Apple has for years been trying to attract budget-conscious shoppers to its iPhone lineup with a variety of devices. Most recently, the company introduced the iPhone 11 for $699, making it more affordable than the $749 iPhone XR the device replaced.
But rumors claim that Apple is going to bring back the iPhone SE, a budget-friendly device dropped from its product lineup in September 2018, two years after its original debut.
The iPhone SE was a decidedly underpowered phone that came with a design reminiscent of old iPhone models. But what it lacked in design, it made up for in affordability, thanks to its $349 price tag. Apple ultimately discontinued the device to make room for higher-end options, but now there’s talk of an iPhone SE 2 making a comeback in early 2020. Or possibly an iPhone 9, or maybe just 'iPhone,' depending on what rumors you believe.
As time has gone on, more and more rumors have surfaced about Apple's next smartphone, with the latest reports suggesting that Apple is ramping up production with an eye toward a spring debut. Here's everything we've heard so far about Apple’s budget-friendly iPhone 9.
iPhone 9 rumors (updated Feb. 21)
- Latest: iPhone 9 might have a new name, and it's a real throwback
- Even though coronavirus is causing problems in the Chinese supply chain, Apple is still intending a spring launch for the iPhone 9.
- Sources speaking to Fast Company have backed up earlier rumors of a $400 pricetag and a March release date.
- Evan Blass has posted an image of what looks to be a mobile carrier's 2020 timeline, which puts the release of the iPhone 9 in mid-March.
- A Chinese rumor says that the iPhone 9 has entered trial production, with the plan being to launch the phone in March.
- Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has claimed that the larger edition of the budget iPhone, the iPhone SE 2 Plus, will have a Touch ID fingerprint scanner as part of its power button.
iPhone 9 release date
Most of what we know about the iPhone 9 comes byway of a pair of investor notes from TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who said that he anticipates Apple releasing the iPhone 9 (or the iPhone SE 2 as he continues to call it) in the first half of this year.
MacRumors spied a report from a Barclays analyst based on interviews with companies in Apple's supply chain claims that the iPhone 9 will go into production in February, which would fit in with that first quarter release rumor.
We could be getting ever closer to the iPhone 9's debut. A Bloomberg report claims that production will ramp up on the new phone in February, which has also been mentioned by a Chinese rumor, that also says we'll see the iPhone 9 launch by March.
Narrowing this down further is a post by Twitter leaker Evan Blass, which shows a timeline (shown below), likely from a US mobile carrier based on previous leaks Blass has made, with the iPhone 9's launch date identified as mid-March.
iPhone 9 price
Trying to determine a price for Apple’s upcoming iPhone 9 could be difficult, but all signs so far are pointing to the fact that it’ll be the cheapest model on store shelves.
Apple’s current cheapest iPhone, the iPhone 8, costs $449. The iPhone SE had a starting price of $399 at launch, so it's possible Apple could keep the price at $349 or bridge the gap with a $399 price tag.
Another note from Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo puts the price of the iPhone SE 2 at $399, the same as the launch price for the original iPhone SE. That’s $300 cheaper than the basic iPhone 11, and would be a $50 discount on the iPhone 8, the phone that the iPhone 9 is allegedly based on. It also happens to be the same price as the Google Pixel 3a, another cut-down version of a premium phone, and likely the device Apple is trying to target.
iPhone 9 design and display
Ming-Chi Kuo's October analyst note claimed that Apple's iPhone 9 will look nearly identical to the iPhone 8. Kuo also said that Apple will maintain a 4.7-inch display in the iPhone SE 2, and also offer a 5.5-inch or 6.1-inch model too, which he expects will be called the SE 2 Plus.
For the standard SE 2, it's expected that Apple is going to keep the hefty bezels around the screen, as well as the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the front. However, another prediction from Kuo says that the SE 2 Plus will use a power button-mounted fingerprint scanner, meaning that the home button won't be needed.
What might that look like? Some iPhone 9 renders posted by leaker @OnLeaks on iGeeksBlog suggest a phone that looks pretty much like the iPhone 8, only with some minor design tweaks to distinguish the two models
According to another report from The Elec, LG Display will be the likely supplier for the iPhone 9's screen. The report said that the panel was undergoing last-minute quality checks ahead of production.
