Apple's rumored iPhone SE 3 is tipped to arrive in the coming months. But if and when it does, it'll have a high bar to clear when it does appear. The current model — iPhone SE (2020) — delivers a still-powerful A13 Bionic chip in a compact body. While it's feeling a little dated now, it's still a very good phone.
But it's that dated feeling Apple may address with the iPhone SE 3. Rumors point to Apple offering a number of big iPhone SE upgrades, highlighted by 5G connectivity and the same powerful A15 Bionic chip that's found in the iPhone 13.
The new chip would likely result not only in better performance but improved photography and longer battery life. It's no wonder why the iPhone SE 3 is one of our most anticipated phones of 2022.
Unfortunately, Apple seems to be sticking with the same design on the iPhone SE 3 as the current iPhone SE. Even so, the iPhone SE 3 could be a much bigger deal than you think because of the addition of 5G and the expected power for what should be one of the best cheap phones.
Here's everything we know so far about the iPhone SE 3.
iPhone SE 3 news (updated January 17)
- A new tip has the next budget iPhone tipped to be called the iPhone SE Plus 5G, but you might want to pull in any excitement.
- New render images of the iPhone SE 3 have popped up; based on leaks, these have teased a budget iPhone that's really got our attention.
- If you're on the fence about whether you should wait for the iPhone SE 3 or buy the current iPhone SE now, check out our guide.
iPhone SE 3 release date rumors
All the rumors so far have the iPhone SE 3 slated for an early 2022 release, with regular and reliable tipster Mark Gurman claiming the iPhone SE 3 will be revealed at the next big Apple Event. Likely to be virtual showcase, this event has been rumored to take place this March or April. So we've not got too long to wait for the next budget iPhone, if these rumors turn out to bear fruit.
Interestingly, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple plans to launch yet another new iPhone SE model in 2023, and this one would have a larger display.
If you're wondering whether the hype is worth it, check out our guide to whether you should wait for the iPhone SE 3 or buy the iPhone SE now.
iPhone SE 3 potential price
We don’t know much about the iPhone SE 3’s price right now, but we think Apple will still aim for the $399 cost of the current iPhone SE. It’s the price-to-performance ratio that makes the Apple's current model so appealing for a lot of people, and it would be foolish of Apple to buck that. Then again, the same thing could be said of the Pixel 4a's $349 price tag, but Google didn't hesitate to bump the Pixel 5a to $449 when it came time to add 5G connectivity and an ultrawide camera lens.
One leaker has the iPhone SE 3 priced at 3,499 yuan, which converts to $542. That seems steep to us and such currency conversion are rarely accurate.
According to banking giant JP Morgan, the iPhone SE 3 could shift more than a billion units, thanks to pulling in “nearly 1.4 billion low-to mid-end Android phones and about 300 million older iPhone model users.”
That's a huge estimate, but apparently it could be facilitated by keen pricing and trade-in value. Samik Chatterjee, analyst at JP Morgan, noted that while Apple’s trade-in value for older Android phones versus older iPhones is skewed in favor of Apple phones, it could lead to the iPhone SE 3 having an average starting price ranging between $269 and $399. With a compelling price, the iPhone SE 3 could very much sell in huge numbers.
iPhone SE 3 name: iPhone SE Plus, iPhone SE 5G or something else?
With only two models of the iPhone SE ever released, Apple hasn't had to but too much effort into distinguishing one version from the other. That could change with the iPhone SE 3.
Display analyst Ross Young has claimed that the next budget iPhone will be called the iPhone SE Plus 5G, and noted it will stick with a 4.7-inch panel. Then somewhat oddly, Young has clamed that we can expect to see the actual iPhone SE 3 arrive some tome in 2023 or 2024, with it sporting a 5.7-inch display.
Another possibility is that Apple simply adds a 5G to the iPhone SE name — iPhone SE 5G, for instance — highlighting the biggest anticipated addition to this year's model.
iPhone SE 3 specs
We don't know much about the iPhone SE 3 specs so far, but a Macotakara report says that the new iPhone SE will be powered by the A15 Bionic chip. This is the same processor found in the iPhone 13. So the iPhone SE 3 could easily be the fastest cheap phone around.
