iPhone SE 3: 6 upgrades we want in Apple’s next budget smartphone


The new iPhone SE looks striking in red. For $ 399, it’s the most affordable iPhone you can buy right now.

John Kim / CNET

For $ 399 (£ 389, AU $ 679), the budget-oriented iPhone SE is the cheapest Apple smartphone you can buy. We praised the 2020 model for its affordable price and fast performance powered by the same chip in the iPhone 11, which was launched a few months before the iPhone SE.

But there are still many things we want from Apple’s next cheap smartphone, especially as competitors like Samsung and Google have improved their own cost-conscious devices. That iPhone 11s new cheaper $ 499 (£ 489, AU $ 849) price could also make the $ 399 iPhone SE a tougher sale for those who want a more affordable Apple device, given that it comes with longer battery life and a better camera system for only $ 100 more.

Apple is rumored to be developing a new iPhone SE that could be launched in early 2022, according to a report from the Nikkei Asian Review. If it turns out to be true, here are the improvements we would like to see.

A sharper selfie camera


The iPhone SE in 2020 has a 7-megapixel front camera and we would very much like to see an upgrade in the next model.

John Kim / CNET

The iPhone SE’s wallet-friendly price means it comes with some compromises, especially when it comes to the camera. And if Apple keeps the next iPhone SE price as competitive as the 2020 version, it probably won’t change much.

But we would at least love to see a camera in higher resolution in front for clearer video calls and selfies. The current iPhone SE has a 7-megapixel front camera like the iPhone XS. The iPhone 11 and newer devices have a 12 megapixel front camera with a wider field of view, as my colleague Patrick Holland pointed out in his review.

While the iPhone SE’s rear camera lacks the dual-lens setup that has become common on most phones — even on budget devices — its single-lens wide camera is still capable of producing impressive images. But now that the COVID-19 pandemic has made making video calls on our mobile devices the norm, it would be nice to see the front camera get an upgrade that brings it closer to Apple’s more expensive phones.

Read more: Is it worth buying an iPhone 13? Let’s compare the last five years with Apple’s iPhones

A newer Apple processor

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The Apple A15 processor in the iPhone 13 has 15 billion transistors.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

One of the best things about the iPhone SE is that it comes with the same processor as the iPhone 11, which ensures that it does not feel sluggish soon and will be well equipped to handle new features. While A13 Bionic chips inside the iPhone SE there is plenty of power for everyday tasks, Apple could give its budget phone an advantage by equipping it with an even newer processor.

That iPhone 13’s A15 Bionic processor would be ideal, but even getting last year’s A14 Bionic chip would be a step forward in securing the future of the iPhone SE in the coming years. Again, the older A13 Bionic chip is more than enough for most of the tasks you would typically perform on your phone, whether it’s checking email, reading news, playing games or taking pictures.

But the improved neural motor in Apple’s newer chips is likely to make your iPhone better for a lot of machine-learning software flourishing, which the iPhone has gained in recent years. These include app recommendations, text predictions, language translation and the ability to recognize people in photos. It is these types of features that greatly drive the iPhone’s appeal rather than raw computing power, and the more powerful neural engine in Apple’s newer chips should help.

There’s a chance we could see Apple’s latest mobile processor arrive in the next iPhone SE, as Nikkei’s report says it will run on the same A15 Bionic chip in iPhone 13.

5G support


T-Mobile 5G nationwide network ad seen in Midtown Manhattan.

Alex Tai / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

You may not need 5G today considering speeds are usually comparable to 4G LTE networks. But 5G is now standard in most smartphones, meaning they are typically no more expensive than non-5G phones, as was the case in 2019. Along with a processor upgrade, bringing 5G to the iPhone SE would be another way to ensure that Apple’s next budget phone does not feel dated in two to three years. Nikkei’s report also suggests that the next iPhone SE will come with 5G support, which would mean that the entire Apple 2022 lineup will be able to support the next generation network.

Read more: iPhone SE 3: Release Date, Price, 5G and all the other rumors we hear

Longer battery life


The iPhone SE is one of Apple’s smallest iPhones along with the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 13 Mini.

John Kim / CNET

The iPhone SE is not just the cheapest phone Apple sells; it is also one of the smallest. It also means that it has a smaller battery than other iPhones like iPhone 11, 12 and 13. Apple estimates that the iPhone SE should last up to 13 hours when playing local video, while the iPhone 13 should last for 19 hours and the iPhone 11 and 12 should last for 17 hours. Apple too improved battery life in its second smaller iPhone, the iPhone 13 Mini, which it says can last for 17 hours during video playback just like the iPhone 12.

IN our review of iPhone SE, my colleague Patrick Holland wrote that he could easily get through a day and a half on a single charge. However, battery life always varies depending on how you use your device. In my own experience, I have only been able to get through an entire workday in the late afternoon on days when I make many calls or record sound for work. But I typically get several miles on the weekends when I pretty much just check email, read news, and browse social media.

Still, the battery life can never be too long, and since Apple improved the iPhone 13 Mini’s battery life, I hope it will do the same for the next iPhone SE.

Press ID

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The iPhone SE is the only current iPhone with Touch ID.

Angela Lang / CNET

The iPhone SE is the only model Apple is currently selling that still has Press ID fingerprint sensor in the start button. I imagine it’s a big draw for some people, especially over the last year and a half, as many of us have been wearing masks when leaving the house. Some may also think that Touch ID is more convenient than Face ID, as you do not have to worry about placing your phone correctly in front of your face to make it work.

Many modern Android phones include both face recognition and fingerprint scanning as biometric options for unlocking your phone or approving payments. Reports suggest that Apple is working on a screen fingerprint scanner for future flagship iPhone models, but I hope Apple will at least keep Touch ID on the iPhone SE in the meantime.

More storage space for the basic model


The iPhone SE starts with 64 GB of storage, but we would very much like to see 128 GB.

Angela Lang / CNET

Apple increased iPhone’s entry-level storage capacity from 64 GB to 128 GB with iPhone 13 – a welcome update that would also be much appreciated on the next iPhone SE. More storage usually results in a price increase, but 128 GB is now widely considered to be the standard on most smartphones, including budget models such as. $ 350 Samsung Galaxy A42 5G and $ 450 Google Pixel 5A 5G. I hope Apple, by cutting the 64GB configuration out of the iPhone 13 series, recognizes this shift rather than introducing it as a premium feature available only on its flagship phones.

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