Whatever happened to the idea of a small iPhone? Apple’s 4in iPhone SE was discontinued in September 2018, and fans of petite (not to mention affordable) handsets have been demanding a replacement ever since.
When the iPhone XR launched in September 2018 some viewed it as a possible replacement for SE. But that handset has a considerably higher price (even after a recent reduction to £629/$599) and is considerably larger. Right now the smallest option is the iPhone 8, with its 4.7in display, priced at £479/$449.
There is hope that an iPhone SE 2 will be launched in the near future: TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks this will happen in March 2020 and Bloomberg is reporting that its sources indicate the same. (However, the outbreak of the coronavirus in China is likely to cause delays.)
We’re also hearing that it could be branded as the iPhone 9 and that there is an outside chance that Apple will launch it in two separate models. In fact, we may have even seen it: a leaked video claims to show a hands-on with the device…but we think it’s probably fake.
In this article, we collect and analyze the clues pointing to the SE 2 (or iPhone 9) release date, tech specs, design, new features, and price.
Current rumors predict the following for the new iPhone:
- 4.7in display
- A13 chip
- 3GB of RAM
- 64GB of internal storage
- An updated LCP antenna for improved wireless performance
- Space Grey, Red and Silver finishes
- iPhone 8-style design
- Touch ID not Face ID
- Assembly work to commence in February
- Priced from $399
- iPhone SE 2 release date: March 2020
There’s plenty of evidence that the SE 2 will arrive in March 2020. This would coincide with the usual Apple spring event and come three years after the launch of the original iPhone SE.
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo published a note in October 2019, predicting Apple “will launch the more affordable iPhone SE2 in 1Q20”, and has since narrowed this to the end of March. A Bloomberg report in January 2020 claimed suppliers would begin assembling a new low-cost iPhone in February 2020, basing this on sources “familiar with the plan”.
However, these predictions were made before the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, which is likely to delay Apple’s launch plans. Bloomberg points out that Apple has 10,000 direct employees in China and several million workers in third-party manufacturing, and quotes analyst Patrick Moorhead: “I can’t imagine a scenario where the supply chain isn’t disrupted. If there’s one major hiccup in the raw materials, fabrication, assembly, test, and shipping, it will be a disruption.”
Ming-Chi Kuo also expects the iPhone SE 2 – along with the next iPad Pro and MacBook, and a new wireless charging mat – to be delayed as a result of the outbreak. More on how Coronavirus is affecting Apple here.
There is a small chance that Apple will launch two small iPhones in 2020, or two slightly different versions of the same device. This is the claim of Digitimes (subscription required), and is based on information from unnamed sources in Apple’s supply chain: one supplier of display driver chips, Chipbond Technology, has reportedly received orders for two different LCD-screen products. We’re not totally convinced by this, but it could mean that an iPhone 9 and 9 Max are on the cards.
What will the next iPhone SE be called?
Likely options include iPhone SE 2, iPhone SE Pro and – coming out of the left field – iPhone 9.
A December 2019 report from Macotakara cites an “informed source” as backing for its theory that Apple is considering this oddly neglected number for use in its next petite smartphone, after jumping from the iPhone 8 to the iPhone X (pronounced ten) and then 11.
The site expands on the logic of this branding by saying that the new model “continues to adopt the body of iPhone 8 as it is”, but “mounts [an] A13 bionic chip”.
Price: How much will the iPhone SE 2 cost?
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is estimating $399 (which we’d translate to £399 or slightly above, based on Apple’s usual formula).
Until September 2018 the iPhone SE cost £379/$399 for the 32GB version, and £479/$449 for 128GB; it was then discontinued. Those prices are comparable to the iPhone 8 (Apple’s current cheapest phone), which starts at £479/$449 for 64GB.
Note that if the SE 2 is launched, it may not launch where you live. Some reports back in 2018 suggested that a new SE handset might launch, but not be available everywhere.
