iPhone SE 4 tipped for attractive price — but it will arrive too late to matter

 IPhone SE 4 concept.
IPhone SE 4 concept.

There's some good news floating around the internet if you like the idea of low-cost option remaining a part of Apple's lineup of best iPhones. A tipster claims the iPhone SE 4 won't cost any more than $499, as Apple looks to undercut the midrange competition on price.

As a known cheapskate, I welcome news of Apple maintaining a low asking price for the SE model since not everyone can swing the $799 cost of the iPhone 15. But there's another number that's more significant than the $499 iPhone SE pricing cap that's now floating around — and it's "2025."

That's the earliest Apple watchers are expecting a new iPhone SE to appear. And barring a surprise appearance at WWDC 2024, that means there will be no iPhone SE 4 at any point this year. To me, that lengthy pause between iPhone SE updates — the current model came out in 2022 — undercuts whatever good pricing rumors are out there. And it makes the iPhone SE 4 a tough sell whenever that phone eventually decides to reveal itself.

iPhone SE 4 pricing — what we've heard

As old as the existing iPhone SE 2022 may be, it's still got the cheapest price of any phone in Apple's current lineup at $429. A leaker by the name of Revegnus claims that Apple is aiming to offer the iPhone SE 4 at the same price, or at the very least, only increase the price by 10% over the current model. That would mean a maximum cost of $499, which would still mean that the iPhone SE 4 could compete on price with the best cheap phones out there.

I don't know how much stock you want to put into the pricing claims of an unknown social media poster about a phone that's about a year away from its release, but at least this rumor has some common sense to it. The whole point of the iPhone SE is to offer that iPhone experience at a discounted rate, so it would make sense for Apple to keep the cost of any new model as close to $429 as possible.

As to other rumored iPhone SE 4 changes, the biggest probably concerns the phone's design. The current model draws on the look of the iPhone 8 for inspiration, which means it's a pretty dated design at this point. Most observers expect the new SE to adopt the look of the iPhone 14, meaning smaller bezels than the current model; it would also mean the Face ID camera and sensors would be housed in a notch as opposed to the Dynamic Island cutout that's been available on all new iPhones since the iPhone 15's release last fall.

The iPhone SE typically adopts the Apple silicon that powered the flagships released the previous fall. Assuming a 2025 release for the iPhone SE 4, that could mean the A18 chipset tipped to power this year's iPhone 16 releases. If that doesn't pan out though, we could see at least an A16 Bionic or A17 Pro chipset inside the next iPhone SE, which would be represent a fairly significant upgrade for the budget phone.

iPhone SE 4 — too little, too late?

Google Pixel 8a.
Google Pixel 8a.

Before you get too excited, though, remember that Apple is already behind the curve when it comes to midrange phones. The Pixel 8a just made its debut, and it managed to retain the price of its predecessor, with Google's new phone available for $499 in the U.S.

Put another way, that's the same price now being touted for the iPhone SE, only Google's phone is out right now — not confined to some far out release window.

It also doesn't help Apple's case that the Pixel 8a delivers just about everything you could want in a midrange phone. AI-powered capabilities? The Pixel 8a offers much of what you can find on the Pixel 8 after adopting the Tensor G3 chipset powering that phone. In fact, my colleague John Velasco specifically cites Pixel 8a AI features as putting the iPhone SE to shame.

Terrific cameras? Even with no reaal upgrades to the camera hardware from the Pixel 7a, the Pixel 8a remains the best camera phone you can get for less than $500. This new model even delivers strong battery life, long a weak point for Google and its phones.

Assuming the iPhone SE 4 sticks to Apple's usual spring release schedule for SE models, by the time the new phone is ready to make its debut, we're already going to be waiting for the likely launch of the Pixel 9a. The iPhone SE figures to be even further behind leading midrange handsets, and there's not a lot a newer, though still old design is going to do to fix that.

Doubtlessly, there will be a dedicate segment of iPhone users who will upgrade to the iPhone SE 4 no matter when it arrives. But any chance to steal some of Google's momentum with its lower-cost Pixel and convince Android users that Apple's low-cost experience is worth checking out will be long gone by 2025. It's going to take more than an attractive price  to win those eyeballs back.

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