We’ve been hearing rumours for a while now that Apple is going to change things up again with its 2020 iPhone lineup, with reliable sources suggesting the company is sourcing both smaller and larger OLED screens for its two flagship models and signalling a possible departure from the sizes and form factors that we’ve become accustomed to over the past five years.
While it’s difficult to come to any firm conclusions from the diagonal screen measurements alone — factors such as bezel size and aspect ratio would determine how big the actual iPhone would be — they certainly give us a hint that Apple may be looking at creating a larger gulf between the standard iPhone and the “Max” version.
Specifically, the OLED screen for the smaller 2020 “iPhone XII” will measure only 5.4 inches — a 0.4 inch reduction from the 5.8-inch screen that’s been used in the iPhone X, iPhone XS, and will almost certainly grace the front of this year’s “iPhone XI” as well. At the other end of the spectrum, the “Max” version of the 2020 iPhone will be gaining 0.2 inches, up to 6.7 inches from the current 6.5-inch size.
What This Will Look Like
Assuming that bezel sizes and aspect ratios remain the same — a safe, but by no means certain assumption — this will result in the smaller “standard” 2020 iPhone getting closer to the more pocketable design of the popular iPhone SE. While the iPhone SE sported the same four-inch screen that was used in the 2012–13 iPhone 5 series, the difference was made up by the presence of the larger top and bottom bezels of the pre-Face ID era. In fact, the actual physical dimensions of the iPhone SE are just under 5.4 inches, corner to corner, although of course some room would still be required for even a thin bezel — by comparison, the iPhone X and XS, which sport a 5.8-inch screen, actually measure 6.3 inches diagonally, but Apple could also be working to reduce the bezel size even further by next year.
A user on Reddit has taken the time to do the math and post a graphic showing how the new 2020 models would measure up against the current iPhone XS Max, iPhone XS, iPhone 8, and iPhone SE. While the differences seem subtle, it’s easy to see how the 2020 5.4-inch iPhone would begin to approach the iPhone SE in size, suggesting that this could be one of Apple’s answers to the iPhone SE refresh many have been hoping for.
With a gain of only 0.2 inches, the iPhone Max appears to be a much less significant change, and in fact leaves us wondering what Apple is thinking here — the difference is so subtle that it seems more likely to be part of a larger redesign that Apple has in the works, rather than being just for the sake of increasing the screen size.
In fact, in our opinion it suggests that Apple may indeed be working on reducing the size of the bezel, in which case a larger screen would be needed to make up the difference while keeping the physical dimensions of the iPhone Max the same. If this is truly the case, then the 5.4-inch 2020 iPhone could get even closer in size to the iPhone SE, which may be Apple’s play here.
Of course, this would still be Apple’s premium, flagship iPhone model, including all of the high-end features like 5G support, and therefore wouldn’t hit the lower price that may be partly responsible for the popularity of the iPhone SE, although it would certainly help attract customers who are more concerned about smaller sizes than more affordable prices.
Other Possible iPhone SE Plans
Really, though, Apple’s plans for its iPhone SE remain shrouded in mystery and conflicting rumours, to the point where we wonder if the company itself has even figured it out yet.
Rumours last year suggesting that the launch of an “iPhone SE 2” was imminent, but when September’s iPhone event came and went without even a mention of the much-loved smaller handset, we questioned whether the idea was officially dead, however, two different sets of rumours began to surface about Apple’s plans for a possible spiritual successor to the iPhone SE that would be more than just another generation of the same design.
The iPhone XE
Earlier this year, reports from a source within Foxconn’s Indian operations, where Apple has long been rumoured to have plans for producing the iPhone SE, suggested that Apple was working on something called an iPhone XE, which would feature a 4.8-inch display with a Face ID enabled bezel-less design.
Some quick math suggests that a rumoured iPhone XE with an edge-to-edge display would come in at almost the exact same physical size as the iPhone SE; the model would undoubtedly use the same Super Retina LCD display as the iPhone XR, and would therefore sport a slightly larger bezel than the OLED-equipped XS series, which measures 6.62 inches diagonally with a 6.06 inch screen, leaving a 0.56-inch bezel. This would be roughly the same difference between the 5.39-inch physical dimensions of the iPhone SE and a 4.8-inch LCD screen.
Resurrecting the iPhone 8
At the opposite end, some analysts have heard reports from suppliers that Apple plans to resurrect the iPhone 8 design next year, effectively releasing it to fill the demand for an iPhone SE.
The idea here would basically be to re-release the 2017 iPhone 8 in early 2020 with basically the same internals — possibly an upgraded CPU — and likely the same physical design. However, such a move would be a big disappointment to those who were fans of the iPhone SE, since it’s not really a replacement at all — if iPhone SE users were willing to move up to a larger iPhone, they’ve literally had years to do so, and Apple still sells the actual iPhone 8 (and even the iPhone 7).
So we think this one should be taken with a grain of salt — at least insofar as it pertains to the iPhone SE; it’s certainly possible that Apple may release a refreshed version of the iPhone 8 as a lower-cost option for emerging markets, and it wouldn’t be the first time that the company had done so. However, iPhone SE fans aren’t just looking for a cheaper iPhone — they’re looking for a smaller one.