5G iPhone SE will be for carriers, not customers

Apple is widely expected to launch a new iPhone SE model this week, the company’s third – and its fastest update yet for its cheapest range of smartphones.

Apple’s release cycle for the SE line is accelerating: The original iPhone SE was released in 2016 as an entry-level option for the iPhone lineup, priced at just $399 — compared to the $649 iPhone 6s that preceded it a few months earlier. The second generation model followed four years later, in 2020.

Now, just two years later, Apple is preparing to release the third generation iPhone SE, which is widely rumored to offer the same design as the 2020 SE, but with an upgraded 2020 processor and camera, along with 5G.

And these are the final details – the addition of 5G – that seem to be revealing Why Apple is upgrading the iPhone SE early: It’s an upgrade for carriers, not customers.

While 5G isn’t worthless, in 2022, it wasn’t the revolutionary must-have technology used by cell phone carriers. Speeds are still lackluster in most cases, requiring very specific conditions with the still nascent mmWave or mid-range networks that most major carriers in the US are still struggling to deploy. Several years later, 5G is still more of a marketing note than a revolutionary change in how most people use the internet on the go.

The addition of 5G also has an extension Much It’s also a potential downside. The 5G modems Apple gets from Qualcomm is estimated to be the most expensive component of an iPhone — more than Face ID arrays, high-resolution displays, or Apple’s A-series core processors. Even if Apple keeps every aspect of the new SE identical to the 2020 hardware, it’s The addition of 5G likely means customers either have to pay more or Apple accepts less profit (if not both).

There is precedent for this kind of price increase, too: When Apple added 5G with the iPhone 12, it raised the price of the base iPhone 12 model to $699, above the standard iPhone 11 price of $649 (although there will likely be other upgrades, Like an OLED screen, it probably affected that).

5G can hit customers another way, too: battery life. The 2020 iPhone SE has a lot of battery life, with the 1,821mAh battery you inherited from the iPhone 8 (which you share the design with). That’s significantly smaller than the iPhone 12 mini’s 2,227mAh battery, and the 12 mini has already struggled to reconcile 5G connectivity with a full day of use. The smaller battery and more drained 5G radio won’t bode well for the 2022 SE — assuming Apple keeps the same spacious design as the 2020 model.

The 2020 iPhone SE was praised when it was announced that customers will last for years before they need a new phone. So with all these issues looming, why is Apple so rush to get a new iPhone SE so soon after the last release?

Because carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T want 5G devices in stores. US carriers have spent years promoting their 5G networks (sometimes even when they aren’t 5G at all) to help them sell customers for a new device through a combination of future scrutiny and fear of missing out on the next big thing. It’s not about specific phones – it’s about getting customers to lock themselves in monthly upgrade costs and making sure they’ll continue to pay as subscribers for months and years to come.

And the flashy 5G hardware — with the promise of next-generation speeds that your reckless old phone lacked — is the perfect incentive to get customers to sign on the dotted line. (More 5G customers are also helping the networks justify the massive “race” spending to build these new 5G networks over the past few years.)

The desire to appease carriers looking to sell customers on 5G seems to be the most likely reason for the upgrade now — especially when you consider that, historically, a major driver of SE releases has been Apple switching its base iPhone to a new design. The first generation SE redesigned the old iPhone 5 and 5S – which was replaced by the iPhone 6’s larger screens the previous year – and offers a last-generation design with more modern internal hardware that can handle the latest Apple software releases.

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

It took Apple four years to release the second generation iPhone SE in 2020, which followed a similar pattern. The 2020 SE redesigned the just-discontinued iPhone 6, which the company finally removed from its flagship line last fall with the release of the iPhone 11, which unified the full-screen iPhone X design.

The iPhone SE 2020 processor – the A13 Bionic, on par with the iPhone 11 – is not in danger of becoming obsolete any time soon due to Apple’s annual software updates (the latest iOS 15 is still running on A native A9 SoC for iPhone SE).

Even if Apple sticks with the A14 (iPhone 12 equivalent) or A15 (iPhone 13) chipset, it only helps prove the 2022 SE model in the future for another year or two — that’s no reason to introduce an all-new model. And with nearly all major rumors suggesting Apple will keep the same iPhone 6 design for the 2022 update, it’s hard to imagine extensive camera upgrades (which would likely require the company to overhaul the entire back of the phone to fit the larger camera array, as seen on newer phones). ), screen, or battery life.

And while we’ll have to wait for the actual reveal on Tuesday to know for sure, all signs are now pointing to more concessions than ever to the new iPhone SE in an effort to improve the device for carriers to sell, not which customers will buy it.

Since its launch, $400 has remained a stable floor for Apple’s iPhone pricing, even as Apple continues to release more expensive models that cost more than $1,000. The $400 entry point has been discontinued. It was one of the product’s main selling points: a full-quality iPhone at a reasonable price.

Apple may have come to the conclusion that 5G connectivity has become an essential part of the standard iPhone experience. And if Apple maybe Keeping the new 5G SE at $400 while offering iPhone 13 performance and at least some battery improvements from last year’s models, it could have a somewhat compelling option to make life easier for iPhone customers with some new perks along the way. We’ll find out somehow when Apple takes the stage on Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET.