The iPhone SE (2020) was one of the most exciting phones of 2020, providing excellent Apple hardware and software in a compact size and at a relatively low price. So how can Apple top that?
Easy – add some of the features from the flagships to the next mid-range iPhone SE. We were hoping to hear about a new one at the iPhone 12 launch, but that didn't end up happening - the iPhone 12 mini was shown off, which is a compact new iPhone, but it's a lot pricier than an SE iPhone.
It wasn’t a completely new concept for the company – after all, the iPhone SE 2020 followed the original 2016 iPhone SE, but it was a concept we hadn’t seen Apple dabble with for a while.
It was also well received, so we’d think it’s likely that we’ll see a follow-up, that for now we’re referring to as the iPhone SE 3. We haven’t heard much about this phone just yet, but we’ll collect all the news and rumors here once we start hearing more, so make sure to check back often for all the latest information.
For now though, you’ll find what little we have heard, along with a wish list of the things that we hope the iPhone SE 3 will offer, below.
Update: We've heard the iPhone SE 3 might not come out in 2021, as Apple wants fans of smaller smartphones to focus on the 'mini' installment of the iPhone 13 line.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next affordable iPhone
- When is it out? Possibly April but probably later
- How much will it cost? Likely around $399 / £419 / AU$749
iPhone SE 3 release date and price
The iPhone SE (2020) launched in April 2020, so if Apple goes with yearly launches then the iPhone SE 3 could land in April 2021 – but given that the company launched the first iPhone SE back in 2016, there’s no guarantee of that.
That said, Japanese blog MacOtakara has said - citing Chinese suppliers - that the iPhone SE 3 will be announced in April, so there's a fair chance of it.
Plus, we've previously seen a couple of leaks and rumors suggesting that there won’t be an iPhone SE 3 this year, perhaps to give the iPhone 13 mini more time in the spotlight, so we might be waiting a long time for the phone – if we get it at all.
If that's the case though then there may well be one in 2022 at least, because it's also rumored that there won't be an iPhone 14 mini - meaning Apple might rely on the SE line for fans of smaller phones.
While we’d take this with a pinch of salt (not least because February has been and gone), it’s unlikely that Apple would launch an iPhone SE 3 around the same time as that, further suggesting we might be waiting a while – although this 4G iPhone 12 could end up being the iPhone SE 3 in all but name.
And there’s also the iPhone SE Plus to consider. This was rumored to land sometime after the iPhone SE (2020), and while we haven’t heard much about it lately, Ming-Chi Kuo (an analyst with a good track record when it comes to Apple) claimed back in April that the iPhone SE Plus might not land until the second half of 2021.
So this is another thing that might land instead of or as the iPhone SE 3 – or maybe we’ll get an iPhone SE 3 and an iPhone SE 3 Plus. It's hard to say at this point.
As for the price, there’s no news there, but the iPhone SE (2020) starts at $399 / £419 / AU$749, so the iPhone SE 3 is likely to have a similar price – if not perhaps slightly higher.
iPhone SE 3 news, leaks and rumors
We haven’t heard much about the iPhone SE 3 yet, but if it ends up being the rumored iPhone SE Plus in all but name then it will presumably have a larger screen than the 4.7-inch iPhone SE (2020). Rumors have put it at either 5.5 or 6.1 inches.
Given that the iPhone SE (2020) shipped with the latest available Apple chipset we can also assume that the iPhone SE 3 will do the same, likely meaning the A14 which we’re expecting to debut in the iPhone 12 range.
What we want to see
As good as the iPhone SE (2020) is, there’s always room for improvement, so here’s what we want from the iPhone SE 3.
1. A modern design
The iPhone SE (2020) has a rather old fashioned design, and certainly an older design than the rest of the current iPhone range. So we’d like to see things brought up to date for the iPhone SE 3.
By that we mean get rid of the home button and the big bezels above and below the screen, for a more modern look. Doing this would also allow Apple to increase the screen size without increasing the overall size of the handset - or alternatively keep the screen the same size and shrink the phone even smaller.
2. An OLED screen with a higher resolution
The iPhone SE (2020) has an IPS LCD screen with a 750 x 1334 resolution, neither of which are exactly cutting edge.
Now, there are of course limits to what can be done with a mid-range phone, but when you consider that the similarly priced OnePlus Nord and Google Pixel 4a both manage a higher resolution and OLED technology (which typically delivers better contrast and other improvements versus LCD), it’s hard to see how Apple could justify omitting these things from the next iPhone SE model.
That said, we wouldn’t count on getting either – Apple rarely competes with Android phones on pure specs.
3. Better battery life
The iPhone SE (2020) has a small 1,821mAh, which might seem reasonable given the phone’s compact size, but we found it didn’t go far, lasting around a day.
That’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not impressive, so we’d like much more from the battery in the iPhone SE 3, whether that’s achieved through increasing the size or making things more efficient.
4. Keep it small and affordable
The iPhone SE (2020) stands out through both its small size and its relatively affordable price, and we want both of those things to remain for the iPhone SE 3.
There aren’t many compact phones anymore – certainly not ones with good specs, and nor are iPhones known for being affordable, so the two things make for a great combination.
5. More cameras
The iPhone SE (2020) has just one camera on the back and one on the front, and while they perform reasonably well, they don’t give you the versatility that you can get with more lenses.
Of course, with even the iPhone 11 only having a dual-lens snapper we don’t expect too much more from the iPhone SE 3, but when you consider that rivals like the OnePlus Nord and Moto G 5G Plus have four cameras on the back and two on the front, you’d think an extra lens or two wouldn’t be too much to ask for.
At the time of writing no current iPhone supports 5G. That will likely change with the launch of the iPhone 12, but we really hope Apple lets the tech filter down to the iPhone SE 3, as it’s already available on some of the SE (2020)’s key rivals, notably the aforementioned OnePlus Nord and Moto G 5G Plus, while Google has confirmed that a Pixel 4a 5G is on the way.
7. A higher refresh rate
Another feature offered by a number of rivals now is a high refresh rate. The iPhone SE (2020) has a 60Hz refresh rate, which until relatively recently was what all handsets other than gaming phones offered, but now a number of mainstream models have refresh rates of 90Hz or 120Hz.
It’s a feature that some of the iPhone 12 range will likely offer, but we’re not optimistic that Apple will bring it to the iPhone SE 3, since no current iPhones offer high refresh rates, so Apple is likely to keep the tech as a premium feature for a while.
But it would be great if the company did start including this as a standard feature – it could still differentiate by giving its flagships a 120Hz (or higher) rate, and the iPhone SE 3 a refresh rate of 90Hz.
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