While Apple’s plans for its overall iPhone lineup this year are still a bit murky in some respects, it seems pretty clear that the company is actively working on a new low-cost model in the style of the 2016 iPhone SE that could see a release as soon as this spring.
While the new spiritual successor to the iPhone SE will likely be a disappointment to those hoping for a new four-inch iPhone, it will follow the same principle of taking a 2.5-year-old design and breathing new life into it by bringing it up to current specs. For the original iPhone SE, released in early 2016, that was the 2013 iPhone 5s, and it looks like this time around it would be the 2017 iPhone 8, which would retain the same design and most of the same specs while getting a bump to the current A13 CPU.
In fact, the design similarities between the two devices are expected to be so striking that many are now expecting it to be called the iPhone 9, which would make sense considering that Apple skipped over that number on its journey to the radically different iPhone X.
A More Modern Look?
Now a new set of concept renders from Slovakian site Svetapple.sk has given us a closer look at exactly what the new budget iPhone may actually look like. While the site still refers to it as the “iPhone SE 2” — a name that seems unlikely but not impossible — the concept shows a slightly modernized iPhone 8 design that still retains the same form factor and features of the original.
Although this is entirely a concept, Svetapple.sk has taken all of the current rumours about what the new device is going to look like while also imagining that Apple may borrow a few design cues from the iPhone 11. For one, it’s predicting that Apple would center the Apple logo on the back and remove the word “iPhone” as it’s done with the iPhone 11 this year, which makes sense, but the renders also suggest an oblong camera bump to modernize the design to fit in more with the new models. This part is pure speculation, but we can see their point.
It would give the phone a modern and timely feel. Also, the device would acquire an absolutely unique characteristic feature. We placed it horizontally in our visualizations. This is, of course, because the iPhone 8 had the same layout and we do not assume that its successor will have it differently.
The report actually goes a step further than most rumours in offering up the hope that Apple might take the single primary camera from the iPhone 11 and include it in the new “iPhone 9,” and while this isn’t outside of the realm of possibility, most reports suggest that it will retain the same camera as the original iPhone 8, with the only changes being an upgrade to an A13 CPU with 3 GB of RAM and the removal of 3D Touch to reduce manufacturing costs and remain consistent with the rest of Apple’s lineup, which moved entirely to Haptic Touch last year.
When’s It Coming?
While most rumours have already suggested an early 2020 release, a new report from Bloomberg yesterday added even more weight indicating that Apple’s suppliers are set to begin assembling “a new low-cost iPhone” in February, with Apple expected to officially unveil the new iPhone as soon as March. This would match up with the release schedule of the original iPhone SE, which also came out in March of 2016.
While Bloomberg had no comment on the expected price of the new iPhone, most reports have pegged it as starting at $399. This is what the original iPhone SE sold for back in 2016, but would actually be a price drop of $50 from the current iPhone 8 which is still on the market at $449.
While it seems odd that an upgraded iPhone 8 would sell for less, the elimination of 3D Touch could potentially reduce Apple’s costs just enough to account for the price drop, but at that price tag, we remain skeptical that it’s going to see any other significant upgrades, and like the iPhone SE that came before, it will likely retain all of the same specs as its predecessor with only the CPU getting bumped up to current standards.
That processor bump will likely be enough to make it a significant upgrade, however, and it should allow it to take advantage of new machine learning features like computational photography, which by itself could breathe new life into the older iPhone 8 camera system, not to mention allowing significantly more headroom for other machine learning tasks like Augmented Reality and Apple Arcade games.