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Rumor: Apple Inc. Will Update iPhone SE Next Month

By Ashraf Eassa - Updated Jul 20, 2017 at 3:03PM

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Apple's retro iPhone SE is getting a bit dated, making rumors about an imminent refresh seem sensible.

In March 2016, Apple (AAPL -1.51%) introduced the iPhone SE. The device retained the same form factor as the iPhone 5s, which itself retained the same general form factor of the iPhone 5 launched in 2012.

But it did include quite high-end internal components. It packed the processor, RAM, and rear-facing camera of the then-flagship iPhone 6s inside a compact device that, by Apple's standards, is relatively low-cost.

Apple's iPad and iPhone running the latest iOS version.

Image source: Apple.

Early shipments of the device seemed to be better than what Apple had expected, as the then-new iPhone SE was in short supply for quite a while following the launch.

Back in March, Apple offered a minor, but sensible, refresh of the iPhone SE by replacing the 16-gigabyte model with a 32-gigabyte model for the same $399 price and nixing the 64-gigabyte iPhone SE at $449 and replacing it with a 128-gigabyte model for $499.

Now, iGeneration is reporting from a "source" that Apple is planning two iPhone launch events this year -- one in August and then one in October. At the August event, iGeneration says, Apple will introduce an iPhone "SE type" device.

iPhone SE could do with a refresh

It's hard to know if this rumor is legitimate. Given that we're so close to the supposed launch and that this is the first that the public is hearing about it, I'm inclined to be skeptical.

Nevertheless, the rumor isn't exactly far-fetched. The iPhone SE seems to be a successful product for Apple, and it makes sense for the iDevice maker to build on on successful products. And let's face it: The iPhone SE, as it is today, is sorely in need of a refresh, as many aspects of the device are simply behind the times.

Upgrades for the iPhone SE

Here are the key areas where the iPhone SE needs upgrades:

  • Display technology.
  • Processor.
  • Cameras.
  • Wireless capability.

The display found on the iPhone SE is virtually identical to the one found on the iPhone 5. This display was best-in-class in 2012, but it's plain outdated today. If Apple brings the same accurate, wide-color display technology that's found on the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to this device, then this would lead to a dramatic improvement in display quality for the SE.

Now, if Apple were to move to a wide color display on a future iPhone SE, it would need to update the camera subsystems to be able to shoot images in wide color. So for such an iPhone SE, Apple would be wise to bring the front- and rear-facing cameras from the iPhone 7 to a new iPhone SE.

To handle these improved cameras, and to simply make the general user experience even "snappier" than what the already quite powerful A9 chip inside the current iPhone SE can deliver, Apple would need to upgrade the processor subsystem. Pulling in the A10 Fusion would be the obvious move.

Finally, the wireless subsystem of the iPhone SE is now well behind the times. Pulling in the wireless subsystem from the iPhone 7 would be the right move.

If Apple were to simply deliver these upgrades in the same familiar iPhone SE form factor, I think it could do quite well to meet the desires of iPhone users who want high-end experiences in a small, relatively low-cost package.

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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