It's been a little more than a year since Apple released its third generation iPhone SE, though that hasn't stopped rumblings about a new version of Apple's budget phone. Are we ready for the iPhone SE 4? I don't think so, and it sounds like I'm not the only one to think that way.
Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Tom O’Malley think that there’s very little chance at getting a fourth-generation iPhone SE in 2024, as had been rumored in some quarters. Instead, in a research note shared with MacRumors, they say that “multiple conversations” with the companies in Apple’s supply chain have them convinced there's no iPhone SE update on the horizon.
The analysts say that bringing the next iPhone SE to market hinges on how fast Apple can ready its rumored in-house 5G modem. From the looks of it, the 5G modem isn’t ready for rollout — it's certainly not going to be a part of the iPhone 15 launch in the fall — which makes a 2024 iPhone SE launch unlikely, too.
Considering how there was a four year gap between the first and second iPhone SEs, followed by less than two years between the second and third generation models, I’m perfectly fine if we don’t get a fourth generation model next year, even though I'm an iPhone SE fan. The longer stretch between new versions should help me save up more money before my next iPhone upgrade.
Even more time to save up for a new phone
There was a time when I would buy the latest iPhones on launch day, which meant saving the money to upgrade every year. It may not sound like a whole lot, but believe me when I say it does when you crunch the numbers — more so when I was buying them at the outright costs. I started doing this with the iPhone 3Gs first, then with the subsequent releases up until the iPhone 6s Plus.
If you think $999 is costly for some of today's best phones, I was actually crazy enough to dish out over $950 back in 2015 to buy the 128GB iPhone 6s Plus outright. Once I was able to convince myself that I no longer needed to buy a new flagship iPhone every year, that’s when I finally committed to settling on a stripped-down device with the first iPhone SE. And you know what? It was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Eventually, I moved up to the iPhone SE (2020) when it was released, which gave me four years of not having to buy a smartphone. We’re talking about thousands of dollars in savings during this period, so I can’t even fathom dishing out $1,000 for any smartphone today, even if it is one of the best iPhones.
Apple's SE models may not have all the bells and whistles as the pricier handsets in the lineup, but the iPhone SE gets the job done. Fundamentally, the series kept intact the three biggest things I looked for in a smartphone — responsive performance, good quality cameras, and something that would last me a day of battery life. The iPhone SE models I've owned have checked off all the boxes.
It’s still too early for a new SE
Apple’s 5G modem plays a critical role in all of this. Since 2018, rumors have suggested Apple is working to build its own modem rather than rely on Qualcomm for that critical part. It's largely expected the iPhone 15 coming later this year is going to continue to use a Qualcomm-supplied modem. That may not be good news for Apple, but it is for consumers if the next iPhone SE does indeed shift to a design similar to the standard iPhone 14 with an OLED display.
You can bet it’s going to cost more than the current $429 price of the iPhone SE, which brings me back to my point on the savings people would get by delaying the next model until at least 2025. People who own the iPhone SE crave value, they don’t care as much about the specs. It’s more about what the phone could do for them, less about how soon it’ll come out. And at least three years between SE releases feels about right.