Apple's iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3 Reportedly Going on Sale March 18

The devices will be unveiled March 15 and then be available for purchase almost immediately, unlike Apple's usual practice.

Apple, iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3, Apple Watch, Apple rumors, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches

Apple is slating the release of its latest rumored smartphone, the iPhone5se, and its iPad Air 3 tablet for March 18, just three days after it plans to unveil the devices to the general public at a March 15 Apple gathering.

The planned event and product release dates were unveiled in a Feb. 12 story by 9to5mac, which attributed the details to unnamed sources who said that the dates could still be changed.

In this case, Apple is departing from its usual practice of releasing new devices one or two weeks after they are first announced, the story reported, and is unlikely to offer preorders this time around as it has in the past, the sources said.

Rumors about the upcoming iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3 and new Apple Watch models have been circulating in recent months, with indications that the products would be arriving from the company in March, according to earlier eWEEK stories.

Recent reports about the rumored smaller iPhone 5se describe the handset as being a special edition variation of the previous 4-inch iPhone screen size and an enhanced version of the iPhone 5s. It won't be a smaller version of Apple's iPhone 6s (pictured), but is instead being built as an upgrade to the company's iPhone 5s that debuted in the fall of 2013.

Apple is planning to debut the smaller, more feature-laden phone to attract new buyers to a handset that won't take away sales from its larger flagship phones, while also encouraging iPhone 5 users to upgrade without having to move to one of the company's larger phones if they choose to carry a smaller phone.

The 4-inch iPhone 5se would be smaller than the company's existing 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone smartphones, giving customers more options.

Rumors call for the iPhone 5se to include upgrades in hardware and software as well as curved edges like those on the latest iPhone 6 and 6s devices, while the handset will retain the same 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.2-megapixel front camera systems used on the iPhone 6. A near-field communication (NFC) chip is also expected to allow the phone to use Apple Pay, and it will include camera support for larger panoramas and auto-focus for video recording. Also included will be faster and more powerful Apple A8 and M8 chips from the iPhone 6 and Bluetooth 4.2, voice over LTE (VoLTE), and 802.11ac WiFi chips from the iPhone 6s.

The coming iPad, which of course has not been announced yet by Apple, will likely be called the iPad Air 3, according to earlier reports.

The iPad Air 3 could include a rear-facing LED flash for improved photos in low-light situations and additional speaker grills for better sound quality.

Also slated are new Apple Watch models, which likely will include assorted new colors for the line's rubber Sport Bands, more color choices in the Hermes bands available for the Watch, a black Milanese Loop band and a new band line that would be available in a new kind of material, according to rumors. Software updates are also expected to help usher in some new features on the devices.

Even as rumors swirl about the iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3 and Apple Watches, plenty of reports are also circulating about Apple's next flagship smartphones, the expected iPhone 7 series, which will likely debut in September.

The latest rumors about the iPhone 7 describe a move to a thinner flush-mounted rear camera, replacing the protruding rear camera that is built into the existing iPhone 6 devices, and the removal of antenna bands that are now on the rear of today's iPhones, according to an earlier eWEEK story.