We miss small iPhones. Apple's popular 4in iPhone SE was discontinued in September 2018, and fans of petite (not to mention affordable) handsets have been asking for a replacement ever since - but so far, their demands have fallen on deaf ears. Right now the smallest option is the iPhone 8, which has a 4.7in display and a £479/$449 price tag.
Things may be looking up for fans of the smaller handset, however: despite delays related to the COVID-19 outbreak, multiple sources now point to an iPhone 9 launch in April - although they are divided over whether 5 or 15 April will be the lucky day. And regardless of the precise launch date, we do know, based on a leaked build of iOS 14, that the iPhone 9 exists and will appear at some point in the nearish future.
In this article we collect and analyse the clues pointing to the iPhone 9's release date, tech specs, design, new features and price, and gather the best and most interesting leaked images and videos making the rounds on the internet.
In brief, current rumours predict the following iPhone SE 2 launch details:
- April launch - either 5th or 15th
- 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 colour finishes
- iPhone 8-style design
- Touch ID not Face ID
- Price from $399
Release date: When will the iPhone 9 come out?
- iPhone 9 release date: 5 or 15 April 2020
We know that the iPhone 9 exists, following the leak (to 9to5Mac) of an early build of iOS 14 which mentions the device in its code. This indicates, incidentally, that the iPhone 9 will support Transit Express, and 9to5Mac believes this will be used to encourage owners of the iPhone 6 (which does not) to finally make the upgrade.
The sighting of iPhone 9 accessories in Best Buy and other US retailers, together with instructions about when the shops are allowed to inventory those accessories, point to 5 April. But the analyst Jon Prosser, claiming to have knowledge of an internal Apple meeting on 30 March, says the company has tentatively agreed to announce the iPhone 9 on 15 April and ship on 22 April.
iPhone 9 update ?— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) March 31, 2020
Per an internal meeting yesterday, Apple is now preparing for an April release.
- Announcement on April 15
- Shipments on April 22
Keep in mind: we're in the middle of a pandemic, and things could change.
Fingers crossed ? pic.twitter.com/egz8UWXd9F
There's plenty of evidence that the 9/SE 2 was originally slated to arrive in March 2020, likely alongside the iOS 13.4 update. This would have coincided 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, saying that Apple "will launch the more affordable iPhone SE2 in 1Q20", and later narrowed his prediction to the end of March. A Bloomberg report in January 2020 claimed suppliers would begin assembling a new low-cost iPhone in February, basing this on sources "familiar with the plan".
However, these predictions were made before the outbreak of the coronavirus, which appears to have delayed Apple's launch plans. Bloomberg points out that Apple has 10,000 direct employees in China, where the outbreak began and has caused the most casualties, 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."
So much for the production side of things - and, now that the virus has reached the US, it's also near-impossible for Apple to unveil the new handset in its usual way. Santa Clara County Public Health, the company's local body, established a mandatory order preventing large gatherings, starting on 11 March, and Apple has announced that WWDC in June will be online only. If and when the iPhone 9 appears, we assume it will be unveiled online or via an emailed press release.
The current favourite is iPhone 9, although speculation had previously pointed to iPhone SE 2 and iPhone SE Pro.
A December 2019 report from Macotakara cites an "informed source" as backing for its theory that Apple is considering the oddly neglected number nine 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, however. 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 rumours 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 an SE replacement.
T500 / iPhone 9,7 - iPhone 7 replacement ("iPhone SE2")— Guilherme Rambo (@_inside) August 22, 2018
N84 / iPhone 11,1 - 6.1" LCD (notch, Face ID, dual sim option)
D3x / iPhone 11,3 - 5.8" OLED (notch, Face ID)
D3x / iPhone 11,5 - 6.5" OLED (notch, Face ID)
Developer Steve Troughton Smith tweeted the suggestion that this could signify a "cheaper-to-manufacture" iPhone 7.
Exactly this; a cheaper-to-manufacture iPhone 7 perhaps with new component suppliers & factories. I wouldn't read any more into it given the information we have https://t.co/i8oUvJcMZg— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) August 22, 2018
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".
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 visualisation 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.
Next is this video from ConceptsiPhone, depicting what the makers have again chosen to call the iPhone 9. It has a Home button and a single camera lens on the rear which supports Portrait Mode (presumably via software). The device comes in white, black, Jet Black and red.
The next offering appears on iGeeksBlog, but was created by OnLeaks. These illustrations conceptualise the iPhone SE 2 as essentially an iPhone 8 but with frosted glass on the back instead of gloss.
Going a little further back, this concept video by (or technically for) ConceptsiPhone shows an iPhone SE 2 with a notched fullscreen display, twin rear camera lenses (in the iPhone 11 layout) and a headphone jack... which seems unlikely at this point.
One leak, posted on 31 May 2018, shows screen protectors for the SE 2 and the iPhone X, and appears to confirm that the former will have the same notch design as the latter. (According to OnLeaks, accessory makers including Alibaba are also preparing for a notch design.)
Images appearing on 26 April show a design featuring a new glass back for wireless charging - and a 3.5mm hole for a headphone jack. The latter news will come as a surprise to some, given that just days earlier another image appeared that appeared to show no headphone jack.
The images appeared on a Chinese social network site, and it's not clear how trustworthy they are.
Slashleaks has posted an image allegedly showing the chassis of the iPhone SE 2 in two colours - gold and Rose Gold. And they fairly clearly have glass backs, which suggests support for wireless charging.
A concept video by Gunho Lee for ConceptsiPhone shows an imagined iPhone SE 2 with a full edge-to-edge screen. So if you're wondering what a 4in iPhone with a notch and no home button would look like then you might like to watch the video below. This concept also features a glass back to enable wireless charging.
Here's a factory CAD shot from OnLeaks, who warns that he is "still unable to confirm this":
The case maker Olixar has created a render of the iPhone SE 2018 for a screen protector product it plans to sell; the image was provided to us by Mobile Fun. The firm says this is based on information from the supply chain.
Here's a idea of what we could expect from Concept Creator, imagining what the iPhone SE 2 might look like if Apple was to give it an iPhone X-like redesign and some vivid new colour finishes:
Concept Creator previously made another iPhone SE 2 video with an iPhone X remake theme:
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. 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.
That's all for now, but we recommend that you check back regularly for the latest iPhone 9 rumours. For buying advice related to Apple's current phone range, meanwhile, take a look at our roundup of the best iPhone deals as well as our iPhone buying guide.