Following many months of speculation, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) this week announced the second-generation iPhone SE (not the "iPhone 9," as some rumors had suggested). Many analysts had expected the mid-range handset to launch earlier, but it's likely that the coronavirus outbreak and related supply-chain disruptions pushed that timeline back. On the other hand, Apple also said that its new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro is available to order, ahead of schedule. You win some, you lose some.
Here's everything you need to know about the second-generation iPhone SE.
iPhone 11 specs in an iPhone 8 body
Much like the original iPhone SE from 2016, Apple is using the same overall strategy of recycling an old chassis -- in this case the iPhone 8's body -- and incorporating state-of-the-art internal specs like the A13 Bionic chip that also powers the iPhone 11 lineup. That means many of other prominent specs are largely familiar: a 4.7-inch display, a Touch ID home button, and a single rear-facing 12-megapixel camera.
Apple is adding more camera capabilities like portrait mode with bokeh, portrait lighting, and smart HDR, but these are primarily being facilitated by improved image-processing software using the same hardware.
Just like its predecessor, the new iPhone SE starts at $399. Essentially an upgraded version of the iPhone 8 that's even more affordable, the Mac maker has now discontinued the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which had received a price cut last fall to start at $450. The second-generation iPhone SE is positioned as an extremely competitive mid-range smartphone, which could appeal to more price-conscious consumers at a time when the global economy is very likely facing a recession due to COVID-19 disruptions.
The new model comes as Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary Google is expected to be launching a mid-range Pixel 4a, the successor to last year's Pixel 3a, which didn't have to compete with a newly refreshed mid-range iPhone.
Apple just preemptively stole Google's thunder: The Pixel 4a's specs likely won't stack up very well against the new iPhone SE, particularly since the Pixel 4a is expected to use a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 chip that can't keep up with the A13 Bionic.
Looking ahead, the real question for Apple's core iPhone business is whether the 5G-equipped flagship iPhone models will be delayed due to the coronavirus. The Nikkei Asian Review reported last month that Apple was contemplating "delaying the launch by months," but Bloomberg this week suggested the launch could be just "multiple weeks later than normal."
When the coronavirus outbreak had just begun, Apple had warned that the virus was causing supply-chain disruptions. China has now largely contained the crisis, and the global electronics supply chain is slowly ramping back up. But if the global economy falls into a deep recession in the months and quarters ahead, the market for $1,000 smartphones might take a hit.