Apple may be planning to launch an updated version of the iPhone SE – the 4-inch handset that's developed a niche following since its 2016 launch.

Rumors of the move first began to circulate this past August, with claims the firm is working to make it faster by swapping out its chip for the A10 chip used in the iPhone 7.

A new report now backs up the idea of an "SE 2", suggesting it will be released globally in the first quarter of next year, according to the Daily Mail.

The supply-chain report spotted by 9to5mac claims the iPhone SE 2 will be manufactured exclusively by Wistron.

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And, it claims production has already begun at the plant in India.

While the new report has not revealed any new details on the phone, it could spark hopes among iPhone SE devotees that Apple is giving the device another shot at life.

It was first claimed this past summer that the firm is planning to swap out the iPhone SE's A9 chip from 2015 (which is used in the iPhone 6s and the SE) for the newer A10 chip from 2016 (which is used in the iPhone 7).

Along with the A10 processor, the new iteration of the phone is expected to come equipped with the iOS 11 operating system and may even have a slightly larger screen measuring 4-4.2 inches.

Earlier this year, Apple upgraded storage options for the device to have 32GB and 128GB, but the processor and other specs have remained the same.

The firm is expected to use Wistron Corp, a firm in Taiwan, to manufacture the handset, according to Tekz24.

The sources said that Wistron will ship the upgraded handset to the India market first, before providing the products to consumers in other markets.

It hopes to double the iPhone's market share in the country over the next five years, and comes after Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an investor call the firm has committed more energy and money to growth in the Indian market.

He hopes it could become "the next China".

The firm has already prepared a new production line in its Bangalor facility and is in talks with the Karnataka government to acquire more land to double or triple its capacity.

According to the sources, Wistron is expected to start to ship the new iPhone SE - which is expected to be more affordable than larger iPhones for many Indian consumers - in the first quarter of next year.

Apple unveiled the iPhone SE in March 2016 at an event in San Francisco.

It was the first 4-inch phone to be unveiled since the iPhone 5s and 5c.

The iPhone SE was said to have the same performance as the 6S and "delivers incredible battery improvements" - although Apple did not give any specifics.

It has a 12MP iSight camera with True Tone flash and can capture 4K video, edit up to 2 streams and has TouchID for Apple Pay built in.

iPhone SE specifications:

Screen size: 4-inches
Chip: 64-bit A9 chip
Processor: M9 motion co-processor
Camera; 12MP iSight camera with Retina Flash
Panoramas: Up to 63MP
Video: 4k quality
Operating system: IOS 9.3
Assistant: Always-on 'Hey Siri'
Extras: Apple Pay, improved battery life, faster Wi-Fi and LTE
Colours: Rose gold, gold, silver and space grey