iPhone SE 2: Apple may be set to release the perfect price-conscious phone

Want an iPhone, but don't want to pay top dollar?

The current iPhone SE

A new iPhone may be coming soon, and it could be the budget-friendly smartphone of users’ dreams.

The rumored “iPhone SE 2” could offer the fastest smartphone processor made by Apple, with a price tag that ranks as the cheapest iPhone in the lineup. In a recent analyst note shared by 9to5Mac Thursday, Ming-Chi Kuo claimed the new device will come in a form factor similar to the iPhone 8 and pack 3GB of RAM. It’s expected to launch in the first quarter of 2020.

For those who can’t foot the $699 bill for Apple’s iPhone 11, released last month, it’s possibly a welcome sign. Kuo only notes that the “SE 2” will be the cheapest smartphone offered new from Apple, but does not mention pricing. With the original iPhone SE starting at $349, and the current cheapest iPhone 8 starting at $449, the new model could arrive with nearly half the price of the iPhone 11.

As consumers hold onto their phones for longer and Apple supports older devices better, it could prove the iPhone with the best bang-for-your-buck.

iPhone 8
iPhone 8

iPhone SE 2: Apple may be about to hit the perfect target

The iPhone SE 2, Kuo claims, will use the iPhone 8’s design. That means it will come with a 4.7-inch screen, a notable size jump from the four-inch screen on the original SE and one that could push away small phone lovers.

It also uses a fingerprint scanner, which means no face recognition and no screen that stretches to the top and bottom. It’s worth noting that the iPhone 11 Pro has a 5.8-inch screen, but because of the face scanner, the physical device is around the same size as the iPhone 8.

Like the original SE, the SE 2 is expected to pack the same top-of-the-line processor as Apple’s latest phone. For the SE, which launched in March 2016, this was the A9 chip. For the SE 2 this could be the A13 Bionic chip, which offers four efficiency and two performance cores that are 20 percent faster than their predecessor. It also uses up to 40 percent less power, and on the A.I. side can run matrix multiplication six times faster.

Why does this matter to the budget-conscious buyer? Because it means Apple could support the SE 2 with software updates for just as long as the latest phones. This year’s iOS 13 dropped support for both the iPhone 6 and sixth-generation iPod touch, which both use the same A8 chip.

It’s unclear how Apple’s support for older devices will shape up in the future. Considering the iPhone 6 came out in 2014 and support was dropped by 2019, Apple supported the iPhone 6 for five years. If Apple maintains a similar length of support for newer devices, that means the SE 2 would offer five years of the latest software for half the price of the other devices.

Compare Apple’s five years of support with Google, which only promises three years of software and security updates for its latest Pixels.

The original iPhone SE.
The original iPhone SE.

iPhone SE 2: a changing Apple takes shape

Apple has gradually moved away from the mantra that users should upgrade every year. iOS 13 touts performance and efficiency boosts, ideal for older devices still looking to run the latest features. Gone are the days when Apple would kill two-year-old phones with iOS 4 on the iPhone 3G. The company has also dropped its habit of redesigning phones every other year: the flagship device kept its same basic shape between the iPhone 6 in 2014 and iPhone 8 in 2017.

This chimes with user behavior. Phones are already pretty fast, and consumers are holding onto them for longer. Research from HYLA Mobile found consumers held onto phones for 2.39 years in 2016, but two years later they were holding onto them for 2.83 years.

This idea has also filtered through into product reviews. For his New York Times iPhone 11 review, Brian Chen argued that “for everyone else with smartphones from 2015 or later, there is no rush to buy.” He also noted that a replacement battery costs between $50 to $70 from Apple, a switch that could help an older device last throughout the day.

A $349 iPhone? It could be the best bargain on the market.