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iPhone SE 4 Rumors: Everything We Expect So Far – CNET

Apple’s more wallet-friendly iPhone SE made a comeback in the last couple of years, inheriting the same fresh processors found inside the company’s latest high-end phones. But there have been conflicting rumors and reports about whether Apple will release an iPhone SE 4, with some predictions from well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggesting the device may have been canceled.

Apple hasn’t mentioned whether it plans to release new iPhone SE models moving forward since it rarely speaks about future products. But now that Apple has seemingly moved away from the iPhone Mini, the iPhone SE has an important role to play as the smaller and more affordable iPhone in Apple’s lineup.

There’s plenty of room for Apple to further improve its pint-size iPhone. While my colleague Patrick Holland praised the 2022 iPhone SE for its accessible price and familiar home button, he criticized it for its lack of night mode photos and dated design. Android competitors like Samsung and Google have also improved their similarly priced budget phones in recent years. The Google Pixel 7A and Samsung Galaxy A54 5G both offer features that were once reserved for premium devices, like high refresh rates and multiple cameras.

It’s impossible to know exactly what to expect from Apple until the company makes an announcement. But based on predictions from the often-accurate Kuo, along with other leaks and Apple’s product launch history, here’s what we’d expect from Apple’s next budget iPhone.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment regarding a future iPhone SE.

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Watch this: Why Apple’s Switch to USB-C Is Overdue

iPhone SE 4 release date is a mystery

Perhaps the biggest question about the iPhone SE 4 is whether it will exist at all. Kuo’s predictions have been back and forth in recent years. In 2019, the analyst said Apple was working on an iPhone SE with a full-screen design similar to the iPhone XR, as MacRumors reported at the time. But Apple has released two versions of the iPhone SE since then that retain the old iPhone 8-inspired design. That has led to speculation about whether the model Kuo was referring to has been canceled or postponed.

Kuo’s 2023 predictions regarding the iPhone SE 4 have also been mixed. He reported in January that an iPhone SE originally planned for 2024 had been canceled, but followed up in February to say the project had been revived. However, he changed his prediction again in April to say that the model he previously referred to might just be an engineering prototype for an Apple in-house 5G baseband chip. His previous comments also suggested the iPhone SE 4 would include this 5G chip.

The iPhone SE’s release cadence hasn’t been as routine as that of Apple’s flagship iPhones. Apple launched the first iPhone SE in March 2016, while the second-generation version came out in April 2020. The newest, third-generation iPhone SE arrived in March 2022. A 2024 launch would fit with the schedule Apple has followed in recent years, although it’s hard to be certain since there was a four-year gap between the first two models.

Rumors suggest iPhone XR-like design

The iPhone XR (left) next to the iPhone 8 Plus (right)The iPhone XR (left) next to the iPhone 8 Plus (right)
The iPhone XR (left) compared to the iPhone 8 Plus (right) Angela Lang/CNET

If the company is working on another iPhone SE, there’s a chance it could have a 6.1-inch screen similar to Apple’s modern flagship phones. The current iPhone SE, by comparison, has a 4.7-inch screen with thick black bars at the top and chin, much like the iPhone 8.

Other than Kuo’s 2019 report, serial leaker Jon Prosser and analyst Ross Young, CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants, have also suggested that the next iPhone SE could include a larger screen and a design that resembles the iPhone XR.

Kuo’s February 2023 post also suggested the iPhone SE 4 could have an OLED screen instead of an LCD display, which would mark a notable step up for Apple’s cheaper phone. OLED screens typically show deeper blacks and better contrast compared to LCD, and Apple previously kept this display technology exclusive to its Pro series. But Kuo’s follow-up in April mentioned that the device he thought might have been a future SE could just be an engineering prototype.

It may keep Touch ID instead of Face ID

Fans of Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor may be in luck. Kuo’s report from 2019 indicated that the larger iPhone SE would have a smaller notch area without Face ID and have Touch ID embedded in the power button. That sounds similar to Apple’s approach with its 10th-generation iPad, fifth-generation iPad Air and sixth-generation iPad Mini, which have Touch ID in the top button.

It will likely get USB-C charging

iPhone SE 2022 charging port macriPhone SE 2022 charging port macr
The iPhone SE’s Lightning charging port Kevin Heinz/CNET

Since Apple said it plans to comply with new European rules requiring new phones to adopt USB-C charging, it seems likely the iPhone SE 4 could ditch the Lightning connector. Apple is rumored to be making the same change on the iPhone 15, which is expected to be announced at an event Sept. 12. However, nothing is certain unless it officially comes from Apple.

The new rules say that phones sold in the European Union must have a USB-C charging port by the end of 2024. If Apple does release a new iPhone SE next year, it’ll have to adhere to those requirements for phones sold in that region.

But Maurice Klahne, senior research analyst at Counterpoint Research, thinks Apple will likely implement USB-C on new iPhones across the board rather than making a region-specific model of future devices.

“It’s just simply too costly to make different devices for different regions,” he said in a preview interview. “And so Apple will likely make the switch everywhere all at once.”

It will likely have a new processor, rumored Apple 5G modem

A diagram shows a simplified blueprint of Apple's A16 Bionic smartphone processorA diagram shows a simplified blueprint of Apple's A16 Bionic smartphone processor
Apple’s newest mobile processor is the A16 Bionic, which powers the iPhone 14 Pro series. Apple; screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

The iPhone SE typically has the same processor as Apple’s most recent flagship iPhone. For example, the 2022 iPhone SE has the same chip as the iPhone 13, which launched in September 2021. Since having Apple’s newest mobile chip is usually the iPhone SE’s standout feature, it’s hard to imagine Apple straying from that pattern.

But Kuo also suggested the next iPhone SE could have an Apple-made 5G chip. Still, it’s hard to know if that prediction still applies since he later revised his estimate to say this device was likely an engineering prototype to test that 5G chip.

Apple acquired Intel’s modem business in 2019, leading to speculation that it will eventually build its own 5G modems rather than rely on Qualcomm as a supplier. Making its own chips allows Apple to maintain greater control over launch timelines and product features, an approach that has been a key part of its strategy across its major product lines. Although Apple hasn’t disclosed its future plans, Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon told CNBC in March that he’s expecting Apple to start using homegrown modems in 2024.

The fourth-generation iPhone SE could end up becoming one of the most exciting iPhone updates in years, simply because we don’t know what to expect. But if the leaks, rumors and reports turn out to be accurate, Apple’s budget iPhone may be set to take a big leap forward in terms of design and screen size either next year or in 2025.

 

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