At an event scheduled for Monday Apple is expected to launch a much rumoured 4-inch diagonal iPhone.
The new iPhone will most likely feature upgraded internals, such as the camera and processor from the latest generation iPhone 6s.
The new iPhone will provide an affordable, entry-level alternative to the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 7 to launch in September.
At a special event set for Monday, Apple s expected to introduce a smaller iPhone SE with a 4-inch diagonal screen. Rumours vary as to the specific specs for the new phone, but there is a broad agreement it is intended to be a more affordable iPhone that will replace the aging iPhone 5s.
Said to be called the “iPhone 5se” or simply the “iPhone SE,” the new device is modelled after the iPhone 5s. The name is meant to denote its position as a second-generation upgraded version of the iPhone 5s. Earlier rumours about the 4-inch iPhone said it could be similar to the iPhone 5c, leading the media to refer to 4-inch device as the “iPhone 6c” over the past year, but that name was later abandoned in favour of iPhone 5se or iPhone SE. iPhone 6c, iPhone 5se, and iPhone SE rumours refer to the same 4-inch device Apple is developing.
Rumours suggest the iPhone 5se will be the close in size and shape to the iPhone 5s, with the same general dimensions. It will include a display that curves slightly at the edges, but the curve is said to be less dramatic than the curved display on Apple’s newest devices.
When taking into account all of the different rumours we’ve heard, the iPhone 5se may be on par with Apple’s larger-screened devices when it comes to performance, but it’s not going to share all of the same features as Apple’s flagship devices. Internally, the iPhone 5se is likely to have the same A9 processor used in the iPhone 6s, but it may be limited to 1GB RAM and it may only come in 16 and 64GB capacities, with no 128GB option.
If this expectation proves accurate, the little iPhone will mark a dramatic shift in Apple’s product strategy. For the first time ever, Apple will have designed an all-new iPhone that is deliberately not the best it can make, but rather a lower-cost alternative to its best.
Good, Better, Best
Alert readers, recalling the bright coloured iPhone 5c, may take issue with the last sentence above. I would contend the iPhone 5c was not really an all-new phone, but merely the internals of the iPhone 5 repackaged with a less expensive plastic case. The 5c was a half-hearted attempt at an affordable iPhone that didn’t do particularly well in the marketplace.
Rumour mills such as AppleInsider and MacRumors seem to agree the new phone will have a metal case, even if it’s not clear what the case will look like. Most concept drawings show the case as a sort of melding of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s, as shown above.
Most of the rumours have also converged to the SE having most of the features of the 6s: the Apple A9 SOC, the 12 Mpixel camera with 4K video capability, NFC and Touch ID for Apple Pay. Lacking only 3D Touch, the little iPhone is expected to be as powerful as the 6s.
This may be at odds with the expectation the phone will be priced similarly to the current iPhone 5s, which sells from £379 contract-free. If Apple really is positioning the SE as the 5s replacement, there may need to be some compromises: use of the A8 SOC rather than the A9, an 8 Mpixel camera rather than 12 Mpixel.
Even with the more premium baseline, the SE fits in with a Good, Better, Best product strategy once the iPhone 7/7 Plus is introduced in September. The iPhone 6/6 Plus will be retired, leaving the 6s/6s Plus to fill the Better slot. Apple needed something to fill the Good slot.
Why not the iPhone 6? I think because Apple realized that there was a market for the smaller 4-inch diagonal iPhone that it couldn’t fill with the 5s. Also, there wouldn’t be enough cost savings with the iPhone 6, so there would be little spread in prices among the three generations.
Most importantly, Apple is moving away from using previous generations of iPhones to fill the Good and Better slots. Most consumer product companies pursue a Good, Better, Best strategy, notably in the automotive industry. In cars, Good is entry-level and sub-compact. Good naturally tends to be smaller in order to save materials costs as well as some manufacturing cost.
This logic applies to the SE as well. The 4-inch screen from the 5s would be by far the least expensive screen since it benefits from being both smaller and the most mature from a manufacturing learning curve standpoint. A smaller screen also means a smaller battery and less powerful graphics requirement. Here, the A9 graphics is a total overkill for the SE, so we may see some modification of the GPU in the A9 for the SE, or use of a previous gen SOC. Car makers don’t put their most powerful V8 engines in subcompacts.
Designing an iPhone specifically to be low cost represents a huge break with the tradition laid down during the Jobs era of building the “best iPhone.” The often-repeated mantra “we only want to build the best iPhone” always struck me as peculiarly inconsistent. Apple didn’t shrink from offering its other products at a variety of price points and in a variety of form factors. One could see the Good, Better, Best strategy repeated in Macs and iPod, and even in iPad.
All will be revealed
On Monday we will know how accurate the rumours are and firm up the price and availability. Plus we will learn what ever else Apple plan to announce – Mini iPad Pro, new watch….