iPhone SE Gets 5G, A15 Bionic; Needs Design Revamp

During its first event of 2022, Apple announced the launch of its newest iPhone SE. This is the third iteration of the iPhone SE, the first of which launched back in 2016 and the second in 2020. As expected, the newest addition to the iPhone family is 5G capable, an increasingly necessary feature at its price point.

The selling points

When the iPhone SE launched in 2020, 5G connectivity was still a rather limited feature due to the restricted reach of 5G networks. In the US, Apple’s largest market by revenue, 5G networks were limited to low-band spectrum that yielded meager improvements over LTE, or constituted isolated pockets of mmWave in a spattering of metro areas. That is no longer the case. T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum now covers over 230 million Americans, while Verizon’s C-band spectrum, launched earlier this year, now covers about 90 million. Similar expansions are taking place across the world and 5G connectivity is now expected for nearly all devices priced above $300 in markets like China, Western Europe, South Korea, Japan and the US. Besides, the cost of putting 5G components in a device has declined.

The iPhone SE 5G features Apple’s 5nm process A15 Bionic chip, also used in the iPhone 13 series and a significant step-up from the A13 Bionic chip used in the iPhone SE 2020. The A15 Bionic chip will also give the iPhone SE the most powerful processor in its price segment by a significant margin. This will be more than enough processing power for the day-to-day tasks that most users in this price segment engage in, while being able to handle more demanding tasks like gaming at an affordable price point. The updated chipset also ensures that iPhone SE users will have the processing power to get the most out of Apple’s features, including AR and XR, machine learning, and new features that will emerge in the next few years.

Counterpoint Research

The drawbacks

Where the latest iPhone SE falls short is in camera features and design. The previous two launches of the iPhone SE played off the nostalgia that many consumers had for the classic iPhone design, home button and all. But this nostalgia may be wearing off as Apple recycles the same design for the third time with the iPhone SE 5G. Meanwhile, mid-tier Android devices now regularly feature 6.5” displays, multi-lens camera arrays and relatively thin bezels. The iPhone SE 5G still features just a single rear camera lens and the dated design of the iPhone 8, including a 4.7” display and chunky bezels. If Apple is trying to win Android users away, a design revamp seems due.

For many low-to-mid range Android users, the combination of 5G connectivity and Apple’s latest silicon at an affordable price will lure them to the iOS ecosystem. But the dated design of the device and relatively mundane specs outside of the A15 Bionic chip may not generate excitement in markets like China where consumers are very conscious of specifications and look to get the best bang for their buck.

Conclusion

The US, Japan and Western Europe are likely to be the best-performing markets for the new iPhone SE due to their strong iOS installed base and the strong performance of previous iPhone SE devices. At the same time, the improved chipset and 5G connectivity may help Apple gain share in increasingly important markets like China and India.

There are millions of low-end Android users across the globe who aspire to own an iPhone but don’t have the resources to join the most premium ecosystem in the world. The launch of a powerful, 5G enabled and affordable iPhone SE amid an environment of rising ASPs may be enough to convince a significant number of Android users to make the switch.

A podcast discussing the launch of the iPhone SE 2020 can be accessed here. For more insight on the latest iPhone SE launch, read here.