However, there have been some other reports that have surfaced in recent months that call into question Apple’s design plans. Chief among them is this video from Weibo that suggests the iPhone 9 will look more like the iPhone X, complete with a notch.
BGR also obtained images of what the site said could be the iPhone 9’s design, which points to a design nearly identical to the iPhone X, but with squared-off metal rails like the iPhone 4/original iPhone SE. It's this design that the attractive unofficial render of the iPhone 9 below looks to be based on, which looks awesome but doesn't fit with the story told by the other leaks.
Some of this confusion could be triggered by Apple's iPhone 12 release plans, which apparently includes a 5.4-inch version among its four models. (The remaining iPhone 12 versions would feature screens that are 6.1 inches and larger.) Some rumor sites may be crossing the wires between the 4.7-inch iPhone 9 and the 5.4-inch phone reportedly coming later this fall.
Alas, Apple hasn’t confirmed a design plan, so we don’t know which version is most likely to launch.
iPhone 9 specs
In a potentially interesting move, Apple may not want to cut the power in its iPhone 9. According to Kuo, the company will bring the same A13 processor that powers its iPhone 11 lineup to the iPhone 9. Add that to 3GB of RAM, and it might have solid performance.
Aside from that, Kuo didn’t have much to say about Apple’s spec plans for the iPhone 9. According to a rumor from Mac Otakara, there’s a possibility of Face ID making its way to the handset, but aside from that, the rumors are so far scant on Apple’s specs plan.
Unlike the four iPhone 12 models expected to launch in fall of 2020, the iPhone 9 won't have 5G connectivity, Kuo says.
iPhone 9 display
Since it's based on the iPhone 8, the iPhone 9 is believed to have a 4.7-inch LCD display. However, a recent rumor from Apple's Taiwanese suppliers has said that the 9 may come with a choice of two different sizes - the basic 4.7-inch version or a larger version that could either be 5.5 inches or 6.1 inches. 6.1 inches is the current size of Apple's two other LCD display phones - the iPhone XR and iPhone 11, while 5.5 inches was the size of the display on the iPhone 8 Plus. While 5.5 inches would be very small compared to rival displays, it would give the iPhone 9 a distinct selling point, and would be welcomed by customers who aren't bothered by the enormous panels currently found on many leading handsets.
As noted above, an alternative rumor says that Apple is working on an iPhone based on the iPhone 8 but with a 5.4-inch display, the extra space coming from swapping out the Touch ID button for a Face ID sensor and filling up what used to be the bezels with more screen space. That would be an expensive addition to a supposedly budget phone, and the 5.4-inch model may, in fact, be part of Apple's iPhone 12 plans for the fall.
iPhone 9 or iPhone SE 2?
While we and the rest of the tech community have assumed that the successor to the iPhone SE would be simply named the iPhone SE 2, there's a chance that this budget model will receive the designation of iPhone 9, this number being unused due to Apple skipping from iPhone 8 to iPhone X. This is based on a source speaking to Macotakara, who described a phone with the same features that we've seen mentioned above, but with this alternative name.
While calling the new budget iPhone the iPhone 9 would make for a sensible progression up to the iPhone X models (Apple is still selling the XR as another mid-price iPhone) and then to the most recent iPhone 11 series, it does also make sense to continue the SE naming convention if that's the market Apple's aiming for. We'll have to wait and see what other rumors claim before we make a call on which name is correct.
iPhone 9 wishlist: What we want
The time is certainly right for an iPhone 9. Although Kuo has given us a good sense of what we can — and cannot — expect from an iPhone SE sequel, there are still some things we’d want to see.
Although rumors point to Apple using an iPhone 8 design, it would make sense for Apple to bring Face ID to the iPhone 9. The company has been offering this feature for years, and it’s proven to be easy to use. Offering it in the iPhone 9 could boost the device’s appeal.
Apple should also be careful not to skimp on the iPhone 9’s camera. Sure, it won’t have the same sensors as the iPhone 11 Pro, but it should at least offer a good-enough experience that the pictures won’t look out of place against other iPhones.
Ultimately, the iPhone 9 needs to take as many cues as reasonably possible from the higher-end iPhone 11 lineup and offer plenty of colors for those who care about style. And when it’s all said and done, it should be a device that can last and perform well for at least a few years without becoming obsolete.
Hopefully, that’s not a tall order.