It’s rumored that Apple could resurrect the iPhone SE in 2020, partly as a competitive measure to take market share from low-end Android device manufacturers. The iPhone SE, which was introduced in 2016 at a base price of $400 (it later fell to $350), was built on the same form factor as Apple’s iPhone 5S. The small-screened device was never a huge sales driver, but it found a fan base with small device enthusiasts and people looking for a lower-cost Apple device with good performance and excellent battery life. When Apple decided to jack up its prices, it unceremoniously killed the SE, removing it from the product lists without even an acknowledgment.
This has been a sore spot for a lot of fans ever since. Now, Nikkei reports that Apple may bring the product back — at least, sort-of. This “new” SE wouldn’t be based on the iPhone 5S, but would instead use the slightly larger iPhone 8 as a point of reference. Nikkei writes that Apple is reportedly considering the move as a chance to reverse pressure on its sales, which have been falling. The company is now the third-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, having lost the number two spot to Huawei. Sales of the iPhone SE were supposedly 30 million in 2016 and a further 10 million from 2017 – 2018.
Apple has reportedly cut its production run of new retail iPhones this year by about 10 percent compared with previous years, reflecting the fact that the company doesn’t expect strong performance. The smartphone market has slowed globally and the ongoing US-China trade war has harmed commerce between the two countries. The rumor mill around the next-generation iPhone has mostly focused on how ugly the devices are, and how limited the new feature set is. Apple won’t have a 5G device in-market until 2020 at the earliest, although given the terrible performance of 5G products, that’s probably a genuinely good thing. Right now, I consider a 5G-enabled smartphone to be much less appealing than an LTE variant. High prices, limited range, and the fact that these devices fail if exposed to ambient temperatures above 85F make them distinctly undesirable.
As 9to5 Mac notes, however, refreshing the iPhone SE as an iPhone 8 form factor means the device won’t really be an iPhone SE at all. Refreshing the body of the iPhone 8 with internals from current iPhones, keeping cost-conscious factors like the LCD, and dumping some capabilities is exactly what the SE was, but it won’t be the same size and shape. This is true. In fact, I do prefer the size of the SE, even compared with a device like the iPhone 8. But I also recognize that part of the reason the SE featured the iPhone 5S design was probably because Apple had chassis sitting around that it could get cheap. Re-using iPhone 8 components is part of what makes this device cheaper for the company to build, and it’s probably why they do things this way.
An iPhone 8-sized SE would be a little larger than I might like, but I won’t deny that the larger screen would also be a little nicer. I can still use the device in one hand, even if it isn’t quite as comfortable. So long as the iPhone SE 2 keeps the battery life and lower price point, I can see getting behind this product — assuming these rumors actually come true.