After an apparent wobble, the usual sources in the supply chain have signaled that Apple is back on the iPhone SE train and is preparing the next-generation of the budget iOS smartphone for 2024.
Don’t expect anything stunning, though. The SE’s job is not to deliver the perfect iPhone experience; it’s about offering a glimpse of the iPhone’s ankle while maintaining the prestige of the brand.
The SE range is Apple’s cheapest range of smartphones, coming in at around $400. Cheap here is, of course, relative. Unlike other major smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung, OnePlus, Nokia, Honor, and others, Apple doesn’t offer phones that drop down to the $100 mark.
The aspiration to own an iPhone is something that Apple prizes. It doesn’t feel an exaggeration to associate “iPhone” with a big, mystical, life-changing force that everyone wants to be close to simply because… it’s seen as a big, mystical, life-changing piece of consumer hardware. Dropping the price to make it affordable to all weakens that; it would make the iPhone normal, not special.
This means the iPhone SE is in a curious position. It allows a way into Apple’s walled garden of content, but it can’t be seen to be too good a phone. Owning an iPhone SE shows you want to be part of “iPhone”, but it can also suggest that you haven’t quite reached the status to afford a ‘regular’ iPhone. The SE is a stepping stone on a staircase of aspirational handsets, the first iPhone in a long line of iPhones to be bought over many years.
The specifications for 2024’s iPhone SE will be an improvement on the current model, but we’ll have to see how much of a design, price, and specs gap Tim Cook and his team leave between the SE and the first iPhone proper. The SE will always be Apple’s weakest iPhone… just enough iPhone to be wanted, but not enough iPhone to stop you lusting for the full experience.
2024’s iPhone SE won’t be any different.