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The iPhone SE 3 Rumors Were (Mostly) Right

It's the same size as the previous SE, but it's definitely speedier.

Sareena Dayaram
Sareena Dayaram
Sareena Dayaram Senior Editor
Sareena is a senior editor for CNET covering the mobile beat including device reviews. She is a seasoned multimedia journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience producing stories for television and digital publications across Asia's financial capitals including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. Prior to CNET, Sareena worked at CNN as a news writer and Reuters as a producer.
Expertise Huawei, Oppo, smartphones, smartwatches Credentials
  • More than a decade of journalism experience
Alexandra Garrett Associate Editor
Alexandra is an associate editor on CNET's Performance Optimization team. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, and interned with CNET's Tech and News teams while in school. Prior to joining CNET full time, Alexandra was a breaking news fellow at Newsweek, where she covered current events and politics.
Expertise Culture, How-To, Tech, Home, Wellness, Money, News
Sareena Dayaram
Alexandra Garrett
4 min read

Apple's newest budget iPhone, the third-generation iPhone SE, arrived at Apple's first event of the year on Tuesday. The 2022 iPhone SE looks almost identical to the 2020 iPhone SE, but the real upgrades come on the inside: 5G support and Apple's iPhone 13-level A15 processor.

Before the iPhone SE 3's announcement, we followed the ever-churning rumor mill for details about what the new iPhone SE could look like. Now that we know (most) of the third-gen iPhone SE's specs, just how good were the prereveal rumors and leaks anyway? 

Read moreApple's iPhone SE Brings 5G for People 'Who Just Want an iPhone'

iPhone SE 2022
Patrick Holland/CNET

The long-awaited successor to the iPhone SE from 2020 was announced by Apple at its March 8 "Peek Performance" event. It features Apple's A15 chip (the same one found in the iPhone 13 series), 5G and stronger glass, but it maintains the same overall design as the previous model.

Pricing for the new iPhone SE starts at $429 and preorders begin on March 11.

True: Apple's new iPhone SE was announced on March 8

Yes, as we expected, Apple unveiled the third-gen iPhone SE at its March event. The new iPhone SE will be available for preorder starting this Friday, and will go on sale for $429 on March 18.

Prior to Tuesday's Apple event, multiple analysts, leakers and reports pointed to the correct time frame for the iPhone SE 3's announcement. 

On Feb. 27, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said in his PowerOn Newsletter that Apple was expected to introduce the 5G iPhone SE at its March event. His predictions matched those of Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who suggested that the third-gen version of the iPhone SE would appear in the first half of 2022, and TrendForce, whicn narrowed the iPhone SE 3's arrival to the first quarter of this year. 

On March 2, iMore reported an iPhone SE 3 case listing that had a release date of March 10, which also supported the buzz of the SE 3 launching on or around the day of the Apple event. 

Read more: Is the iPhone SE (2020) Still Worth Buying?

False: The iPhone SE has Face ID

There is not a new way to unlock your iPhone SE. All of Apple's current iPhones already feature Face ID except 2020's iPhone SE, and now the 2022 iPhone SE. Adding the ability to unlock your iPhone SE 3 with facial recognition would have been a coup for fans of Apple's midrange handset (especially since iOS 14.5 added an option for using Face ID while wearing a mask). 

The Face ID speculation came from Gurman, who reported in July that Apple planned to bring the face scanner to all relevant products -- not only the iPhone SE, but all iPads and Macs, too. It's possible we'll have to wait a little longer for Face ID to make its way to Apple's budget iPhone line. 

Read more: iPhone SE 2020 Review


True: The iPhone SE stayed the same size 

In a world of increasingly supersize smartphones, the iPhone SE has claimed bestseller status thanks in part to its relatively small size as well as its powerful combination of prices and features. 

The first-gen iPhone SE had a petite 4-inch frame and was lauded by CNET's Scott Stein for being "amazingly pocket-friendly." Apple's second-gen iPhone SE wasn't quite as small, but made up for it in might. (Apple equipped it with the flagship-level A13 Bionic chip, the same chip that powered each of the four iPhone 12 family members.) With the iPhone SE 3, Apple didn't change the size. The new iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch screen, just like the 2020 iPhone SE. 

The size rumor came from Kuo (via MacRumors), who predicted in April that the iPhone SE 3 wouldn't get bigger or smaller.

Remember, the iPhone SE has two main audiences: budget-conscious buyers who aren't interested in paying $799 for an iPhone 13 (much less $999 for a Pro or $1,099 for a Pro Max) and those who prefer compact phones.

Read more: The Most Exciting Smartphones of 2022

True: The iPhone SE kept its retro design

The iPhone SE 3 has the same iPhone 8 body as the 2020 iPhone SE, but now sports a more durable glass back and screen (just like the glass seen on the iPhone 13 family.

Although there were rumors of Apple giving the iPhone SE 3 a major makeover with an iPhone XR body, an April report by Kuo seemingly threw cold water on them. In the report, seen by MacRumors, Kuo said the third-gen iPhone SE will be similar to existing SE models, which indicated the retro design is here to stay. 

Kuo's report detailed the iPhone SE's signature chunky bezels at the top and bottom, as well as a physical home button, with Touch ID, for a more tactile user experience. Like the 2016 version, the new iPhone SE also features a single camera on the phone's rear. 


The iPhone SE is small enough for a child or a woman's front pants pockets.

Sarah Tew/CNET

True: The iPhone SE got 5G support

Apple added 5G support for the iPhone SE 3. The new version is an upgrade from the 2020 iPhone SE, which didn't offer this feature. 

Kuo predicted this upgrade before the iPhone SE's announcement. The analyst also suggested the iPhone SE 3 would feature an incremental processor upgrade, which it received in the form of Apple's A15 chip, the same processor seen in the iPhone 13 line

Read more: iOS 15.4: The Cool New Features Coming to Your iPhone

Looking ahead: Will there be an iPhone SE Plus?

Short answer: Yes, there should be. Kuo has been talking about a larger iPhone SE for some time now, first predicting a late 2021 release before pegging the launch for the first half of 2022. Tech YouTuber Jon Prosser posted on Twitter about the existence of a plus-size iPhone SE back in April 2020, and in October, display analyst Ross Young speculated that the iPhone SE Plus could be coming in 2022

For more, check out everything we know so far about the iPhone 14 and the Apple Watch 8.