Apple has unveiled a new version of its iPhone SE in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, giving customers access to many of the iPhone 11’s high-end features for a fraction of the price.
Like its predecessor, which launched in March 2016, the second-generation iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch screen and physical Home button with TouchID fingerprint reader.
However, it has been upgraded with an A13 Bionic chip — the same one that is in Apple’s current flagship iPhone 11 models, which have a starting price of £729 (R16900).
While it only has a single 12-megapixel camera system on the rear, Apple claims it is capable of creating depth-effect photos using Portrait Mode, just like its multi-lens siblings.
The iPhone SE comes in three colours — black, white and red — and will be available for pre-order from Friday, April 17, starting at £419 (R9800).
‘The first iPhone SE was a hit with many customers who loved its unique combination of small size, high-end performance and affordable price,’ said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
‘The new second-generation iPhone SE builds on that great idea and improves on it in every way — including our best-ever single-camera system for great photos and videos — while still being very affordable.’
The body of the new iPhone SE is made from an aluminium frame with glass covering the back and front, meaning it is capable of wireless charging.
It is water- and dust-resistant, with an IP67 rating for water resistance up to 1 metre for 30 minutes.
Thanks to the A13 Bionic chip, the single rear camera is able to support many of the advanced cameras features that were previously only available on multi-lens iPhones, such as Portrait mode, all six Portrait Lighting effects and Depth Control.
The rear camera also supports high-quality video capture at 4K up to 60 frames per second, and extended dynamic range.
‘The SE is Frankenstein’s monster in a ball dress, a glamorous package with the body of an iPhone 8 and the brain of a more modern device,’ said Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at Uswitch.com
‘With a pocket-friendly 4.7-inch screen, A13 Bionic chip, 3GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage, this phone is powerful enough for daily life, but it won’t give you the bells and whistles of top-end devices.’
Apple hopes that the lower-cost model could broaden its appeal to budget-conscious customers and also attract more consumers to Apple services, which are a growing driver of revenue.
However, it lacks 5G capability and Apple’s facial recognition system to unlock the device — instead relying on a fingerprint sensor that featured on older models.
Analysts’ research has indicated that the time users keep a smartphone before upgrading is growing as prices for the latest version each year continue to rise.
Recently, a range of more mid-range, mid-price handsets, including Samsung’s Galaxy A series and Google’s Pixel 3A, have grown in popularity alongside mid-tier devices from smaller manufacturers.
‘When it was planning this product, Apple couldn’t have known it would land in a market in complete turmoil as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic,’ said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight.
‘Although the new iPhone SE was undoubtedly designed to take the fight to Android rivals, it now also offers a more affordable iPhone at a time when many consumers will find it hard to justify spending $1,000 or more on one of Apple’s flagship devices.’
Every previous iPhone has been unveiled in a polished presentation in front of fans, but large events remain banned in Apple’s home base of Santa Clara County, California, where public officials ordered the first lockdowns in the United States to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Apple will begin selling the new iPhone SE online while its stores around the world are closed, except those within its greater China sales region.
It will be available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB models, starting at £419 (R9800) for the 64GB version.
The new SE will come bundled with a one free year of the Apple TV+ streaming television service, similar to Apple’s flagship devices released in the autumn.