Apple's entry-level iPhone has been one of the worst-kept secrets in tech, with rumors swirling for months about an iPhone SE 2 or iPhone 9. It turns out, both names were wrong. On Wednesday, Apple unveiled a new iPhone SE with a 4.7-inch display as a follow-up to the original iPhone SE, released four years ago. The new iPhone SE is essentially an iPhone 11 stuffed into the revamped body of an iPhone 8. Like the original SE, the new phone will start at $399 — $50 cheaper than the discontinued iPhone 8, which, until this week, was the least expensive iPhone you could buy new.
You can preorder the iPhone SE from Friday April 17, and it should arrive by April 24.
The new SE will come in three colors (black, white and Product Red) and three storage options (64GB for $399, 128GB for $449 and 256GB for $549). International prices start at £419 and AU$749. Proceeds from the Product Red version will support coronavirus relief efforts.
The phone has two main audiences: budget-conscious buyers who aren't interested in paying $799 for an iPhone 11 (much less $999 for a Pro or $1,099 for a Pro Max) and those who prefer compact phones.
"When it was planning this product, Apple couldn't have known it would land in a market in complete turmoil as a result of the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic," CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said. "Although the new iPhone SE was undoubtedly designed to take the fight to Android rivals, it now also offers a more affordable iPhone at a time when many consumers will find it hard to justify spending $1,000 or more on one of Apple's flagship devices."
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Instead of hosting a flashy event in March, as previously expected, Apple introduced the new phone in a press release on Wednesday. It joins companies around the globe that have moved away from big events to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Apple revealed its new MacBook Air and iPad Pro with a similar announcement in March.
The new iPhone SE has many of the features found in the more expensive iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, like an A13 Bionic processor, Qi wireless charging, haptic touch and a True Tone display (though the SE doesn't have an OLED screen like its two Pro siblings). The new phone has a single rear 12-megapixel camera with a 28-millimeter f/1.8 lens with Portrait Mode, Smart HDR and optical image stabilization. It's similar to the main camera found on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro.
Apple iPhone SE 2020 Specifications
|Apple iPhone SE 2020 Specifications|
|Display size, resolution||4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334×750 pixels|
|Dimensions (Inches)||5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.22 oz; 148g|
|Mobile software||iOS 13|
|Processor||Apple A13 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Fingerprint sensor||Home button|
|Special features||Water resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$399 (64GB), $449 (128GB), $549 (256GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$749 (64GB), AU$829 (128GB), AU$999 (256GB)|
For those who aren't fans of the current era of iPhones with Face ID, beginning with 2017's iPhone X, Apple's new entry-level iPhone keeps Touch ID and the haptic home button. There is also a lightning port, but there isn't a headphone jack.
The iPhone 11 Pro, previously the smallest of the new-generation iPhones you could buy from Apple, has a 5.8-inch display. The new SE has a 4.7-inch display without a notch similar to the iPhone 6, 6S, 7 and 8.
A difficult environment
Regardless of interest in the new phone, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to blunt Apple's momentum as a whole: The company announced a record-breaking final quarter in 2019 but has since warned that iPhone supply and revenue will take a hit in the coming months. At the same time, Apple has closed all of its stores outside of China indefinitely, as people stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus, which causes COVID-19.
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Smartphone shipments saw their biggest-ever drop in February — down 38% year over year to 61.8 million units, according to Strategy Analytics — as the coronavirus ravaged China, one of the world's largest markets and a vital manufacturing hub. For all of 2020, phone sales are expected to hit a 10-year low. Shipments of mobile phones, which include flip phones, likely will drop 13% year-over-year to 1.57 billion units in 2020, while smartphone shipments should tumble about 11% to 1.26 billion units, according to CCS Insights.
Samsung, the world's biggest phone-maker and Apple's chief rival, last week introduced six new Galaxy A Series phones aimed at budget-conscious buyers. The four new 4G LTE models range from $110 for the Galaxy A10 to $400 for the Galaxy A51. Samsung even introduced two 5G devices, the $500 Galaxy A51 5G and the $600 Galaxy A71 5G, giving the South Korean company two of the cheapest 5G phones in the US.
Apple released the original iPhone SE with a 4-inch screen in March 2016. "SE" stood for "Special Edition." The company took the A9 processor in the iPhone 6S, then its flagship phone, and put it in a device that looked like an iPhone 5S. With most phone screens (in 2016 and now) exceeding 5 inches, the 2016 iPhone SE developed a cult following among people who liked smaller screens. Phones have only got bigger in the years since, which explains the buzz around Apple reviving the model.
Originally published April 15, 8 a.m. PT
Update, 3:05 p.m.: Adds analyst comment.