The curious case of the reappearance of the Apple iPhone SE over the past few days on the Apple website is exactly what it is—not a mystery. The iPhone SE that went on sale, and eventually got completely sold out quickly, was being offered at a significantly lesser price. The 32GB version was priced at $249 while the 128GB version was selling for $299. The former is $100 lesser than its original price, while the latter is a whole $150 lesser than its price when launched. Clearly, the re-emergence of the iPhone SE was taken full advantage of by those who wanted an iPhone, but were perhaps put off by the higher price tags of the iPhone XR, the iPhone XS or even last year’s iPhone X. To put this into perspective, the least expensive iPhone if we are to not consider the iPhone SE is the iPhone 7, which sells upwards of $400.
This move, to bring back the iPhone SE even if in limited numbers, would have surprised us at any other time. But not, here and now. Apple is just emerging from the announcement earlier this month, that the company was slashing revenue forecast from iPhone sales for the Q4 2018 quarter—down from an earlier estimated $89 billion to around $84 billion. $84 billion isn’t a hardship by any means, but this change of estimates, admitted by the company, indicate a larger problem—they aren’t selling as many iPhones as they had expected. A number of reasons were pointed out. The slowing down of iPhone sales in Greater China, for example. Currency valuation fluctuations, reductions in subsidies by carriers in many countries and also the fact that enough people didn’t upgrade to the new iPhones, all combine for the lesser than cheerful outlook.
We have to admit that some of these problems are genuine, but a lot of why enough iPhones aren’t being sold is also self-inflicted, so to say. The high price tags of the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max are undeniable, but that could perhaps have been cushioned slightly had the iPhone XR been the truly affordable iPhone which many were expecting it to be. To put this into perspective, the iPhone XR still retails in India around Rs75,000 while the iPhone XS prices start around Rs99,900.
With this, we circle back to the iPhone SE. This could very well be Apple testing the waters, we feel. The first thing it wanted to reaffirm was an interest in iPhones, if genuinely affordable. Secondly, it could perhaps also be checking user interest in smaller screen smartphones. The conclusion that it got in addition to the two questions above is that a lot of potential iPhone buyers aren’t necessarily bothered about running the latest and the greatest hardware either.
After all, the iPhone SE was released in 2016, and runs the same internals as the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus—including the Apple A9 processor, 32GB and 128GB storage options and a more compact 4-inch screen inside a chassis that reminds us of the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s. The question still remains—could this exercise get Apple to reconsider updating the iPhone SE or launch a successor from the ground up? The demand for more affordable price tags will mean Apple could keep enough technology gap to distinguish between a possible new affordable iPhone and the top-of-the-line iPhones (the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max at present).