The iPhone SE 4 is coming for the best budget phone throne

Macworld

Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.

Big news

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the iPhone SE since the glory days of the second-gen model from 2020, with rather more downs than ups. But now, based on a series of unexpectedly promising leaks, it looks like we might be headed for an uphill segment.

Earlier this month a Weibo account dropped some alluring details about the iPhone SE 4 that made it sound like the best $499 smartphone ever. Boasting a 6.1-inch OLED screen, Face ID, and an A16 processor, the new phone would represent a huge upgrade over the 2022 model, and that’s before you even get to the 48MP rear-facing camera, LPDDR5 RAM, and chunky battery.

All this, the leaker claimed, will come in at $499, a $70 increase on the previous SE but far lower than we’d expect for a handset with this kind of spec. The iPhone 13, for example, has the same 6.1-inch screen, an older A15 chip, and a camera that might have two lenses but is limited to just 12MP… and currently costs $599. Following the disappointment of the third-gen SE in 2022, this has the whiff of a comeback.

But wait! There’s more. This week another leak emerged referring to the next-gen SE, and this time it focused heavily on the device’s physical dimensions, which will apparently be a little bigger than those of the iPhone 15. The report corroborates the Face ID and single-camera elements of the previous leak, and strongly suggests that the 6.1-inch screen part is right, too.

There are a few conclusions to be drawn from the multiple rumors that have been cropping up lately about the SE 4. One is that the line isn’t dead: there’s interest, and there’s speculation, and nobody wants the SE adventure to be over. Another is that the days of the small phone appear to be gone for good; and I know some readers won’t be happy about that. The SE has historically had a niche as both the smallest and the cheapest phone Apple makes, and that’s probably about to change. But the positive is that, by embracing a narrower remit as merely the cheapest phone on its roster, the company may free itself up to deliver something altogether more compelling.

Readers with irritatingly good memories may recall this very column opining that the iPhone SE line cannot be saved, and I stand by most of that argument. But one element appears to have changed for the better, and that is Apple’s understanding of what made the second SE so good, and what made the third SE so bad. If the leaks are accurate–and that is by no means a given–then they suggest that Apple is going to return to the original idea of up-to-date innards in an older design at a lower price, a compromise that many customers will find appealing.

By improving the battery and the camera, it’s addressing two of the most notable weaknesses in previous SE models. And by bumping up from the antiquated design with a home button to something comparatively more modern, it’s making an effort to find the sweet spot between too old and too new which was so compelling in 2020. Add a $499 price tag—just $70 more than the current outdated SE—and you’ve got the best budget phone in the business.

The best Android budget phones in this range are probably the Google Pixel 7a and OnePlus 12R, and this rumored iPhone SE will give them both a run for their money, with a better camera, far better biometric security, and what should be excellent battery life.

I still maintain that the sweet spot isn’t as sweet as it was back then, and may never be again, for the simple reason that the switch from home button to full screen was a one-off shift that left a significant rump of users temporarily interested in keeping an older design. In that sense the true glory days of the SE probably are gone for good. But in the absence of a true blockbuster, the signs suggest that Apple may come up with the next best thing, which is simply a very good budget smartphone.

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You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on SpotifySoundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.

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New iPads will ‘probably’ arrive week of May 6, says trusted analyst.

iPadOS 17.5 beta confirms the new iPad Pro’s biggest upgrade.

iPhone SE leak paints a portrait of the best $499 smartphone ever.

The next Apple Watch could have a new low-power display.

Apple Pencil 3 with a new squeeze gesture could be coming soon.

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Software updates, bugs, and problems

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And with that, we’re done for this week’s Apple Breakfast. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.

Apple Inc

​Macworld Macworld

Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.

Big news

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the iPhone SE since the glory days of the second-gen model from 2020, with rather more downs than ups. But now, based on a series of unexpectedly promising leaks, it looks like we might be headed for an uphill segment.

Earlier this month a Weibo account dropped some alluring details about the iPhone SE 4 that made it sound like the best $499 smartphone ever. Boasting a 6.1-inch OLED screen, Face ID, and an A16 processor, the new phone would represent a huge upgrade over the 2022 model, and that’s before you even get to the 48MP rear-facing camera, LPDDR5 RAM, and chunky battery.

All this, the leaker claimed, will come in at $499, a $70 increase on the previous SE but far lower than we’d expect for a handset with this kind of spec. The iPhone 13, for example, has the same 6.1-inch screen, an older A15 chip, and a camera that might have two lenses but is limited to just 12MP… and currently costs $599. Following the disappointment of the third-gen SE in 2022, this has the whiff of a comeback.

But wait! There’s more. This week another leak emerged referring to the next-gen SE, and this time it focused heavily on the device’s physical dimensions, which will apparently be a little bigger than those of the iPhone 15. The report corroborates the Face ID and single-camera elements of the previous leak, and strongly suggests that the 6.1-inch screen part is right, too.

There are a few conclusions to be drawn from the multiple rumors that have been cropping up lately about the SE 4. One is that the line isn’t dead: there’s interest, and there’s speculation, and nobody wants the SE adventure to be over. Another is that the days of the small phone appear to be gone for good; and I know some readers won’t be happy about that. The SE has historically had a niche as both the smallest and the cheapest phone Apple makes, and that’s probably about to change. But the positive is that, by embracing a narrower remit as merely the cheapest phone on its roster, the company may free itself up to deliver something altogether more compelling.

Readers with irritatingly good memories may recall this very column opining that the iPhone SE line cannot be saved, and I stand by most of that argument. But one element appears to have changed for the better, and that is Apple’s understanding of what made the second SE so good, and what made the third SE so bad. If the leaks are accurate–and that is by no means a given–then they suggest that Apple is going to return to the original idea of up-to-date innards in an older design at a lower price, a compromise that many customers will find appealing.

By improving the battery and the camera, it’s addressing two of the most notable weaknesses in previous SE models. And by bumping up from the antiquated design with a home button to something comparatively more modern, it’s making an effort to find the sweet spot between too old and too new which was so compelling in 2020. Add a $499 price tag—just $70 more than the current outdated SE—and you’ve got the best budget phone in the business.

The best Android budget phones in this range are probably the Google Pixel 7a and OnePlus 12R, and this rumored iPhone SE will give them both a run for their money, with a better camera, far better biometric security, and what should be excellent battery life.

I still maintain that the sweet spot isn’t as sweet as it was back then, and may never be again, for the simple reason that the switch from home button to full screen was a one-off shift that left a significant rump of users temporarily interested in keeping an older design. In that sense the true glory days of the SE probably are gone for good. But in the absence of a true blockbuster, the signs suggest that Apple may come up with the next best thing, which is simply a very good budget smartphone.

Foundry

Foundry

Foundry

Trending: Top stories

Apple’s bold new Vision is very hard to see right now.

Although… you call Vision Pro a flop at your own risk.

Why I’m not switching my most powerful Intel Mac to Apple silicon just yet.

As mobile devices become more popular, Apple silicon is killing the desktop Mac.

Apple TV deserves better than tvOS.

These incredible X-ray scans show off Vision Pro’s brilliant complexity.

Podcast of the week

Apple has filed a civil lawsuit against Apple, and it’s a big one. On this episode of the Macworld Podcast, we talk about the case–what it’s about, why was it filed, what this means to Apple, what it means for users, and more.

You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.

Reviews corner

Best Antivirus for Mac 2024: Top security software compared.

The rumor mill

The next major step for Apple chips could happen next year. And the AI-packed M4 chip is coming sooner than we thought.

New iPads will ‘probably’ arrive week of May 6, says trusted analyst.

iPadOS 17.5 beta confirms the new iPad Pro’s biggest upgrade.

iPhone SE leak paints a portrait of the best $499 smartphone ever.

The next Apple Watch could have a new low-power display.

Apple Pencil 3 with a new squeeze gesture could be coming soon.

Apple’s work on a folding iPad has hit a potentially fatal roadblock.

If you really think Apple is making a robot, I have an iCar to sell you.

Report: Apple TV with a built-in camera ‘discussed’ at Apple.

2024 iPhone colors: What’s coming, what’s going, and what’s the hot new trend?

Software updates, bugs, and problems

Apple warns users in 92 countries of spyware attack.

‘Ghost Touch’ bug affects more Apple Watches than previously thought.

And with that, we’re done for this week’s Apple Breakfast. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.

Apple Inc 

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