According to the Economic Daily, a Chinese-language site, back in 2018 Apple was working on a low-end iPhone codenamed Hangzhou. This low-end, lower-priced model was apparently going to launch in an attempt to “seize the low-end market” in China and India.
Another report claimed that the SE 2 would launch in India prior to launching in other territories. This sounds dubious to us, although it might fit with Apple’s plans to offer a cheaper handset to certain territories (normally Apple does this by offering an older version of the iPhone to certain countries).
iPhone SE 2: Design
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s research note for November 2019 indicated that the new iPhone could come in Space Grey, Red and Silver finishes. The iPhone SE was available in silver, gold, Space Grey and Rose Gold options.
As for the form factor, in his research note published in October 2019, Kuo said: “For the most part, the form factor design and hardware spec are similar to iPhone 8’s”, indicating that the new iPhone SE will look similar to the iPhone 8, rather than adopting the iPhone X-style, full-screen, Home button-free design.
This will probably please those who wish to upgrade to a new iPhone but are less keen on Face ID as a means to unlock their device.
However, this does suggest that the new iPhone SE 2 won’t be the smaller iPhone many are hoping for. If Kuo is correct, the new iPhone will have the same dimensions as the iPhone 8.
There’s still a chance that the SE 2 could be smaller than the iPhone 8 though. A Chinese report back in February 2018 said the new iPhone SE 2 would have a similar design to the current iPhone SE but with a larger 4.2in display – which is still smaller than the 4.7in display on the iPhone 8.
As we said above the new iPhone SE is expected to look more like the iPhone 8 than the iPhone SE.
The iPhone SE had a 4in screen (that’s 4 inches measured diagonally from corner to corner). The handset itself measured 123.8mm by 58.6mm and was 7.6mm thick. It weighed 113g.
The iPhone 8, which has a 4.7in screen, measures 138.4mm by 67.3mm and is 7.3cm thick. It weighs 148g.
We could be looking at a somewhat larger device, however. A DigiTimes report, back in April 2019, suggested that a 5.42in iPhone (which is admittedly small by Apple’s current standards – the current-generation models measure 5.8in, 6.1in and 6.5in) may launch in 2020. The outlet’s Taiwanese supply-chain sources predict three new iPhone handsets with OLED screens measuring “5.42in, 6.06in, and 6.67in”.
Ming-Chi Kuo has also predicted that the iPhone SE 2 will get an updated antenna design for improved wireless performance.
In a research note seen by MacRumors, the TF International Securities analyst said the Apple suppliers Career Technologies and Murata Manufacturing will commence production of iPhone SE 2 antenna components in time for the spring 2020 launch. The new antenna will be made of LCP, or liquid crystal polymer, a class of material known for its stress resistance and extremely low ferroelectric reaction times.
iPhone SE 2: Specs
As for the components inside the new iPhone SE 2, here’s what the rumors are indicating:
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that the iPhone SE2, which he expects to launch in 2020, will adopt an A13 processor, as per his October 2019 research note. Kuo also believes that the new SE will offer 3GB RAM (the SE offered 2GB RAM).
That’s the same processor as found in the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.
The SE featured the A9 chip, as used in the iPhone 6S. With iOS 13 requiring the iPhone 6S or newer, it would be very surprising if Apple used a processor any older than the A11 Bionic found in the iPhone 8.
However, according to a Tekz24 report back in August 2017, the new iPhone SE 2 will use the A10 Fusion chip (as seen in the iPhone 7).
A Chinese report from February 2018 also suggested that the new iPhone would use the A10 Fusion chip.
Even code in Apple’s XCode developer software seemed to hint that a new iPhone that shares specs with the iPhone 7 could be in the pipeline. This phone – signified by the name iPhone XX (that’s not what the phone will be called, rather a placeholder) – seemed to have an A10 processor, like the iPhone 7.
Guilherme Rambo of 9to5Mac referred to the code in an August 2018 tweet, noting that the code refers to a device with an A10 processor and P3-gamut display, but no notch or Face ID. This could be a SE replacement.
