Apple just announced a new, cheaper iPhone model, marking the first time it has launched a new phone without one of its glitzy in-person events as most of the country remains under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new, second-generation iPhone SE carries the same name as the original iPhone SE that launched in 2016. It costs $399, and preorders begin on Friday, and arrives by April 24.
The phone is launching at a difficult time for Apple as it faces an environment where millions have lost their jobs due to the health crisis and production delays that have hit its manufacturing facilities in China. In February, Apple warned on revenue guidance for its second quarter, citing weak demand in China due to the spread of coronavirus and lower iPhone supplies. But Apple seems confident it will be able to meet demand for its new iPhone SE.
The iPhone SE is compelling for Apple and consumers. It has many of the same internal components as the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, but they are housed in a body that's practically identical to 2017's iPhone 8. Apple can reuse the older design of the iPhone 8 while improving other areas of the phone, like the screen and the processor. That helps Apple create a more affordable device that's appealing to consumers who don't want to spend more on Apple's other phones. (The iPhone 11 starts at $699 and the iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999.) It's the same strategy Apple used for the original iPhone SE, which had the same design as the iPhone 5.
Since most Apple stores are closed, people aren't able to try it in person before buying it.
But you may not have to. The iPhone SE looks just like an iPhone 8. It's also a better phone than the iPhone 8, which until Wednesday, started at $449. The iPhone 8 will be discontinued.
Apple's A13 processor, which is used in the iPhone 11, allows for some upgrades to existing parts used in the iPhone SE. It helps improve camera quality in places like HDR and portrait mode. HDR improves clarity in pictures with dark and really bright areas. And portrait mode offers improved blurring around the edges of faces thanks to software tweaks Apple can make with the more powerful processor. It was available on the iPhone 8 Plus but not the iPhone 8.
Also, for folks who don't want to spend hundreds of dollars more on Apple's flagship phones, the iPhone SE is compelling. The faster processor means it can run all the apps and games that Apple's more expensive phones run.
Other features carried over from the iPhone 8 include wireless charging, a home button with Touch ID instead of facial recognition, and IP67 water and dust resistance. The iPhone SE adds support for recording 4K video at a smoother rate of 60 frames per second, stereo recording for video, a front-facing camera with stabilized video and portrait mode, and support for fast charging with an 18-watt charger. There's no headphone jack, so you'll have to use an adapter if you have regular headphones.
The iPhone SE will come with 64 GB of storage on the base model, which isn't that much but is fine for folks who don't store a lot of photos, videos and apps. I recommend getting the middle model, which has 128 GB of storage for $449, or the higher-end 256 GB option which costs $549. It includes a free year of Apple TV+, Apple's new video service.
Correction: This post was updated to reflect the iPhone 8 did not have portrait mode, it was limited to the iPhone 8 Plus.