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In fact, you should be able to use any case designed for the original 2014 iPhone 6 onward with the new model, since the dimensions and parameters of the smaller 4.7-inch models never changed in any meaningful way; only the iPhone 7 Plus differed from its prior 5.5-inch counterparts due to the addition of the second camera lens.
So one of the biggest advantages to picking up an iPhone SE right now is that you basically have an array of six years’ worth of cases to choose from for your new device, and we actually suspect most of the “iPhone SE” cases you’ll be seeing in stores now will simply be iPhone 8 cases with new labels on the packages.
This is exactly what happened in 2016 when the original iPhone SE was released — most manufacturers of iPhone 5s cases simply slapped “iPhone SE” on the box and carried on selling the exact same cases for the new model. So in reality, we suspect there aren’t really going to be very many truly new iPhone SE cases coming out.
However, while compatibility with physical cases is one thing, since all they need to do is to actually fit onto your iPhone properly, you may be wondering about the compatibility with things like battery cases, which usually plug into the iPhone’s Lightning port, or in the case of some of the more modern ones, offer built-in Qi wireless charging.
The good news is that all of these should work without any issues either, subject to a couple of minor caveats.
Wireless Battery Cases on iPhone SE
Battery cases that are designed to charge the iPhone wirelessly — that is, to send power to the iPhone in the same way that a wireless charging pad would — will obviously work with the iPhone SE just fine, since it supports Qi wireless charging in the same way that the iPhone 8 did before it, and there are no actual electronic connections made to the iPhone itself.
That said, there aren’t too many of these cases available. Most of the major vendors, like Mophie, restricted their wireless charging cases to the iPhone X and later models. This was likely due to the fact that battery cases already made for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7 were also compatible with the iPhone 8, so there was little motive for companies to redesign these cases, as opposed to simply continuing to sell them as-is.
By the way, don’t confuse these types of cases with those where you can recharge the case itself wirelessly. There are a number of cases that offer this capability, but the iPhone itself still docks into the case via the Lightning port, so these are in every other way a more traditional battery case.
Traditional Battery Cases on iPhone SE
Traditional battery cases — those that simply plug into the Lightning port — have been around for years, and in fact these were often a way to get wireless charging on your iPhone long before Apple decided to build it into the iPhone 8. Proprietary wireless charging cases have existed for iPhones for almost a decade, while Qi-compatible cases began appearing shortly after the Qi standard began gaining traction back in 2014.
All of the traditional battery cases designed for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 should work just fine with the iPhone SE, although there’s an important catch — you won’t be able to wirelessly charge your iPhone SE while it’s in the battery case, since of course the battery sits in between the iPhone and the wireless charge. It won’t harm your iPhone to put it on top of a wireless charger while it’s in one of these battery cases, but it won’t do anything either.
In fact, Nick Guy of Wirecutter, a man who knows his iPhone cases very well, offered some insight on the subject by testing Apple’s iPhone 7 battery case with the new iPhone SE, confirming that it works exactly as you’d expect.
Guy notes that Apple doesn’t promise iPhone SE compatibility for the smart battery case, but then again, the iPhone 8 didn’t make that cut either. The most likely explanation we can offer for that is simply the fact that, as we noted above, you won’t be able to take advantage of wireless charging at all while the iPhone 8 or iPhone SE are encased in Apple’s Smart Battery case. Since the iPhone 7 didn’t offer wireless charging, this simply wasn’t an issue with that model.
As Guy points out, however, the case would also have been designed specifically for the antenna layout in the iPhone 7 in order to minimize signal interference. In theory this could mean that you might not get as strong a signal with the case on, although in practice there likely wouldn’t be any noticeable difference — Guy reported no signal loss at all, in fact.
Unlike other battery cases, however, Apple’s iPhone 7 Smart Battery case provides tight iOS integration so that you can monitor the charge level of the case battery right from your iPhone lock screen or the built-in Battery Widget. This should still work with the iPhone SE as well, since the case is still fully supported on the iPhone 7 running the same iOS 13.4 — not to mention that Apple’s newer smart battery cases for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro also offer similar features.