The Next iPhone SE Won’t Have Any Big Design Changes (But a Cooler One Is Coming in 2023)

iPhone SE Concept with Hole Punch Credit:
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If you’ve been hoping for a new and exciting upgrade to Apple’s wallet-friendly iPhone SE, it looks like you may to have to wait a bit longer, as rumour has it that Apple will be sticking with the current design for at least another year.

With only two models of the iPhone SE to go on, it’s really hard to even make educated guesses as to what Apple’s plans for the entry-level iPhone SE are, and every so often it even seems like the company is making it up as it goes along, as opposed to following a roadmap like it does for its major iPhone lineup.

After all, there have only been two generations of the iPhone SE released so far, and they’re so distinct from each other that it’s hard to think of the iPhone SE as a “family” of lower-cost iPhones. They’re much more like one-off devices, which sort of makes sense when you consider that the “SE” ostensibly stands for “Special Edition.”

Despite their differences, however, Apple has followed the same playbook for both of its iPhone SE models. The 2016 iPhone SE was a modestly upgraded version of the 2013 iPhone 5s that added the then-current A9 chip, while the 2020 iPhone SE took the 2017 iPhone 8 and upgraded it to the A13 chip from the iPhone 11 lineup.

This has led some to speculate that Apple could follow the same strategy with the third-generation iPhone SE, which might build on the design of the iPhone XS or iPhone 11 models. However, we think that’s unlikely for a few reasons, and most analysts tend to agree.

Leaving aside the rumours that we’ve heard of an iPhone SE Plus or a full-screen design with power button Touch ID, the reality is that both previous iPhone SE models featured older designs. Popular designs, to be sure, but still older ones. They stood out in such a way that there was no way you’d confuse them with the mainstream iPhones of their respective eras.

Plus, if Apple were really going to repeat the same strategy, this also means we wouldn’t see another iPhone SE until 2024, at which point the rest of the iPhone family would have evolved to an entirely different design, and that iPhone SE would end up following the design of this year’s iPhone.

However, we’ve heard pretty reliable evidence that a new iPhone SE is coming by next year — probably in the spring.

The 2022 iPhone SE

With the major redesign of the iPhone 12 last year, there’s definitely a case to be made that Apple could follow the 2020 iPhone SE approach, and simply do it sooner. In this case, the 2022 iPhone SE would adopt the design of the 2019 iPhone 11, while featuring the A15 chip that’s coming in this year’s iPhone lineup.

Unfortunately, however, that’s not what we’re hearing from industry sources.

Last month, reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo weighed in on the next iPhone SE, revealing that it wasn’t coming until next year (contrary to other recent reports), while also adding that Apple was planning on keeping the same traditional iPhone 8 design.

If Kuo’s word isn’t enough, however, display analyst Ross Young has corroborated his information from a more specific angle, noting that he’s heard from supply chain sources that the new budget iPhone will continue to use a 4.7-inch screen.

Since Apple’s iPhone 12 mini features a 5.4-inch screen in a casing around the same size as the current iPhone SE, this makes it a pretty safe bet that the new iPhone SE won’t include any other design changes.

Of course, it will undoubtedly gain either an A14 or A15 chip, and both Kuo and Young have heard multiple reports that the next iPhone SE will also include 5G technology. While Young adds it’s likely to include sub-6GHz 5G only, rather than mmWave, we’d say that’s almost a given on what will certainly be a sub-$500 iPhone.

The 2023 iPhone SE

Young has been on the record since last fall as saying that the “iPhone SE 3” won’t be coming until 2022, however he had previously predicted that would be the model to get the new major redesign.

With new information on the 4.7-inch displays, however, Young has walked back that prediction, suggesting that Apple is holding off the major redesign for a 2023 model — with an interesting twist.

There have been rumours of a notch-less full-screen iPhone SE for a while now, since the lower-cost iPhone is unlikely to include Face ID any time soon. However, even without the more sophisticated TrueDepth camera system, this still begged the question of where the front camera would go.

While Apple’s fourth-generation iPad Air has adopted the design that many predict are coming to the iPhone SE, it’s important to remember that the larger tablet still has plenty of room for a camera. In fact, even Apple’s Face ID-equipped iPad Pro doesn’t need a notch.

This would be considerably more challenging on a smaller pocket-sized device like the iPhone SE, but Young suggests a fairly simple answer: Apple will go with the “punch hole” design that’s already been adopted by some Android makers.

There have already been rumours that Apple may be considering this for the iPhone 14 Pro, but Young’s latest report has us wondering if sources could be mixing up reports of what Apple is up to. After all, it would be considerably easier for Apple to use a punch hole on a device like the iPhone SE, which requires only a front camera, and not the rest of the TrueDepth imaging hardware.

Other than the punch hole for the camera, however, the 2023 version of the iPhone SE would otherwise align with what we’ve heard before, with a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD edge-to-edge display, and Touch ID embedded in the side power button, much like on the iPad Air 4.

It’s less clear whether this larger iPhone SE would also follow the design language of the iPhone 11, however based on previous models it seems likely that Apple would want to visually distinguish it from its flagship iPhones, which are likely to continue with the same squared-edge design as the iPhone 12 for at least the next couple of years.

[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.]

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