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The iPhone SE is great – but the SE 3 needs a big design refresh

OPINION: Apple is holding its much-anticipated Peek Performance event today (March 8) and while many eyes are on the rumoured advances in Apple Silicon, I am most excited about the new phone Apple is set to unveil.

Well, maybe I should rephrase that – I am most excited about what I’d ideally like the rumoured iPhone SE 2022 to be, rather than necessarily what the leaks and rumours are suggesting it will be.

The current iPhone SE, often called the iPhone SE 2 or iPhone SE 2020, was released about two years ago and for the most part, it was an excellent phone. It was small, but it offered exceptional speed and single camera performance despite being a lot cheaper than other iPhones at the time. It was an entry-point into iOS and it did, and still does, an excellent job at doing that to this day.

The main issue I had with the phone was that it didn’t feel, or look, like a modern 2020 smartphone. In fact, it’s basically only a slight rethink of the iPhone 6. And that phone came out in 2014 – yes, 2014. The squat screen, rounded sides, single camera module and physical home button felt archaic compared to the rest of the market.

High-end internals, tired design?

Fast forward two years and the rumours of Apple once again refreshing its cheapest iPhone are rife again. The use of the same A15 Bionic chipset as you’ll find in £1000 iPhone 13 Pro seems a given, as does a switch to a newer – and likely more capable – 12-megapixel camera. 5G should also be a good addition, possibly not for you but for the carriers and networks who are very focussed on pushing the new, faster network standard out as fast as possible.

Other leakers have suggested better battery life, and that the MagSafe charging system introduced with the iPhone 12 could be another feature.

iPhone SE 2 screen

But it still seems that my main issue with the previous iPhone SE will again be an issue here. All the leaks and rumours point to a phone that looks just like it did in 2020. This is bad as I found the design felt outdated then, so it’s going to feel outright archaic now.

After a few years of, in my opinion, so-so iPhone designs, Apple hit back hard with the gorgeous iPhone 12 series. The sharp edges, flat sides and durable glass put it above the best Android phones when it came to design. Why not use some of that work here and make the iPhone SE 3 the iPhone 13 Lite everyone’s been wishing for. The home button could stay, but the rounded design should be ditched to get some of that iPhone 13 influence injected in. It would be new, it would feel modern and just generally be a whole lot more exciting than what the rumours are currently suggesting.

Of course, there are reasons why this wouldn’t happen. The iPhone SE 3 needs to remain a cheaper device, and developing a whole new design might not allow Apple to price it quite so competitively. There’s also the iPhone 13 Mini to think about – I am sure Apple doesn’t want to cannibalise sales of its smallest phone.

But with all that being said, the right decision, for me, would be to freshen up the design and really make the iPhone SE 3 stand out. Will Apple agree? There’s not long to wait to find out. Make sure to follow our live coverage of the Apple event from 6pm (GMT) . 10am (PST) today.

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