It seems that the iPhone SE 2 could have a 4.7in screen rather than the current 4in. The Home button is expected to remain on the SE 2, so don’t expect the notch.
We could see a 5Mp or 7Mp FaceTime camera with Retina Flash replace the 1.2Mp FaceTime camera in the current model.
Other than that, the handset is likely to keep many of the features of the current iPhone SE, such as:
- 12Mp camera: The current SE offers 12Mp with an f/2.2 aperture. The iPhone 8 has an f/1.8 aperture.
- No bump: One key difference between the iPhone SE and 8 is the lack of camera bump on the bigger model. Hopefully, the new iPhone SE camera on the back of the iPhone will also be flat.
The battery inside the SE2 is said to have a slightly raised rating from 1,640mAh to 1,700mAh – this might be necessary to power the slightly larger display if that happens.
The new iPhone SE won’t be a flagship, so you shouldn’t expect any totally new features – it’s more a question of which features will trickle down from the top-end iPhones.
This is the biggie, and if we’re looking at an iPhone SE with Face ID it would imply that we’re also getting an edge-to-edge screen and no Home button.
This looks unlikely, as TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said: “the form factor design and hardware spec are similar to iPhone 8”.
The new iPhone SE 2 could offer wireless charging thanks to the rumoured glass back. In January 2018, Tekz24 cited a “very reliable source” who said the new iPhone SE 2 would have a glass back panel and “might support wireless charging”.
Leaked photos, videos & illustrations
Despite the lack of certainty about whether Apple will update the SE, we’ve seen a number of iPhone SE 2-related leaks over the past few years. There have also been plenty of concept illustrations: images and videos created to explore design concepts rather than actual leaks.
First up, we’ve got a video originally posted on TikTok which purports to show a hands on with a prototype iPhone 9.
Given how soon we expect this handset to launch, it isn’t inconceivable that someone in the supply chain could have obtained such a device, but we have to warn you that this probably isn’t what it claims to be; 9to5Mac is among those pointing out that it doesn’t display the characteristic ‘Proprietary and Confidential’ message you’d expect. It’s more likely that this is a mockup running a custom skinned version of Android designed to look like iOS 13.
In other words, this is best viewed as an interesting visualization of one possible design of the iPhone 9 – with iPhone 4-style squared-off edges and a single camera on the rear. We think it’s more likely that the 9 will have curved edges like the iPhone 8.
Why Apple needs a new iPhone SE
Apple still sells a lot of iPhones, but by the company’s stellar standards sales have taken a dip in recent quarters. Is this down to the lack of a small and affordable handset in Apple’s range?
Maybe. Tim Cook suggested that China was key to Apple’s reduction in estimates for Apple’s Q1 2019, blaming trade wars and the economic downturn in that part of the world. But the current iPhone range doesn’t seem well-suited to this huge and largely untapped market, which is amply supplied with cheaper phones from the Far East’s own manufacturers.
Assuming that China doesn’t ban Apple in retaliation for the (seemingly temporary) Huawei ban, the appears ripe for the launch of a low-priced Apple handset that would appeal to fashion-conscious consumers who don’t want to settle for a phone that’s more than two years old. It’s possible that Apple saw the iPhone XR (and its successor the non-Pro iPhone 11) as fulfilling these criteria: at a launch price of £749/$749 the XR was cheaper than the XS, and the iPhone 11 has been announced at $699 in the US. But these are still higher numbers than what the SE cost when brand new.
Interestingly, during the first few months of 2019, Apple started selling off some stock of the SE in surprise sales. The stock cleared quickly, suggesting that there is both demand for an iPhone that size (4in) and that people are desperate for a low-cost iPhone. Having established the level of demand, could Apple now determine that it is time to launch a new iPhone SE?
In what could be seen as an attempt to disguise the high price of the XR Apple has advertised the handset as if it cost £499/$499 – but that is only as a trade-in if you have a reasonably new handset to swap. What Apple needs is a phone that actually costs £499/$499.
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