Now in a Medium post (opens in new tab), Kuo has confirmed that it’s to be the latter after his supply chain sources confirmed that Apple had cancelled production and shipment plans for the 2024 handset.
If true, then from a hard-nosed business perspective, it’s easy to see why Apple has made the decision. Like the iPhone mini, the diminutive 2022 iPhone SE is reportedly struggling to sell in significant quantities.
On top of that, the 2024 version was expected to require a lot more work. Apple was apparently planning to move away from the thick bezels and Home button that have been a mainstay of the SE since its arrival six years ago, for a more modern design based on 2018’s iPhone XR.
Such developments not only cost Apple in terms of R&D, but would have required consumers to spend more for the end product. With no confidence that they would do so — especially in a cost-of-living crisis — it’s perhaps no surprise that Apple would shelve the phone instead of throwing good money after bad. Though it may end up proving shortsighted if the same consumers are suddenly looking for cheaper smartphones in 2024.
In short, it’s bad news for consumer choice — especially if you’re firmly embedded into iOS and on a budget. But there’s one big beneficiary from the move, according to Kuo.
Good news for Qualcomm
That winner is Qualcomm. Despite the bitter legal battles between Apple and the chipmaker, Qualcomm still makes the 5G chips found in the iPhone 14. That’s clearly not ideal for Apple, and the company is looking to change courses in the long run.
To that end, Apple was apparently intent on making the now-cancelled iPhone SE 4 a less risky testbed for its own 5G chip. After all, weaker 5G performance is excusable in an entry-level phone, but if the iPhone 16 had worse connectivity than the iPhone 15, questions would rightly be asked.
“Due to concerns that the performance of the in-house baseband chip may not be up to par with Qualcomm's, Apple initially planned to launch its baseband chip in 2024 and let the low-end iPhone SE 4 adopt it first, and decide whether to let the iPhone 16 use its baseband chip depending on the development status of iPhone SE 4,” Kuo writes.
With the iPhone SE 4 apparently abandoned, Kuo believers the chances of Apple sticking with Qualcomm for the iPhone 16 have “significantly increased”.
Qualcomm’s recent financial forecast had already suggested it would continue to supply 5G chips for the iPhone 15. Without a SE-shaped testbed for Apple to test its own solution, Qualcomm may well find the iPhone maker a reluctant yet reliable customer for years to come.