There's a brand new iPhone -- and by "brand new" I mean an iPhone that looks like an old iPhone with the name of an even older iPhone.
Don't worry, I'm here for you in this confusing and difficult time.
Announced on Wednesday, the $399 second-generation iPhone SE is now Apple's most affordable smartphone. It looks almost exactly like the iPhone 8, which it replaces and was previously priced at $449, yet has a faster processor and the same lower price as the previous iPhone SE, which the company stopped selling in September 2018.
The new model will be available for preorder this Friday and will begin arriving on April 24 by mail -- given that most Apple stores are closed.
Sure, it might seem like minor stuff -- especially against the backdrop of, you know, an economy and society ravaged by a pandemic -- but there are people who have been anxiously awaiting this very iPhone for years. Yes, this is the phone for:
1. Those who don't want a phone the size of an Olympic pool.
2. Those who love the traditional home button like their first born.
3. Those who think phones above the price of $700 are totally ludicrous.
The SE's traditional home button design and its "smaller" 4.7-inch screen fly in the face of the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, which have screens 5.8 inches or larger and start at $699.
But what exactly is new here? And is $399 actually a good value for what you get? I spent time talking with Apple executives to get some answers.
What's actually new here?
Good luck spotting the very, very minor physical differences between an iPhone 8 and an iPhone SE. (Hint: look at the location of the Apple logo on the back!) Inside, however, this is a very different phone. It has Apple's latest A13 Bionic processor -- the same exact one in the higher end iPhones.
That enables faster performance across the entire system, according to Apple, and also unlocks some camera tricks. The single 12-megapixel rear camera supports smart HDR, portrait mode for people -- sorry, no beautiful blur around Fido's face -- and can record 4K video. I look forward to testing out the camera in my full review. The $399 model also comes with 64 GB of storage. (The largest 256 GB model is priced at $549.) All are available in black, white and red.
But isn't this screen still sort of big?
There are some out there who may be disappointed by the iPhone SE's 4.7-inch screen considering that the old iPhone SE -- modeled after the iPhone 5 -- had a 4-inch screen. To that, Apple says this is a very popular phone size; it has sold more than 500 million 4.7-inch iPhone models.
Still, in comparison to other iPhones on shelves, the new SE is basically the size of a ladybug. You compare: the $699 iPhone 11's display is 6.1 inches, the $999 iPhone 11 Pro's is 5.8 inches and the $1,099 iPhone 11 Pro Max's is 6.5 inches.
What is missing?
If you look at the tech specs for the higher end iPhones you'll find a few things missing here -- although most are camera related. There is no ultrawide or telephoto cameras, no night mode for taking better photos in the dark, no facial recognition. Oh, and yeah, no headphone port.
What about the new iPhones coming in the fall?
Also missing is whatever will be coming to those brand new iPhones arriving this fall. According to reports, the standout features of the new phones (iPhone 12?) will be a revamped design and 5G connectivity.
Clearly this isn't the phone to buy if you're looking for the cutting edge but the nice thing about it is that with that new processor it will get iOS software updates for many years ahead. Apple is likely to stop supporting the older iPhone SE with iOS updates soon.
Should I wait for 5G?
Given that it took Apple four years to release a new iPhone SE, it is fairly safe to say it will be a while before this sort of smaller, cheaper model gets the faster connectivity. But hey, maybe by then 5G networks will be available in more places and we'll actually know what it's good for on a smartphone.