In 2020, after a four-year wait, Apple finally updated the iPhone SE to… the iPhone SE. Hanging on to the same name is a little confusing—Apple differentiates the new model when necessary by calling it the 2nd-generation iPhone SE, but most people either call it the iPhone SE (2020) or iPhone SE 2.
Whatever you call it, it’s not very likely to be updated in 2021. It’s also not very likely that Apple will wait another four years to update its most affordable iPhone. We currently expect the new iPhone SE (which may be called the iPhone SE Plus, iPhone SE (2022), iPhone SE (3rd-generation), or iPhone SE 3) to be released in the first half of 2022. Here’s a summary of all the latest rumors, leaks, and other information we’ve been able to gather about the next revision of Apple’s most affordable iPhone.
June 23: In a note to investors seen by MacRumors, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will position the 3rd-generation iPhone SE as the “cheapest 5G iPhone ever.”
2022 iPhone SE: Design and display
Currently, the most reliable analysts expect the next iPhone SE to physically resemble the current model. That’s perhaps a little disappointing—the iPhone SE is based on the body of the iPhone 8, which is now discontinued. However, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple plans to move ahead with another SE model to feature the 4.7-inch LCD display, a Home button with Touch ID, and no Face ID. In October, Ross Young of Display Supply Chain Consultants reported that the next iPhone SE will have the same 4.7-inch display as the current model, adding that the rumored iPhone SE with a 6.1-inch LCD is now pushed to 2024.
In other words, the next iPhone SE is once again rumored to be based on the iPhone 8’s shell, with select new components. Nikkei Asia reported in July that the next SE “will look like a refreshed version of the iPhone 8 and have a 4.7-inch liquid crystal diode (LCD) display.”
Apple is also said to be working on an updated version of the iPhone 11, with an LCD display between 5.7 inches and 6.1 inches and Touch ID either in the display or part of the power button, but likely for a 2023 or 2024 release. Apple still sells the iPhone 11 for $499 and a new SE with a similar design would directly compete with it at a lower price.
2022 iPhone SE: 5G
The big selling point of the next iPhone SE is said to be that it is the most affordable 5G iPhone ever. The iPhone 12 mini is currently the least expensive 5G iPhone at $699, so you can expect the iPhone SE to cost less than that, though it may not retain the $399 price of the current iPhone SE.
It’s unknown if the iPhone SE will support mmWave 5G in addition to sub-6GHz frequencies. (For more on what this means, see our 5G FAQ.) The iPhone 8’s body was never designed for antenna modules necessary for good mmWave reception, though it’s not clear to what degree that would be a problem, or if Apple could easily modify it. In July, Nikkei Asia reported that the iPhone SE will use Qualcomm’s X60 modem, the same that will reportedly be inside the iPhone 13. Japanese Apple site Macotakara echoed the 5G rumor in October. Young also reported that the iPhone SE will have 5G.
2022 iPhone SE: Processor
Apple has historically outfitted the iPhone SE with the very latest Apple A-series processor, which is the one used in the most recent high-end iPhone models. That means a 3rd-generation iPhone SE launching in the spring of 2022 would have the same processor as the iPhone 13 launching later this year, which we expect to be the A15, which was reported by Nikkei Asia and Macotakara. However, a report in July from DigiTimes claimed that Apple would be using the A14 Bionic chip in the A12 instead. Either chip will make the SE fast, a great value, and eligible for iOS updates for a very long time, as was the case with the prior iPhone SE models. Apple’s cost-cutting comes from the body, display, cameras, and other such features (don’t expect MagSafe, for example).
2022 iPhone SE: Camera
When the iPhone SE 3 lands, it is expected to carry the same single 12MP wide-angle rear camera as the current model, along with a lone front-facing camera. The current model has a 7MP front-facing camera, which we would like to see upgraded to 12MP, but we’ve heard no rumors about it one way or the other. However, since Apple updated its $329 iPad with that camera, it could very well show up in the iPhone SE 2.
Don’t expect huge improvements in camera quality from fancy new sensors, though. Apple is likely to tout the improved camera quality of the new iPhone SE, but it will come mostly from improved visual processing of the A15 relative to the A13 in the current 2nd-gen iPhone SE. Additionally, a report from the Chinese language publication MyDrivers said the new SE will likely get night mode.
2022 iPhone SE: Price and release
We don’t know what the iPhone SE will cost, only that it should be less expensive than any other iPhone. The iPhone 12 mini currently retails for $699, and the iPhone SE for $399, each offering 64GB of storage. With the inclusion of 5G and the associated licensing costs, it’s quite possible that the iPhone SE gets a price hike to something like $449 or $499, but we don’t expect it to cost more than that.
Apple has released the last two iPhone SE models in the spring, and that tracks with the current rumors for the 3rd-generation model, which pegs it as coming in the first half of 2022. Of note, Apple stopped selling the 256GB model of the 2020 iPhone SE in September 2021, which could indicate a thinning of the available stock.
Trendforce reported in December that Apple is on track to launch the next iPhone SE in the first quarter of 2022, which would likely mean a March release. And in January, Ross Young of Display Supply Chain Consultants said that production of the new handset will begin in January with shipments eyed for late April or early May.
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I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.