I still think the iPhone SE2 needs to happen, and so should Apple

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

In the absence of a "one more thing" announcement, arguably the most surprising part about Apple's big product launch event earlier this week was the starting price of the non-Pro iPhone 11 variant. The 6.1-inch handset is 50 bucks cheaper today than the iPhone XR was a year ago, despite providing a modest battery life upgrade, a substantial overall performance enhancement, and a significant improvement in the versatility of its predecessor's camera system.

Another interesting thing that Apple did is keep the iPhone XR around at a decent discount, while moving the iPhone 8 down at the very bottom of the totem pole by killing off the iPhone 7. This is officially the company's largest and most diverse handset portfolio, strongly contrasting with the days of the single model launch, when Apple typically sold only two or three devices at once.

The Cupertino-based tech giant is all of a sudden betting on a type of diversity Android fans will be quick to point out was their thing first, but while Apple is covering a wider range of price points than ever before, the same cannot be said about sizes. Yes, the iPhone 8 comes with a 4.7-inch display that might be considered small by 2019 standards, but due to those extra-thick bezels, the 2017 device is only slightly shorter and narrower than Samsung's 5.8-inch Galaxy S10e.

That's not what we used to call compact just a couple of years ago, and although I certainly understand the mass appeal of phones with endless screen real estate, it's absurd to have to choose between larger and... even larger mobile devices in this diversity-focused day and age.

People still like the original iPhone SE

Released all the way back in March 2016, the truly compact iPhone SE disappeared from Apple's main e-store in September 2018. But the outdated 4-incher made a surprising return in January 2019 as part of a "clearance" deal that was brought back again and again and again in subsequent months. Ultimately, the manufacturer must have completely run out of inventory, although the handset continued to attract a great deal of attention at Walmart, AT&T, and various smaller carriers in addition to a bunch of top-rated eBay sellers and e-tailers like Rakuten and Woot.

Obviously, I don't have the numbers to prove these iPhone SE deals were indeed popular and that people actually flocked to buy the discounted device, but what I can tell you is our articles tackling all those killer bargains got excellent views. More views, in fact, than your typical iPhone X, XR, or XS special offer. And let's not forget that poll from around five months ago, where 91 percent of votes went in favor of a hypothetical "iPhone XE" with all the power in a tiny body.

The iPhone SE2 doesn't even necessarily need a major facelift

For a die-hard fan of diminutive gadgets like myself, a modern iPhone SE sequel with 3D facial recognition, razor-thin bezels, and a dual camera setup would be the dream. An iPhone X-inspired notch could also help squeeze a significantly larger screen into a similar chassis as the first-gen iPhone SE, which measures a measly 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm, compared to the 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm dimensions of the iPhone 8.

But after three and a half years of waiting and several different rumor cycles that didn't go anywhere, I'd be happy with a rehashed iPhone SE powered by a modern processor... provided the price is low enough. After all, that strategy seems to have worked just fine for the "modern" iPad mini, released earlier this year with an archaic design but a vastly improved A12 Bionic chipset under the hood.

Interestingly, the newest speculation calls for a "low-cost" 2020 iPhone model based on the iPhone 8 design rather than the SE, with a 4.7-inch LCD panel, conventional Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and the blazing fast Apple A13 Bionic SoC. That's not exactly what I had in mind, but it's definitely a step in the right direction from both a size and budget standpoint. Besides, it's not etched in stone yet, so I'll continue to keep my fingers crossed for an even smaller body than that of the iPhone 8.

A great pretext for Apple to tackle the mid-range segment

Let's stop talking for a second about why the iPhone SE2 needs to happen from the consumer point of view and discuss its prospective contribution to Apple's business. It's no secret that iPhone shipments are on the decline, a trend unlikely to be reversed until 5G breaks into the mainstream. While device profit margins remain hefty and the company's increasingly competitive "services" should guarantee steady revenue streams for years to come, it can't hurt to try to strengthen the iPhone mix as well.

For Samsung, a redesigned mid-end portfolio was the solution to the recent stagnation that impacted pretty much the entire mobile industry. Suggesting Apple do something similar would have been inconceivable not long ago, but after the iPhone XR and iPhone 11, replacing the iPhone 8 with a truly affordable new model feels sort of natural and almost like a no-brainer.

The beauty of an iPhone SE2 is that Apple wouldn't even have to admit it's interested in the mid-range segment all of a sudden. Instead, the company could make it seem like it's answering our pleas for a modern handset with an easy to maneuver body and decent processing power (even the A12 Bionic SoC will do). Besides, if this doesn't join the Face ID club and ends up retaining the current $450 price tag of the iPhone 8, the profits generated by it should be quite solid. Talk about a win-win scenario. 
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