When Apple launched the first iPhone SE, it looked identical to an earlier phone, the iPhone 5s, but had a processor identical to the latest iPhones available at the time.
This meant it was a real performer but was much more affordable than other iPhones. This process was followed for the second- and third-generation iPhone SE models, both of which were modeled on the iPhone 7. But now, it looks like Apple could turn the SE model on its head. However, as we’ll see, there’s a sting in the tail: it’s not due for ages.
A new leak from prolific tweeter Unknownz21 says that the next iPhone SE, the fourth-generation model—nicknamed iPhone SE 4—will be the first with Face ID. This in turn spells the end of Touch ID on the front of any iPhone. That’s because it’s based on a much more recent iPhone than the iPhone 7: the leak claims it’s based on the current iPhone, the iPhone 14. That’s quite something as the SE has previously been based on a less recent chassis than this.
But that’s not the biggest break with tradition if the rumor is right. It’s said this phone will have USB-C instead of Lightning, will include the Action Button which is predicted to replace the mute switch starting with the iPhone 15 Pro and it will only have one rear camera.
This will be the first time that Apple has tinkered with the design of an earlier iPhone to create an SE model. The switch to USB-C isn’t very surprising, as European Union rules will require this by the time this predicted phone is launched.
But to add a new hardware feature, that is, the action button, to an existing design is unheard of, as is the prospect of a downgrade such as the removal of a rear camera. That’s the thing I find most surprising. Apple prides itself on taking a classic design and adding a super-fast, current processor, but making it available at a lower price. It has never reduced the capability of a previous phone in the process. In fact, the same could be said to apply to the Apple Watch SE which in its current manifestation is a dead ringer for the Apple Watch 6.
I’m not saying the leak is wrong, merely that it takes the SE line a whole new direction. The suggestion of the next SE looking like the iPhone 14 has previously been surfaced by other analysts, such as Ming-Chi Kuo at TFI Securities.
In a more recent tweet, Unknownz21 points out that if you can put the Action Button on the next iPhone SE, you could probably put it on the iPhone 15, instead of reserving it for the iPhone 15 Pro. They say: “What’s interesting about this is – if they’re gonna basically retrofit an action button into a modified D27 housing, then it would almost certainly be possible to implement the feature on the base model iPhone 15. Pretty sure it was left out deliberately to boost Pro model sales.”
We’ll find out, though not for a while. The iPhone SE 4 is not expected before next Spring at the earliest, and could take until 2025 to arrive, which is quite the sting in the tail.