Apple's rumored 'iPhone SE': What to expect

Apple’s new iPhone won’t turn any heads but should come packed with lots of internal changes and offer low prices if reports are accurate.

The phone, expected to be announced at an Apple event on March 21, won't be a radical redesign, according to reports. There are two scenarios for the physical design. One, it will look like a smaller version of the iPhone 6s, with its smooth, rounded edges and prominent antenna stripes. The second, more likely scenario, is that, on the outside, it may have slightly more rounded edges than the iPhone 5s but otherwise look similar to the 5s. That’s because it’s expected to be a straight replacement for the current 5s, which will reportedly be discontinued when the SE is released, according to 9to5Mac, which has been breaking news on the SE and become the de facto authority on the new iPhone. Whichever design it is, Apple isn’t looking to make a new design statement, though it's possible that Apple offers it in new colors like gold or rose gold.

And Apple enthusiast sites aren’t the only ones predicting an iPhone 5s upgrade. “A new 4 [inch] iPhone could provide an additional boost” to Apple’s bottom line, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty wrote, in a research note. “They will likely announce a refresh to the current 4 [inch] iPhone (5s), which has been in the market since September 2013,” Huberty wrote in her note.

Related: Is this Apple's rumored 'iPhone SE'?

One of the most intriguing aspects of the SE is Apple’s re-emphasis on the 4-inch phone. As consumers flock to large phones like the 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus and Galaxy S7 Edge, Apple may be testing the waters to see if there is still consumer interest in a smaller -- and cheaper -- phone. And, down the road, Apple could come out with a 4-inch class phone that has been physically revamped.

Inside the SE

The inside of the SE is where it should get interesting. Upgraded internals may include a newer Apple processor, a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip necessary for Apple Pay, and a new camera. While the exact specifications are not clear, the rear camera is expected to get an upgrade, which likely means improved sensors for better photos. And a faster processor could boost the performance and capability of the phone in a big way. If only because the iPhone 5s has an aging Apple A7 processor. If the new phone got Apple’s newest A9 chip that alone would be a big reason to upgrade from an iPhone 5s.


The iPhone 5s starts at about $450 (retail) for a 16GB version and $500 for 32GB. For the SE, Apple could keep the same pricing but skip 32GB and up the storage on the higher-end version to 64GB while maintaining the same price, according to 9to5Mac. That pricing would be significantly less than the iPhone 6s, which starts at about $650 (retail) for the 16GB version and $750 for 64GB.

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The upshot is, for owners of Apple's larger phones like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it probably won't garner much interest but for all those consumers still using the iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, and iPhone 5s it could be a big upgrade.

Apple has not yet responded to a request for comment from