Apple faces critical iPhone SE decision

Apple recently changed the production mix of the iPhone 14 family to favor the larger iPhone Pro models. It would seem that those looking for flagship iPhone levels are looking for something big. But it’s the other iPhone family, the smaller line, that poses the biggest question right now. How big should the next iPhone SE be?

It is widely believed that Apple will finally get rid of the design that started in the iPhone 6 and is still used by the current iPhone SE. In its place will be the design of the iPhone XR launched in 2018. It features the long notch at the top of the screen and a full screen-to-body design. This means no home button to integrate a Touch ID sensor. Unless Apple offers a side-mounted option, the next iPhone SE could be the first with FaceID.

Still, this screen is one of the big decisions Apple has yet to make. Analyst Ross Young highlighted the curious choice facing Tim Cook and his team… to opt for a 6.1-inch OLED screen, a 6.1-inch LCD or a smaller 5.7-inch LCD. Chance Millar reports:

“Using a 6.1-inch OLED panel in the iPhone SE 4 would definitely be the more premium option, as it’s the same display technology used in the iPhone SE’s flagship models. ‘iPhone 14. This could, however, force Apple to raise the price more than it likes.

“Meanwhile, using an LCD screen between 5.7-inch and 6.1-inch would be more economical and help keep the price of the iPhone SE lower. Going for the lower end of this range of screen size would also help ease the concerns of existing iPhone SE users who don’t. I don’t want a massive display.”

Given the production timelines, if Apple is still deciding the screen size and presumably working with scratch-off build prototypes, it’s not the same as the iPhone SE fourth edition will debut in 2023. We’ve talked about it, but with the rebirth of the iPhone SE coming out in 2020 and the Third Edition coming in 2022… you can probably see where the Fourth Edition is.

Apple has to play it safe here. The iPhone SE must create its own space for success without cannibalizing the main line of iPhones. If there’s not enough separation, then you have something like the iPhone 12 Mini and 13 Mini…nice to look at, technically competent, but everyone else spent a bit more to get the vanilla iPhone.

The SE has its own branding that sits alongside the main line of iPhones. It also has the much bigger advantage of being the cheapest iPhone. Currently priced at $429 for the 64GB version and $479 for the 128GB version, both price points overlap Google’s Pixel 6a with its unique SKU of $449 for a 128GB model. Apple will have to bring the SE at the same price level to compete with Google, Samsung and others. That keeps it front and center in the midrange, while leaving a significant step up to the vanilla iPhone that will keep fans in the reign of their own hero phones.

But will the iPhone SE crowd prefer the smaller or larger screen models? Maybe they would like both as well. In which case which screen to choose? Perhaps the simplest answer is correct…the display that costs Apple the least when buying in bulk will be the winner.

Now read the latest iPhone, iPad and Mac headlines in Forbes’ weekly Apple Loop column…

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