Apple sells six iPhone models, but what it lacks right now is a smaller handset with a lower price. Fans of small and affordable handsets are crying out for a replacement for Apple's 4in iPhone SE, which was discontinued in September 2018.
One possible replacement for the SE was the iPhone XR, introduced in September 2018. But that handset has a higher price (£629/$599) and is considerably larger. Right now the smallest option is the iPhone 8, with its 4.7in display, priced at £479/$449.
But there is at last some hope that an iPhone SE 2 will be launched in the near future: TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks this will happen in the first quarter of 2020.
In this article we collect and analyse the clues pointing to the SE 2's release date, tech specs, design (will Apple come up with an iPhone XR mini or will the new handset get its design inspiration from the iPhone 8?), new features and price.
iPhone SE 2 release date
When will we get a new iPhone SE? Opinions are divided. For one thing, it's possible that we'll never get an SE replacement that's as small - a 4in screen is rather cramped for today's tastes.
However, there are reports that indicate we will get a new low-cost iPhone. And it could be arriving in the spring of 2020.
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo published a note in October 2019, predicting Apple "will launch the more affordable iPhone SE2 in 1Q20".
He believes that the SE2 "will likely increase iPhone's market share and benefit Apple's promotions for service and content. We expect that iPhone SE2 shipments will reach 30-40m units in 2020."
Kuo isn't the only one making this prediction. In April 2019 Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis suggested that a new iPhone with a smaller screen could be coming in 2020. This was according to "a few suppliers" who have "mentioned a potential iPhone SE 2 with iPhone 8 internals". More here from MacRumors.
A DigiTimes report, also in April 2019, suggested that a 5.42in iPhone (which is at least small by Apple's current standards) 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". (The current models measure 5.8in, 6.1in and 6.5in.)
Alternatively, how about an iPhone XR mini to appease those who desire a smaller iPhone? While Apple may not want to revive the iPhone SE for fear of looking like it is stepping backwards, reworking the iPhone XR into a smaller shell would allow it to create a new smaller, cheaper handset to appeal to this huge market.
Price: How much will the iPhone SE 2 cost?
We expect the SE 2 to cost £419/$399.
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.
It would be reasonable to expect the iPhone SE 2 to be similarly priced when (and if) it launches. Sure enough, Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that it will start at $399 in the US - but the current trend is for Apple's handsets to cost more in pounds than they do in dollars.
Note that if the SE 2 is launched, it may not launch where you live. Some reports 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
In his research note published in October 2019, TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi 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 though. 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.
A 4.2in display is still smaller than the 4.7in display on the iPhone 8.
A complete redesign aside, one thing that is likely to change is the colour options.
The iPhone SE was available in silver, gold, Space Grey and Rose Gold options. The iPhone SE 2 is likely to be available in silver, gold, and Space Grey - like the iPhone 8.
Alternatively, we could see a new iPhone in iPhone 5C-style colours - as is the case with the iPhone XR and 11 handsets.
The iPhone SE had a 4in screen (that's 4 inches measured diagonally). The handset itself measured 123.8mm by 58.6mm and was 7.6mm thick. It weighed 113g.
iPhone 8 measures 138.4mm by 67.3mm and is 7.3cm thick. It weighs 148g.
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 2020 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).
And 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's been suggested that the iPhone SE could have a 4.2in screen rather than the current 4in, with the extra .2in being made possible by reducing the size of the bezels. Although unlike the iPhone X, which has a screen that stretches to the base of the phone - and thus no Home Button - the Home button is expected to remain on the SE 2.
(Incidentally, it's believed that a China-targeted version of the iPhone 11 will have a full-body screen but will cut costs by not carrying Face ID sensors, instead relying on under-screen Touch ID. But although it will be cheaper than the standard iPhone 11, we can't see such a device hitting a price point anywhere near the iPhone SE.)
The naysayers suggest that Apple wouldn't extensively change the design of the iPhone SE for such a minimal change in the dimensions of the screen, however. It would involve a lot of research and development for little noticeable difference to the consumer.
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".
iPhone SE2: Leaked photos
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. One 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.
Beyond that, we move into the realm of concept illustrations: images and videos created to explore design concepts rather than actual leaks.
A concept video by Gunho Lee for ConceptsiPhone - shows an imagined iPhone SE 2 with a full edge-to-edge screen. So if you are wondering what a 4in iPhone with a notch and no home button would look like then you might like to watch the video below. That concept also features a glass back to enable wireless charging.
As for concept illustrations, 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 the trade wars with China 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, what China seems to want is 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 this 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.