Apple surprised the industry a little in 2016 when it launched a revamped version of an old design. The iPhone SE was what so many had been crying out for: a small phone with powerful capabilities and affordable price point.
With that phone now discontinued, rumours and speculation about a follow up have ebbed and flowed in and out of discussion for the past couple of years.
Search for "iPhone SE 2" online and you'll find no shortage of mention, but 2020 may finally be the year this long sought after smartphone hits the market, but those expecting another powerful tiny iPhone 5S lookalike might be disappointed.
iPhone SE release date and price
- Under $400/£400
- Spring 2020 release timeframe
Pricing and release time are pretty crucial for the iPhone SE 2. Given its naming - and the ethos behind that - it's probably going to be the cheapest iPhone available when (or if) it is released.
Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated his belief that the iPhone SE 2 will come in under $400. Specifically, that it will cost $399. If it's accurate, that's probably around £399 in the UK.
What's a little confusing is that it's very close to the price of the already available iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Is it really likely Apple will keep both devices on the market at the same time, especially when it's rumoured the iPhone SE 2 will be the more powerful of the two?
What will the next iPhone SE be called?
This one is up for debate. There are two schools of thought here. The first suggests Apple might just call it the iPhone SE 2, because - for this generation of device - that "Special Edition" name tag still holds true, even if it doesn't look like the last one.
In spirit, it is to 2020 what the iPhone SE was to 2016: the body of an old phone, but with the internals and hardware of a modern flagship.
The second school of thought is that because it looks like a revamp of the iPhone 8, that it may be called the iPhone 9. There's a problem with this suggestion: Apple has already skipped through X (10 in Roman numerals), XS and is now up to 11 in its naming sequence, and so skipping back to 9 might just be a little too confusing.
Another suggestion - and just to throw it out there: if it ends up replacing the iPhone 8, might it be the iPhone 8S?
iPhone SE 2 design
- Looks a lot like the iPhone 8
- Aluminium perhaps replaced with polished steel
- Frosted glass back like iPhone 11 Pro
The first published renders - from a source who is usually bang on the money - suggests the iPhone SE 2 will look very similar to the iPhone 8, which is likely to be discontinued this year.
That means the display has some fairly hefty bezel at the top and the bottom, with this lower 'chin' playing home to the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. With this older design, it looks very unlikely we'll see Face ID facial recognition.
Looking at the metal frame all around the device, it appears Apple might also be ditching the anodised aluminium, instead opting for the heavier polished steel that it's used on the iPhone X, XS and 11 Pro series phones. That's just speculation based on the shiny finish of the metal in the pictures though.
If Apple's primary aim is to create an affordable, powerful, compact device, steel might not be realistic due to cost compared to aluminium.
One more interesting point is that it appears the glass on the back could be a frosted, just like the finish of the glass on the iPhone 11 Pro. Again, this is just detail added by the person creating the renders, it's not necessarily an accurate representation of the phone.
iPhone SE 2 display
- 4.7-inch LCD panel and/or 5.4-inch notched display
- 750 x 1334 resolution/750 x 1627 (approx if notched)
- 326 ppi
Some rumours originally suggested that the cheaper iPhone would retain the enormously popular, smaller screen size of 4-inches from the iPhone SE. The 326ppi retina display we first saw in the iPhone 5 remains clear and crisp even if its 1,136 × 640 resolution is now dated.
With that said: if the design does take after the iPhone 8, it seems more likely we're talking about a similar 4.7-inch display from that device too. That means it should still be sharp and detailed. We're unsure if it's going to feature the True Tone capability.
Going against that narrative completely, a more recent rumour suggests that there will be a version of the phone with a notched 5.4-inch display, filling up more of the space on the front. So it's difficult to know exactly how this phone will turn out.
The Jury's still out on 3D Touch, Apple's pressure sensitive display technology. Now that it's been sidelined in the latest phones, and iOS 13 is adopting long-press replacement gestures, it wouldn't make sense to include it, in a new device in 2020 even if the iPhone 8 originally featured it.
iPhone SE 2 camera
- Single camera
- Exact specs unknown, possible 12MP
One thing that seems relatively clear about the iPhone SE 2's camera, is that it only has the one sensor. Based on the renders, and the fact that the iPhone 8 had just the single camera, it's the safest bet to assume no dual or triple cameras will appear on it.
As for the exact specifications and capabilities of the camera: that's unknown. Given Apple's recent history of sticking with 12-megapixel sensors, that seems another safe bet, likely with 4K video recording. If it has the same camera as the iPhone 8, it'll be capable of shooting up to 60 frames per second too. It has been rumoured that the camera unit itself is larger.
Then again, a lot of this comes down to where the SE 2 fits within Apple's portfolio. If the iPhone 8 is discontinued in favour of this device, then it makes sense to have some upgraded hardware. If it's designed to slip in at an even lower price point than the iPhone 8, then it's likely compromise will be seen somewhere, and that could include the camera.
iPhone SE 2 hardware/specs
If Apple is to launch a phone cheaper than any of its current range, as we've already said, there has to be some compromise somewhere. With that said, some of the earliest rumours from 2019 suggested we're going to see the A13 Bionic processor inside the SE 2, and it's a rumour that's been repeated often.
This would make it more powerful than the iPhone 8, and give it the same power as the iPhone 11. If it's true, this would surely mean the discontinuation of the iPhone 8. It would make no sense whatsoever to have the two devices together, not if the price prediction is accurate.
It's also been suggested the iPhone SE 2 will have 64GB storage and 3GB RAM.
Apple iPhone SE 2 rumours: what's happened so far?
Here are all the rumours and leaks surrounding the iPhone SE 2 thus far.
14 January 2020: Longer screen and Face ID?
Just to put a cat in amongst the pigeons, another rumour goes directly against the current thinking and suggests we won't see a Touch ID sensor, but a longer screen and Face ID instead. We're not sure about this one.
7 January 2020: We get our first look at a quality 3D render
3D renders are published, giving us our first proper look at the phone. It looks very much like a revamped version of the iPhone 8, with a slight change in materials.
3 January 2020: SE 2 could actually be the iPhone 9
Another rumour predicts that the phone won't be called the iPhone SE 2. Instead, it'll be the iPhone 9, and might even be available in two different versions.
14 October 2019: iPhone SE 2 could cost just $399
Another prediction from an analyst, this time suggesting the updated affordable iPhone will cost just $399. We're not sure, given the closeness in price with the iPhone 8. Perhaps Apple will discontinue the 8.
3 October 2019: 2020 launch predicted by analyst
Ming-Chi Kuo, a known analyst, stated his belief that Apple will launch the second generation iPhone SE in 2020.
4 September 2019: A13 Bionic chip, 2020 launch
Not the first or last time you see a certain analyst's name mentioned. One of his earliest predictions of a 2020 launch, but we also get mention of possible hardware specs. We might expect A13 Bionic processor.
1 May 2018: iPhone SE 2 renders, with Face ID notch
One of the earliest looks at a phone that never happened. This one actually looked like the iPhone SE from 2016, but Apple didn't launch it.