It’s widely accepted that Apple will finally be rid of the design that started in the iPhone 6 and is still used by the current iPhone SE. In its place will be the iPhone XR design launched in 2018. This features the long notch across the top of the screen, and a full screen-to-body design. That means no home button to embed a Touch ID sensor. Unless Apple is going to come up with a side-mounted option, the upcoming iPhone SE could be the first with FaceID.
Yet that screen is one of the big decisions that Apple still has to make. Analyst Ross Young has highlighted the curious choice facing Tim Cook and his team… whether to go with a 6.1-inch OLED screen, a 6.1-inch LCD screen or a smaller 5.7-inch LCD. Chance Millar reports:
“Using a 6.1-inch OLED panel in the iPhone SE 4 would certainly be the more premium option, as that’s the same display technology used in the flagship iPhone 14 models. It could, however, force Apple to raise the price more than it would like to.
“Meanwhile, using an LCD panel between 5.7 inches and 6.1 inches would be more economical and help keep the iPhone SE price lower. Opting for the lower end of that screen size range would also help ease the concerns of existing iPhone SE users who don’t want a massive display.”
Given production lead times, if Apple is still deciding on screen size and presumably working with scratch-build prototypes, it’s unlike the fourth edition of the iPhone SE will make a debut in 2023. There has been talk of this, but with the revival of the iPhone SE released in 2020, and the third edition in 2022… you can probably see where the fourth edition fits in.
Apple has to play carefully here. The iPhone SE has to create its own successful space while not cannibalizing the main line of iPhones. If there’s not enough separation, then you have something like the iPhone 12 Mini and 13 Mini… nice to see, technically competent, but everyone spent a little more to get the vanilla iPhone.
The SE has its own brand that sides one step to the side of the main line of iPhones. It also has the much bigger advantage of being the cheapest iPhone. Currently priced at $429 for the 64 GB version and $479 for the 128 GB version, the two price points straddle Google’s Pixel 6a with its single SKU of $449 for a 128 GB model. Apple will need to bring the SE into the same price point to compete with Google, Samsung and others. That keeps it on the front line in the mid-range, while leaving a significant step up to the vanilla iPhone that will keep the fans within their own hero phones reign.
But will the iPhone SE crowd prefer the smaller or larger screened models? Perhaps they’d love both equally well. In which case which screen should be chosen? Perhaps the simplest answer is the correct one… whichever screen will cost Apple less when buying in bulk will be the winner.