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Another research firm is adding its voice to the chorus of reports that suggest Apple will release its next-generation iPhone SE early next year — and perhaps even earlier than we’d previously expected.
It’s the latest in a string of rumours that maintain that the iPhone SE is coming in the first half of 2022, but if this latest analysis is correct, we could see it arrive in the next few months.
According to Taiwanese research firm TrendForce, Apple is planning to release the new iPhone SE in the first quarter of 2022 — meaning it could be here by the end of March.
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As others have already predicted, it’s also expected to be a big hit with consumers, and TrendForce agrees, predicting that it will make a sizeable dent in the mid-range market for 5G smartphones.
The third-generation iPhone SE is expected to be a major instrument in helping Apple establish a presence in the market segment for mid-range 5G smartphones. Its production volume for 2022 is forecasted to reach 25-30 million units.TrendForce
In fact, from everything we’ve heard so far, 5G support is expected to be the key feature of the next iPhone SE, making it the most affordable 5G iPhone ever made, and a serious contender against mid-range Android smartphones like Google’s Pixel 5a and Samsung’s Galaxy A32.
What to Expect
Apple isn’t planning to cut corners on 5G, either. According to the reports we’ve heard thus far, the next iPhone SE will feature the same 5G hardware found in the iPhone 13 lineup. It could even include mmWave support for U.S. models, although we’re less certain about that part right now.
Specifically, the so-called “iPhone SE 3” is expected to pack in the same Qualcomm Snapdragon X60 5G modem used in the iPhone 13, along with Apple’s latest A15 CPU.
In other words, Apple is poised to produce a $399 iPhone that will have the same performance specs — both CPU and cellular — as its flagship iPhone 13 lineup.
Of course, to keep the price that low, Apple is going to have to make some other compromises, and it looks like the new iPhone SE won’t be a big step forward in any other way.
Apple’s current and past iPhone SE models were throwbacks to three-year-old designs. The original iPhone SE was basically an iPhone 5s with the CPU of an iPhone 6s, while the current iPhone SE is an iPhone 8 with the iPhone 11’s A13 chip. Although the faster CPU powers a few more advanced features, particularly in the realm of computational photography, the hardware is otherwise identical to what came before.
This time around, however, it doesn’t look like Apple is going to continue that trend. The 2022 iPhone SE is expected to be otherwise identical to the current model in every way except for the A15 chip and the 5G capabilities. This means it’s still going to look like an iPhone 8.
To be fair, the first two generations of iPhone SE were set four years apart, whereas this update is coming around after only two years. Further, until now, the iPhone SE has effectively replaced those older models that inspired each of its designs.
At this point, however, Apple is still selling the iPhone 11, which has a design that’s arguably far too similar to the iPhone X and iPhone XS that came before it. Moving the “iPhone SE 3” to that style would muddy the waters, especially with the non-5G-capable iPhone 11 priced at only $100 more.
It’s also likely that doing so wouldn’t make financial sense. It’s pretty clear that Apple’s goal at this stage is to sell a $399 5G iPhone. The TrueDepth camera system that powers Face ID is one of the most expensive components in modern iPhones, and even moving to the rumoured side-button Touch ID design would likely increase costs. Apple doesn’t really have any room to push the price of the iPhone SE up any higher.
A Bigger Change in 2023
To be clear, this doesn’t mean Apple has abandoned its plans for a more significant redesign of the iPhone SE. It’s just not coming yet.
Several reliable sources have suggested that Apple has something bigger in the works for 2023, and in fact it’s reportedly already working on it.
This will likely go the way of the iPad Air 4 and iPad mini 6, which moved the Touch ID sensor into the side button. To achieve an edge-to-edge display, however, Apple may need to go with a hole-punch LCD. The iPad is large enough to fit the camera in the edge above the display, but that’s not likely going to be true with the smaller tolerances on an iPhone.
Timing is everything in this case, however, and it’s also possible it might not arrive until 2024, which would certainly be a more appropriate time. If anything, next year’s iPhone SE would be more like a “2.5-generation” model, maintaining the same design and features while basically just adding 5G. A 2024 release of the next “real” iPhone SE update would fit within the already-established four-year release cycle.
That said, even 2023 might be soon enough. After the iPhone 14 comes out next year, the iPhone 11 will almost certainly be bumped from the current lineup, with the iPhone 12 moving down into that price point. This would make room for a redesigned iPhone SE, since it would become the only current iPhone model to feature that older design.
The only concern is that the adoption of a hole-punch camera might make the redesigned iPhone SE look too similar to the iPhone 14, but it’s hard to say how much that will matter to Apple, since such similarities may still be largely superficial.
The iPhone 14 is expected to follow the square-edged design introduced with the iPhone 12, and while there have been rumours the iPhone SE would also head in that direction, we’re more skeptical on that point. Not only would it be a departure from the trend of using older designs for the iPhone SE, but it would detract from the more premium status of Apple’s flagship iPhone models.
Then again, perhaps it’s time for Apple to unify the design language across its entire iPhone lineup. It wouldn’t be completely unprecedented, as the company has done something similar with the iPad Air and iPad mini, but it’s also worth noting that the standard entry-level iPad retains a more traditional design. Unless Apple plans to introduce a mid-tier iPhone SE — perhaps an “iPhone Air” — it seems likely that these budget iPhone models will continue to be throwbacks to an older design.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]