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It’s fairly easy to predict the launch dates of Apple’s mainstream iPhones. New models have arrived like clockwork every September since 2010. There were only two outliers — the 2010 iPhone 4S and this year’s iPhone 12 — that were simply delayed a few weeks into October instead.
Either way, however, you can be pretty much guaranteed that there will be new iPhones every fall, and it’s actually one of the few Apple products that you can mark your calendar by.
However, Apple’s budget-friendly iPhone SE is a much harder animal to guess at. Of course, there have only been two models thus far, but they were released four years apart — the original iPhone SE came in 2016, and while many Apple fans were eager for an update, Apple didn’t release a follow-up until just this past spring.
So perhaps it’s being overly optimistic to expect the iPhone SE to arrive on an annual cycle. After all, most users who are buying into the iPhone SE lineup are doing so for price and comfort level rather than performance and features. For some, it’s simply the most affordable new iPhone you can buy, while others of course love the familiar design that hearkens back to a more traditional iPhone era.
With the 2016 iPhone SE, that was of course a much more pocketable four-inch model that was basically identical in design to the 2013 iPhone 5s, which arrived in an era when Apple’s mainstream iPhones had increased to 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays.
This year, Apple followed the same principle, offering users a current version of the iPhone 8 design, featuring the much-loved home button with a Touch ID sensor for those who still really haven’t warmed up on Face ID and the swipe gestures that have now taken over the new decade of iPhone design.
However, despite the more traditional designs, the new iPhone SE is no slouch — it packs in the exact same A13 processor as Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, meaning that it’s a pretty safe bet that it will continue to be supported for at least another four years. After all, even the original 2016 iPhone SE is capable of running the latest iOS 14 release, so we can expect the second-generation iPhone SE to be ready to go through at least iOS 18.
We really have no idea when a new iPhone SE might make an appearance. There were some rumours earlier this year that Apple was also working on a larger iPhone SE Plus, but those have kind of been all over the place. Some have simply assumed that Apple was going to produce a larger “Plus” version of the same iPhone SE design — essentially creating another model that would be to the iPhone 8 Plus what the current iPhone SE is to the iPhone 8 — while other have said that Apple is actually working on an entirely new design for an iPhone SE Plus.
If the latter is true, however, then the so-called “iPhone SE Plus” could really just as easily be the third-generation iPhone SE, and it’s definitely sounding like this is shaping up to be the case, but despite rumours that this updated model could appear next year, we’re not all that surprised to see a new report suggesting it could be held off until early 2022.
The ‘iPhone SE 3’
In a report earlier today sharing some predictions about next year’s “iPhone 13” lineup, display analyst Ross Young dropped the news that Apple isn’t planning to release a new iPhone SE next year at all.
Instead, Young indicates, the new iPhone SE is slated for early 2022, and by all estimates, it seems that this will be the next major redesign for the inexpensive iPhone.
Young’s implication is that the so-called “iPhone SE Plus” that we’ve heard about from some quarters will actually be the third-generation iPhone SE — a replacement version, rather than a “Plus” one — that will likely follow the design language of the iPhone 11 rather than the older iPhone 8 style.
According to a chart shared by Young, the new iPhone SE would feature a 6.1-inch LCD display — most likely Apple’s Liquid Retina display — along with a dual-camera system. This would effectively put it in the exact same class as the iPhone 11, although it would presumably feature Apple’s most current chip at the time of its release — likely an A15 if Young’s spring 2022 timeframe is accurate.
Not surprisingly, however, the new iPhone SE wouldn’t include Face ID, with Young indicating a “fingerprint sensor” instead. This would most likely feature a design analogous to the new iPad Air, adopting the traditional full-screen iPhone design without the expensive TrueDepth camera system. Instead, the third-generation iPhone SE would almost certainly adopt either a side-button or in-display Touch ID sensor — all things we’ve already heard are coming.
What About a 5G iPhone SE?
One question that remains unanswered is whether Apple is willing to skip 5G technology entirely for its lowest-cost iPhone next year.
While it’s clear that rival smartphone developers are working on inexpensive 5G models, and even Google’s Pixel 4a, which is the strongest competitor to the iPhone SE right now, just gained a 5G-capable version.
However, Apple being Apple, it’s less certain whether the iPhone developer will feel a need to compete with this race to the bottom of 5G iPhones, as opposed to simply biding its time to release a much better iPhone SE.
There is no doubt that when the next iPhone SE arrives, it definitely will support 5G, even if it takes until 2022 to get here, and although that doesn’t rule out Apple “refreshing” the current iPhone SE with 5G technology, it would certainly be an unprecedented move for the company, and it’s not even clear if the current iPhone SE design gives Apple any room to pack in the antennas needed for 5G support.