iPhone 12 price leak just made the iPhone SE irrelevant

iPhone 12 render by PhoneArena
(Image credit: PhoneArena)

When I first heard that the iPhone 12 would cost $649, I didn’t believe it. But then I thought about it. The leak pointed to the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 starting at that price, and the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Max would be $699.

So, basically, the iPhone 12 Max would be the same price as its 6.1-inch predecessor in the iPhone 11. That makes sense but it’s also aggressive given that Apple is reportedly adding 5G to the mix. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S20 with 5G starts at $999.

Then this week we heard that Apple may be releasing an even cheaper version of the iPhone 12 with 4G connectivity that would cost — wait for it — $549. That would be a very affordable price for a new Apple flagship phone and a full $150 less than last year’s iPhone 11

If you were thinking about buying the $399 iPhone SE, a $549 iPhone 12 suddenly makes Apple’s entry-level iPhone look way less attractive. The iPhone 12 is rumored to offer a larger display than the iPhone SE (5.4 inches vs 4.7 inches), a faster A14 Bionic chip and dual rear cameras instead of just one for the SE.

The iPhone 12 should also offer Face ID, which some prefer to Touch ID, as well as slimmer bezels. In fact, leaks point to the iPhone 12 being even smaller than the iPhone SE despite have a larger display.

Don’t get me wrong. A $150 delta is nothing to sneeze at, and the iPhone SE has a lot of things going for it at its $399 price. The A13 Bionic processor is blazing fast and it also helps the single rear camera produce very good looking photos and portraits. However, you don’t get Night mode, which the iPhone 12 should offer.

What about battery life? The iPhone SE lasted a just-OK 9 hours and 18 minutes on the Tom’s Guide web surfing battery test. The phones on our best phone battery life list all last over 11 hours on a charge. We haven’t heard any rumors about the iPhone 12’s battery capacity, but I suspect it will be higher than what’s in the iPhone SE.

Plus, because the iPhone 12 will be powered by a 5-nanometer A14 Bionic processor, it should be more efficient overall than the 7nm A13 Bionic chip. So my money is on longer endurance with the iPhone 12.

So where does that leave the iPhone SE? In my mind, it’s still a solid entry-level phone right now. But come September — or whenever Apple holds its launch event — a sleeker, faster, longer-lasting and sharper shooting iPhone 12 should more than justify its premium. If the rumors prove accurate.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • ZinkDifferent
    Not if you want a real iPhone, with a Home Button, and not one of the Jony Ive’d fiasco phones. If the iPhone 12 had a virtual Home Button, this would be a different issue, but it looks like the return to the iconic HomeButton on iOS is at least delayed until iOS 15.

    This is the raison d’etre of the iPhone SE.
  • redwood_banana_slug
    Not if the thing that you like about the SE is its conveniently small size. I want a small phone. For me the price is a secondary factor.
  • ZinkDifferent
    redwood_banana_slug said:
    Not if the thing that you like about the SE is its conveniently small size. I want a small phone. For me the price is a secondary factor.
    The 12 is apparently a similar size to the SE, based on mockups being place side-by-side