That's not exactly going out on a limb. The last two iPhone SE models have featured the chipset that powered the flagship iPhones released the previous fall. That's why the iPhone SE (2020) has the same A13 chip that powers the iPhone 11.
Another key upgrade tipped for the iPhone SE 3 is 5G connectivity, which seems like a no-brainer for any phone in 2022. Google already has a cheap 5G phone of its own in the Pixel 5a.
iPhone SE 3 design
The iPhone SE (2020) used the same exact body as the iPhone 8. It was an effective cost-saving measure, even if that phone’s design looks severely outdated by today’s standards.
The bad news is that the iPhone SE 3 could sport the same design as the current iPhone SE. That would be a 4.7-inch display, chunky bezels and a physical Touch ID button. We're hoping that's not the case, but analyst Ross Young also backs up this claim, saying that the iPhone SE Plus will sport a 4.7-inch display and 5G. According to him, that's the name of the next iPhone SE handset, not iPhone SE 3. The model entering trial production also resembles the current iPhone SE design, according to reports.
Some concept renders of the iPhone SE 3 see it more as a reimagined iPhone XR, with the phone adopting Face ID via a display notch and dropping the Touch ID-equipped home button.
This design is certainly sleeker, but we'd be curious to see if Apple didn't go another direction, say making use of a punch hole selfie camera and putting a fingerprint scanner in the phone's power button similar to the iPad Air 2020.
A newer batch of render images for the iPhone SE 3 hammer home the iPhone XR-inspired design. In these images, we see a rounded rectangular phone with a display featuring the now infamous display notch.
Round the back, there's a single camera, which is arguably a little disappointing given budget phones tend to sport two or three rear snappers. But Apple is very good at computational photography, meaning a lot can be done with a single camera.
iPhone SE 3 cameras
The iPhone SE 2020 takes good-looking photos, thanks to Apple's computational photography, but it packs only a single lens. We'd like to see Apple add an ultrawide lens for the iPhone SE 3.
Apple also needs to give the iPhone SE 3 a night mode to better compete with the Pixel 5a. The front camera could also use an upgrade on the iPhone SE 3, as the current selfie shooter is stuck at 7MP.
iPhone SE 3 battery and charging
A notable weakness for the iPhone SE was the battery life. In the Tom’s Guide battery life test, the iPhone SE managed 9 hours and 18 minutes, and that was over 4G. Fortunately, the A15 Bionic processor should help the iPhone SE be more efficient, and we're hoping Apple is also able to squeeze in a larger battery.
iPhone SE 3: What we want to see
As good as the iPhone SE (2020) is, we’d like to see a few things improved for its successor.
5G: Now that other phone makers are releasing 5G phones for under $500 and even under $400, it's time that Apple does the same for its budget handset. Although 5G networks are still be deployed, shoppers deserve future-proof connectivity.
OLED display and higher resolution: The LCD on the iPhone SE (2020) is fine, but we’d like to see a better OLED display on the iPhone SE 3. This would mean punchier colors and deeper blacks with better contrast. We’d also like to see a bump in resolution. The pixel density on the iPhone SE (2020) isn’t all that great either at 1334 x 750.
Better battery life: Like we said above, the battery life on the iPhone SE (2020) is just alright. It doesn’t hit the 10-hour mark average that we like to see in our battery tests, but it can get through a day with light to medium use. For the iPhone SE 3, we hope that Apple uses a bigger battery.
More cameras and Night Mode: The iPhone SE (2020) uses a single 12MP wide-angle camera. It produces decent photos, but in some cases Apple falls behind the Pixel 5a. If the iPhone SE 3 adds an extra camera, we’d expect it to be an ultrawide sensor. We also really want Night Mode since the SE (2020) lacks it.
Slimmer bezels: The iPhone 8 was a nice device for its time, but it predated the radical redesign that came with the iPhone X. As phones use slimmer and slimmer bezels, the iPhone 8 body begins to look old and out of fashion. We hope that Apple will update the design for the iPhone SE 3 and make it look more modern. Other affordable phones look more modern.
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