be able to capture spatial video for viewing on the Apple Vision Pro headset. (Then again, if you're spending less than $500 on a phone, are you really the type to spring for a $3,495 spatial computing device? Didn't think so.) The iPhone SE 4 camera might get an upgrade to a 48MP sensor, but I don't see it being joined by an utrawide lens.

Instead, I see the primary benefit to a new iPhone SE coming under the hood in the form of an A16 Bionic chipset. That would not only mean a jump in performance for the iPhone SE, it would also help Apple's midrange phone improve its battery life. The 2022 model of the phone was the first SE to offer 5G connectivity, and that put a serious hit on how long the iPhone SE 2022 could last on a charge. 

When we ran our battery test, the iPhone SE 2022 lasted a little bit more than 9 hours, which is roughly an hour behind the average smartphone. A new model with a more efficient system-on-chip would doubtlessly improve upon that result. Throw in a better camera sensor — and support for a Night mode — and that's quite a tidy upgrade that gives Apple a device ready to hold its own against the best cheap phones.

iPhone SE at WWDC outlook

Making the case for Apple to release an iPhone SE at WWDC 2024 is one thing; actually believing Apple would do that is quite another. And I'm afraid the June 10 WWDC keynote is going to come and go without any iPhone SE mention, more or less confirming that 2025 release date.

If that likely scenario pans out, more's the pity. With all the advances midrange phones are making, it's increasingly harder to recommend the iPhone SE 2022, which is starting to show its age. By the time 2025 rolls around, the product could be an after-thought if Apple doesn't do something to liven up the lower end of the iPhone lineup.

More from Tom's Guide

Back to Mobile Cell Phones
Storage Size
Any Price
Showing 10 of 101 deals
Load more deals
Philip Michaels

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.