View from top of an iPhone SE placed on a wooden table displaying homescreen

Apple is expected to release an iPhone SE 3 this year after the romping success of its predecessor. Here’s all the information we know about it so far.

It’s no surprise that Apple is one of the biggest players in the smartphone industry, given the brand’s impressive track record of attractive design, immaculate software, and superb specs that you’ll find across its devices.

Even if you’re not prepared to part with a huge sum of money for a flagship phone, the iPhone SE 2, released in 2020, is a very tempting prospect and one of the best mid-range phones around to this day, with many of the phones we test still failing to fully dethrone it.

The rumours point to a sequel to this popular device being released very soon, so here’s all we know so far about the iPhone SE 2022.

Release Date

There’s no official release date that’s been set for the iPhone SE 3, and its existence hasn’t even yet been established beyond all doubt. However, some insiders have hinted that it’s set for release in early 2022 – and so it’s highly likely that it will first see the light of day at the upcoming Apple Event on March 8 at 10am PST (6pm GMT).

Apple’s Twitter status gives details of the coming event

“Peek Performance” is the event’s cryptic tagline, but this probably refers to new iPads or iMacs upgraded Apple silicon, rather than the iPhone SE.

The market research organisation TrendForce first reported that the iPhone SE 3 would come out in the first quarter of 2022, and would be “a major instrument in helping Apple establish a presence in the market segment for mid-range 5G smartphones,” while Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, a fount of information for all things Apple, specified that the event was likely to take place in March or April 2022. So it’s fair to say we’ve have some warning of this launch evet, but it’s still arrived a little on the early side of what we had expected.

The device is likely to be available to buy a week or so after the launch event. This is based on our experience covering past Apple launches. For reference, the iPhone 13 series was announced on September 14 and was first available to buy on September 24.

Design

According to the rumours gathered so far, there are two potential devices on the way: in addition to the iPhone SE due in 2022 there may also be an iPhone SE Plus coming later, so here’s what we know about both so far.

A rumour from a developer named DylanDKT (via AppleInsider) first suggested that the 2022 release would just be a slightly tweaked version of the current SE, without any major design changes at all, and that the next big update would not be launched until 2024.

This same rumour seemed to be confirmed by Ross Young (above), who claimed that the later model would be named the “iPhone SE Plus”, and Mark Gurman has also said that the 2022 upgrade will just be a minor refresh. Therefore, it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t expect a new look when you tune into the event on March 8.

iphone SE 2 back
iPhone SE 2

However, the Plus version is where we could see something “different” — in a manner of speaking. An unusual quirk of the iPhone SE series, at least so far, is that they have not featured a new design, instead recycling previous iterations of the iPhone. The original iPhone SE was housed in the body of an iPhone 5S, while the second-generation model was based on the same design as the iPhone 8.

This time round, rumours point to the major iPhone SE Plus redesign sharing the same body as the iPhone XR, although this would make it significantly larger than previous models in the series, with a 6.1-inch screen rather than a handy little 4.7-inch display that has won affection from those who prefer a more manageable handset. It would also mean that this would be the very last iPhone to feature an LCD screen, since the following models have featured OLED tech instead. You can see the difference between the two types of screen tech in our OLED vs LCD guide.

iPhone XR front
iPhone XR

It goes without saying, however, that the internal specs of both devices will be significantly upgraded from the model that dates from 2018.

Specifications

The most exciting forthcoming specification, which is in keeping with a trend set by previous SE handsets, is that Apple’s latest silicon, the A15 Bionic chipset, is thought to be included in the new device. You would get incredibly fast performance from this chip, which is the same one found in the iPhone 13 Pro, and it would of course pack in 5G connectivity too.

The well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has also chimed in with a more full list of specifications and even sales estimates. With strong expected sales (up to 30 million unites this year), the device will apparently have three storage variants (64GB, 128GB, and 256GB), an A15 chipset on board, and 5G support (both mmW and Sub-6GHz). As already discussed, the design will remain very similar to its predecessor – but notably, Kuo mentions no changes to the camera.

This might not be the kind of information that gets the heart rate pumping, but that’s because the iPhone SE has never been about cutting-edge tech. It’s a mid-range device that packs in good specifications and Apple software for a reasonable price, rather than being a trailblazer.

Camera

Information is this on the ground regarding the camera of the new iPhone SE, and this indicates that there are unlikely to be sweeping changes.

One of the few sources we have seen, from Chinese website ITHome, claims that the new phone will once again have a single 12-megapixel rear camera; however, the actual sensor will apparently be upgraded for better photo quality.

Close up image of a red iPhone SE's back camera section
iPhone SE 2 camera module

In our review of the iPhone SE 2 we were greatly impressed by the quality of daytime photography, which delivered plenty of detail and rich but not over-saturated colours. We were disappointed, however, with the lack of its versatility and its relatively poor night-shooting capabilities. It seems like we’ll have to wait another generation for this first criticism to be addressed, but we’re crossing our fingerprints for improvement in the latter area due to this new sensor. If not the Pixel 6, which excelled in low light during our tests, may remain the best mid-range camera phone.

Price

The iPhone SE usually occupies a modest price point, representing Apple’s entry into the mid-range market rather than the pricey flagships for which it is best known.

Back in 2020, the iPhone SE launched with a base price of $399/£419, and it’s fair to assume that the new one will likely retail for a similar amount. However, that all depends on whether we’ll just get a modest stopgap upgrade in 2022, or a major redesign (which may cost a bit more).

The first solid piece of evidence that we’ve come across pertaining to the price was courtesy of Loop Capital Markets’ John Donavan (via Investor’s Business Daily), who claims that the next iPhone SE will start at $300 (around £297 or €355), which would represent a $99 saving on the base model compared the previous generation’s RRP. Considering the modest upgrades of the new handset, this is both a plausible and very welcome possibility.

Trusted Take

For now, it seems that Apple is only eyeing up incremental improvements to the iPhone SE, and shelving the big redesign for two years. The rumoured price cut is great news, but it’s hard to get particularly excited about the modest changes to the design, specifications, and camera.

Moreover, I hope that this time-out lets them reconsider the idea of using the iPhone XR’s shell in the future, which is completely out of line with the iPhone SE’s typically small and manageable frame; there are precious few small smartphones around anymore, even among Android devices, and so the SE should stick to the tried and tested formula of being a big-value phone in a small package.

By

Peter Phelps

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