Apple’s cheapest iPhone offers an interesting choice
At $749 the iPhone SE is miles ahead of the more expensive iPhone 8 it replaces in Apple’s official lineup, let alone the comparatively ancient iPhone 7, which still goes for $600 at some retailers.
In fact if you ignore the size of the display (the SE has a 4.7-inch screen, a sub-high definition (HD) resolution and returns to a Home button with Touch ID rather than face scanning), the less expensive iPhone can hold its own against its most recent siblings, packing the iPhone 11’s A13 Bionic processor. The camera has been scaled back to a single lens but the new processor delivers just enough of the modern iPhone photography experience.
While Apple would have planned this release well before COVID-19 took hold, it may turn out to be the best possible time for the launch. With the current crisis affecting many livelihoods the amount of money people are willing to spend on a new phone has dropped, yet the need to spend almost all of our leisure time indoors and potentially work from home has also increased our reliance on the devices.
Recent data from GlobalWebIndex indicates that 46 per cent of Australians are using their smartphones more since the start of the outbreak, with the number at 76 per cent globally. Presumably many users with ailing old batteries, sluggish performance issues or smashed screens are open to upgrading at the right price.
With hardware sales slowing and disposable income harder to come by, Apple needs to make sure as many people as possible have the gear to access its subscription TV, games and news services. The latest SE could be the device that hits the sweet spot both for Apple and consumers.
For those open to either an iOS or Android device, Apple is entering into a premium mid-range space that has exploded in the past 12 months.
Google really kicked things off with the $649 Pixel 3a, but more recently phones like the Samsung Galaxy A71 have shown just how close a sub-$1000 phone can get to the look and feel of a flagship. At the $500 level, Chinese operators like Realme with its XT and TCL with the Plex make the SE look old with their incredible displays and huge clusters of cameras.
But none of those phones offer a processor as advanced as the one in the SE — so for example games might be bigger and brighter on the Realme but will actually run better on the iPhone — and they all lack wireless charging and water resistance, which the new iPhone has, making the SE a competitor in the overall mid-range space as well as the less-expensive iPhone space.