Is Apple cannibalizing iPhone 11 sales with the new iPhone SE?

Is Apple cannibalizing iPhone 11 sales with the new iPhone SE?
Apple is generally known for selling expensive products. And although that doesn’t seem to hurt its business, quite the contrary, many people think that the company should lower its prices or just release more affordable products.

With its 2020 iPhone SE, Apple did just that. It released a brand new iPhone with one of the best mobile chips on the market, starting at $399. But we’re not here to talk about what the iPhone SE is and isn’t; for that, head over to our iPhone SE review.

We’re here to ponder if Apple didn’t shoot itself in the foot by releasing a phone so much cheaper than the 2019 iPhone 11 lineup. People have been asking for a cheaper iPhone for a while, so did Apple made a mistake by obliging? We don't think so, here's why...

The iPhone SE is a stab at the Android midrange


The iPhone SE is priced so low exactly because Apple wants to distinguish it from its other phones. It’s in a class of its own and its purpose is to put Apple on a table full of Android phones that cost around $400.

At first glance, the SE is very different from Android midrange phones. The latter have large displays, big batteries, and three or more cameras on the back. So how can the SE compete? Well, by offering one thing none of them has: iOS.

Apart from flagships, Android phones are infamous for being abandoned by their manufacturers when it comes to software updates. Well, Apple doesn’t have those issues, and the iPhone SE will likely get iOS 17, maybe even 18, a few years from now.

Additionally, there are plenty of people that want to become part of the Apple ecosystem and have been waiting for an affordable device to do so. The Apple Watch alone is a good enough reason for some people to get an iPhone.

The lucrative price tag is meant to make people go “Hm, maybe I should give iOS a chance…”. It’s the gateway iPhone that will usher many Android users into Apple’s walled garden.

The losses it will cause to Apple are minuscule compared to the gains


Of course, there are people who would have bought a more expensive iPhone if the SE didn’t exist. In those cases, Apple is indeed losing money. However, many more have been holding on to their old iPhones, unhappy with the prices of the newer ones, with the design changes or with something else. For them, that’s the perfect opportunity to finally upgrade. Sure, now they’ll likely hold on to their new SEs for a long time, but the sale is still a win in Apple’s book.

We should also consider the new climate of the smartphone market. With people losing their jobs and having to cut expenses, a new iPhone SE is better than one with a cracked screen, for example.

The SE is also a great in-between phone. With the smartphone industry transitioning towards 5G and other technologies such as under-display cameras around the corner, some users want to see what’s coming before spending $1,000 on a phone. If circumstances have forced you to get a new phone now, why not buy an SE and wait a while before pulling the trigger on a flagship device?

The iPhone SE offers a different experience


While the SE has the latest Apple chip and runs the latest iOS, it’s different enough in some meaningful categories. It has no FaceID (no custom animojis for you), no telephoto camera or an ultra-wide one, no dark mode.

It still has all the bread-and-butter iPhone features, however, which makes it perfect for those that don’t care for the extras -- people like kids and the elderly. Most Apple services have family plans, so getting another member in on the cheap is a big advantage.

The phone is also smaller than what we’re used to these days, which is a big plus for some people.

All those differences lead us to our last point...

The iPhone SE has a different aura to it


Like it or not, there’s a massive number of people that buy the latest iPhone just because it’s the latest iPhone. They don’t care much about specs or even price, they know this is the phone to have (according to Apple) and they get it. Thanks to Apple’s marketing, within a month of the latest iPhones’ release, everyone knows how they look like, which means everyone knows if you have one or not.

There’s a certain prestige of using Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone and the iPhone SE will never be that. The iPhone SE is the cheap iPhone and phone snobs would do anything to avoid the stigma of owning one. For them, the SE might as well not exist.

Overall, it’s hard to say that a phone as successful as the new iPhone SE is shaping up to be will cause Apple more harm than good. It’s inevitable that every new iPhone model will cause changes in the sales of the rest of the lineup. But at the end of the day, more sales lead to more money in Apple’s pocket and you can’t argue with that benefit!

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iPhone SE (2020)
  • Display 4.7 inches
    1334 x 750 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Single camera)
    7 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A13 Bionic, 3GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 1821 mAh
  • OS iOS 13.x

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