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iPhone SE: The right phone at the right time, and that's bad news for Android

Obviously, Apple didn't plan on a budget-tightening pandemic when designing this phone, but that's the world we're in.

Published onApril 15, 2020

Apple iPhone SE 2020

Today, Apple launched the 2020 iteration of the iPhone SE. The new budget-minded iPhone looks a lot like the iPhones of a few years ago with a Touch ID-based fingerprint sensor on the front and a solitary camera lens on the back. However, it has some significant internal upgrades and a very attractive price: just $399 for the 64GB model.

Obviously, Apple has been planning on releasing the iPhone SE for quite a while now. While it was inevitable that the phone would launch sometime in either March or April this year, the company now has the benefit of launching a budget iPhone at a time when people need it the most. I don’t want to sound crass or unsympathetic, but the COVID-19 pandemic could be a real boon when it comes to the success of this phone.

Related: Apple just announced the iPhone SE 2020 for the same price as a Pixel 3a

In other words, this is the right phone at the right time. It delivers all the basic things people want from an iPhone while keeping the price as low as possible at a time when their financial situation is strained. As government stimulus checks start rolling out across the United States, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a lot of people taking $400 out of their $1,200 checks they receive this week and buying the iPhone SE.

Meanwhile, where is a similar Android phone in the US? We don’t really see one yet, and that gives Apple even more of an advantage. Not only is this the perfect time for a phone like the iPhone SE, but there’s no Android equivalent right now that US consumers can buy that would potentially steal sales from Apple.

The iPhone SE is budget done right

Apple iPhone SE 2020 in all colors

We haven’t used the iPhone SE as it’s not even in the pre-order stage yet. However, just give a quick glance at its spec sheet and you see that this is a budget phone that truly defines what makes a budget phone work.

Check out the specs we know below:

iPhone SE (2020)
4.7-inch Retina HD
1,334 x 750
Touch ID via home button
A13 Bionic
Capacity TBA
Wireless charging
12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture

7MP sensor
IP Rating
iOS 13
Black, White, Product Red
Dimensions and weight
138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm

For anyone who’s not familiar with Apple and its iPhone chips, the A13 Bionic is its top-of-the-line chipset, the same that appears in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. In other words, the iPhone SE has a chipset similar to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, if it were an Android phone instead.

It also has an IP67 rating, wireless charging, and a bare minimum of 64GB of storage. For a phone under $400, that’s incredible. In fact, I can’t think of a phone for sale here in the United States that’s less than a year old, has wireless charging, and an IP certification for under $400.

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Sure, there’s only one camera lens on the back and the phone is small, with just a 4.7-inch display. While those might seem like weak spots, they might actually be benefits. The single-lens cameras on older iPhones are still great even today, just like the single-lens systems on Pixel phones and older Galaxy S devices. People who pay $400 for a phone know that they aren’t getting a system like the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s and will likely be very happy with this.

And the small form factor might also be a benefit. There are fewer and fewer options out there for people who want a phone that’s not the size of a dinner plate, so the iPhone SE might be a very attractive option for them. In fact, there might be people who want to buy it simply for its size and consider its low price icing on the cake rather than its main appeal.

Finally, we also know that Apple will continue to deliver a steady stream of iOS updates to the iPhone SE, just as it does its flagships. This will keep the phone up to date with the latest features (at least the ones it can handle) for years to come.

Apple just drew a line in the sand for Android

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Let me just quickly list out the things about the iPhone SE that make it an appealing budget phone:

  • A price tag that is totally reasonable
  • A close-to-flagship processor (even if it’s from the previous year)
  • Wireless charging
  • A good (doesn’t need to be great) camera
  • Software updates that are fast, consistent, and will come for years

If Android OEMs want to know what a budget phone needs to be a recommended buy, that’s the list right there. There’s nothing on the Android market that has all that in the US. The Google Pixel 3a is probably the closest, but there’s no wireless charging and certainly no flagship-style processor in that phone. Even the Samsung Galaxy S10e has a price tag too high to compete with this iPhone SE (and Samsung dropped the ball big time by not bringing out a Galaxy S20e, but that’s a whole other article I’ve already written).

Related: Will the Samsung Galaxy S10e go down as just a one-off experiment?

We are relatively certain that the Google Pixel 4a will launch next month, which will likely be the best device to go head-to-head with the iPhone SE. There are also rumors that the OnePlus Z — a budget-minded smartphone from the brand — could launch soon as well. But even if the Pixel 4a or OnePlus Z could tick every box on the list above (which they almost certainly will not), Apple has a one-month head start at the minimum right now.

Once again: the iPhone SE is the right phone at the right time. Any Android OEM that launches a phone in 2020 pushing the $1,000 mark with the same features listed out above is going to look pretty foolish.

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