Ahead of Today’s Apple Event, the Case for an Under-$300 iPhone SE | #ios | #apple | #iossecurity

On the left is the iPhone SE (2016) and on the right is the iPhone SE (2020). Rumors point to Apple releasing a new version of the iPhone SE at its March Peek Performance event on Tuesday.

John Kim/CNET

Apple is expected to launch a new iPhone SE today at its March Peek Performance event, and historically this phone has started at $399. That price is hundreds of dollars cheaper than most iPhone models, with the $499 iPhone 11 being the next cheapest all the way up to a $1,599 iPhone 13 Pro Max with 1TB of storage

The range allows Apple to offer an iPhone at roughly every $100 increment in between, with various benefits for different budgets: Don’t want the iPhone SE? Well, you can pay $499 and get an iPhone 11. Want something even newer? Pay $599 and get an iPhone 12 Mini. Don’t like small phones? You can get an iPhone 12 for $699. Apple’s strategy is to keep iPhone models from the previous two years and sell them at a lower price.

Thanks to the impressive performance of A-series chips and Apple’s robust approach to keeping iPhone models up-to-date with the latest software for years, the “keep the older iPhone around at a lower price” strategy is an incredible way to ensure that there’s an iPhone for everyone, no matter the cost.

At the bottom of the iPhone stack is the iPhone SE (2020). It has the lowest price at $399, is one of two non-5G phones Apple still sells (the other is the iPhone 11) and it’s the only phone that has the classic iPhone design with a large forehead and a chin that houses a home button. The iPhone SE (2020) is essentially an iPhone 8 with the processor of an iPhone 11.

But in 2022, $400 is still too pricey for many people. Android phone makers like Motorola, OnePlus, TCL and Samsung offer new “budget” phones that start under $200. And increasingly they are getting many of the features seen on Apple’s more expensive phones, including 6.5-inch screens (albeit at a lower 720p resolution), multiple rear cameras and a commitment for up to four years of security updates.

Rumors point to Apple’s next iPhone SE including a design that’s the same as the iPhone SE (2020) but including an A15 Bionic chip (from the iPhone 13) and support for 5G connectivity. If all of this is indeed true, I hope Apple considers keeping the iPhone SE (2020) around at a lower price, maybe $299.

By hitting the $299 price point, Apple can include an iPhone option that is still higher than phones like the $160 Samsung Galaxy A03S or $200 Motorola Power (2022) — which also doesn’t include 5G — yet provide an option that would be more accessible to people that just want to use features like iMessage along with access to Apple’s App Store and various subscriptions like Apple TV Plus.

The reality is, it might be the carriers driving Apple to upgrade the iPhone SE. We see something similar happening with Android phones. Last year, Motorola released the Moto G Stylus 5G which was based on its popular $299 Moto G Stylus. The 5G version added a couple new features but also had a higher price of $399, likely due to the higher cost of 5G modems. In fact, Motorola swapped out the Snapdragon processors (for MediaTek ones) on the Moto G Stylus (2022) and Moto G Power (2022) to keep them 4G and under $300.

If the iPhone SE (2020) can’t be kept around at a lower price, I’d love to see Apple launch a new iPhone designed to be sold under $299. I think back to the iPhone 5C, which came out next to the iPhone 5S. The 5C was essentially an iPhone 5 repackaged into a colorful plastic body. When it was released in 2013, it cost $99 up front with a two-year carrier contract. You could buy an unlocked version outright for $549. With the advances in manufacturing and a more robust market for phone components, I wonder what a 2022 version of the “iPhone 5C” would look like? Could it even hit $199 by launching a version with a mostly plastic body like the iPhone 5C had?

The truth of the matter is that the past two years have brought even more financial hardship to more families across the country. People are also taking more stock in what they buy as inflation is on the rise. And as much as we’d like electronics to become cheaper, ongoing issues with the supply chain have made premium devices like the PlayStation 5 still very, very difficult to obtain. Is Apple able to make a truly “budget” version of the iPhone? I think it is. But the real question is, will it? I guess we’ll find out at Apple’s March 8 event today.

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