So here’s my attempt to look at the different possibility features an updated SE might gain and how crucial I feel each one is for getting someone like me to upgrade.
The original iPhone SE was a wonderful bargain
When the original iPhone SE came out it was six months after the iPhone 6S line of phones. It featured the same processor and have a battery life that was superior to the 6S but not the plus. It also had the same amount of RAM and rear facing camera with live photos and a significantly reduced price. However there were trade offs.
The design was old, the screen was smaller and at a slightly lower resolution, it lacked some of the sensors and 3D Touch. Now in hindsight, lacking 3D Touch might not seem that significant (although some people love it) but the battery life, lower cost and more pocketable device convinced me that the SE was the device for me.
So the big takeaways were
- It was easier and cheaper for Apple to make
- It had the latest processors and RAM,
- The screen wasn’t as good
- It lacked some of the high end features of the latest phones.
What does this mean for a possible successor?
iPhone SE 2 speculation time
Let’s take a look at the features that the latest iPhones have and consider if they should come down to an iPhone SE 2.
The latest chips and More RAM
Yes, if we follow the logic of the original iPhone SE, the SE 2 should get the latest processor (the A11 fusion) and 2GB of Ram (the same as the original SE). However, there is a sign that this might be the case. The iPad 2018 edition doesn’t have the latest processor (presumably to differentiate it further from the iPad Pro). At the time of the original iPhone SE I was surprised that it had the latest processor but it has lead to a long life for the SE, that seems like a good reason to go for a higher powered processor.
A better camera
Yes, the camera has improved with optical image stabilization in both the plus and regular phone (with the 6S it was only in the plus) so this should make its way to the SE too.
A dual camera system
Sorry, no for this one. Although a dual camera system would be great for the bokeh effect, it seems unlikely. The 8 didn’t get a dual camera system and it would certainly take up a larger proportion of space in the SE 2. This is a feature I’m sure I’d love to have but it is a reason people would pay more money
A better (OLED?) screen TK
definitely not OLED but it could be better. OLED is supposedly very supply constrained and more costly. It’s also a feature only found on the X and not the 8 and 8 plus. The other big screen changes we’ve seen are promotion (which isn’t on the iPhone X so that’s very unlikely) and TrueTone. TrueTone requires more sensors and isn’t on every new device Apple ships (looking at you iPad 2018). This suggests more retooling of the device and that might be a bit a higher price than Apple wants to spend on development and making the devices. There are also a couple of other aspects which are connected to a “better screen”.
A “bezelless” screen
By this I mean something similar to the iPhone Xs 2 to 1 display with a notch. I’d consider this to be highly unlikely, it would require a significant redesign and investment for a feature which isn’t present in any device other than the top of the line phone (even if it is rumored to trickle down with the next batch of phones).
This also makes certain other features less likely including
It’s not on the iPhone 8 or 8 plus. It’s a top level feature and one that could get people to upgrade. It’s also linked to the “bezelless” screen which is also a top level feature. As such, FaceID is almost certainly out.
If we assume that FaceID isn’t coming, what about TouchID second generation?This is tough to say. It could be updated as TouchID 2 has spread to the iPad Pro line but on the other hand it isn’t included in the 2018 iPad. The iPad 2018 certainly needs to distinguish itself from the more powerful iPad Pros and the TouchID sensor is one way, with the iPhone SE this may not be the case, screen size is a reason some people will never (or only) consider the SE and as such TouchID may not be a deciding factor. Hard to tell here.
This feature was absent from the original SE and was the new feature of the 6S at the time. Two years later and you might think that this feature is bound to trickle down but I’m not so sure. 3D Touch requires different sensors under the screen and that will take up more space and cost money. 3D Touch has also not been the runaway success that some had predicted and this is largely due to it’s absence from some iPhone models and the iPads. This has lead to alternative methods to mimic 3D Touch in key places.
If Apple did add 3D touch, it could be a big step forward for further 3D Touch spread (once all devices have it, it makes more sense to develop for it), but then again, if iPads don’t have it, you still need substitute methods so I wouldn’t take 3D Touch as a given.
The Taptic engine
The taptic engine game in the iPhone 7 so it is an older feature. It changed the way that TouchID worked with the removal of the physical button and instead a fixed sensor area which then produced feedback to show that the button had been pressed. This is also used now in 3D touch to give feedback as well. As such, if this feature were to come, it is highly likely that 3D touch would too. It also lead to the end of the headphone jack (to take up the space which it assumed) so it would almost certainly lead to the death of the headphone jack too.
This seems like a push to me as the haptic engine would need to be redesigned to fit the smaller size device. It’s possible but that’s significant development.
Greater water and dust resistance is a win for everyone. Fewer replacements for Apple, users break their device less and you don’t have to worry about accidentally dropping your phone in a puddle.
Waterproofing may take some heavier development than some other changes as it is a change to the casing. However, the iPhone 7 got waterproofing and so has the 8 and X.
This is an improvement that I believe would be popular and I’d certainly be more interested in this device with waterproofing.
Wireless charging only came to the iPhone with the iPhone 8 and X but it is clearly spreading. The Apple Watch has had wireless charging for a while, there are plans for a wireless charging airpods case (apparently. Apple may have forgotten this though) and it is the sort of technology that once it gets started, you’d expect Apple to try and put it everywhere.
However, this requires a different type of case with a glass back, that is a bigger change than the iPhone SE went through last time as an upgrade to the 5s. Still smaller iPhones have had glass backs so it’s entirely possible, and with a waterproof case design you could get two improvements at once.
This is also an improvement that could well be popular as wireless charging has some strong advocates. I’d certainly be keen to get a device with wireless charging.
Courage no headphone jack
Let’s be honest, this is a change that would be made so that other features could fit in the case. I see either possibility being likely but personally, there’s no harm keeping a headphone jack so I hope this doesn’t happen.
Possible iPhone SE devices
So now I’d like to discuss three possible devices that could be possible for the iPhone SE and the one I think is most likely.
The SE X
This would be a really updated device with a whole new case, bezelless screen, faceID, twin cameras (why not), wireless charging, waterproof, the whole deal. It would look like the iPhone X and have all the features (plus a cost to match).
I doubt this would happen as the last iPhone SE didn’t get everything and it would be very expensive.
The argument in favour of a device like this is that the SE sold surprisingly well last time so why not make the best? (cos it’s expensive and wouldn’t have as good a profit margins for Apple. That’s why.)
The minimum upgrade
This would be the bare minimum upgrade with a new processor and an upgraded camera and that’s it. No other new fancy stuff just a fast processor, camera and maybe a new shade of space grey. This would basically be the same upgrade from the 5S to the SE so it is entirely possible.
Some fancy features
The goldilocks solution, the iPhone gets the minimum upgrades and perhaps a few little features like wireless charging and waterproofing but no 3D Touch, TrueTone or better features. This seems to fit with some of the rumoured leaks that have been put around on the web. Statements like “no 3D sensing” and pics suggesting that it will have wireless charging.
This one is the item I suspect is most likely to occur but I couldn’t tell you exactly what the features would be (though the recent rumours do seem to make sense). I’d certainly be interested in a device like this with a lower price and small pocketable size.
I see many people with iPhone SEs everyday as it is a very popular device in Poland. It has been a great cheaper and small device but it needs an update to keep going for another couple of years. The exact details of the update are very difficult to pin down exactly, but a “goldilocks” update with a few extra features would be very tempting for me.