Apple (AAPL 2.45%) just announced its latest 4-inch iPhone, the iPhone SE. The device is an interesting product because it packs the performance of the iPhone 6s into a compact, iPhone 5s-esque shell at what could only be described as a "bargain" price.
Sure, the iPhone SE doesn't include all of the latest technologies found in the iPhone 6s: The Wi-Fi and cellular chips are slower, the display is still vintage 2012 and lacks 3D Touch, and there isn't a 128 gigabyte option.
The nice thing about the SE being a "cheaper" iPhone is that, should Apple continue the series, it becomes almost predictable what to expect from future iterations. In this article, I'd like to offer up my educated guesses on what we will see in the next iteration of the iPhone SE.
First things first: when will we see it?
I don't think that we will see an update to the iPhone SE later this year or even next spring. The iPhone SE is very much a "cost reduced" iPhone 6s, so it'll still be plenty relevant once the iPhone 7-series phones come out and the iPhone 6s/6s Plus serve as Apple's "mid-range" devices.
Indeed, my expectation is that the next generation iPhone SE will arrive in the spring of 2018.
The key improvements
Apple has shown that it is willing to put its best processor inside of the SE -- smart given that Apple probably won't refresh these devices on a yearly cadence -- so expect Apple to equip this device with the A11 chip that will find its way into the iPhone 7s.
The next SE will almost certainly receive 3D Touch support; although the feature is not huge today, after a couple of generations it will probably be very tough to sell a new iPhone without the feature. So, expect this to be added to the next generation SE.
Additionally, the display found on the current generation SE is now three-and-a-half years old, having first made its debut on the iPhone 5. I expect that the next iPhone SE will incorporate some of the key technology improvements found in the iPhone 6-series displays (better contrast ratio, wider viewing angles, and so on), but not much else beyond that. Even a display resolution increase might be pushing it.
Furthermore, Apple is likely to include faster Wi-Fi/cellular components, particularly as chips substantially faster than what today's iPhone SE has should be quite cheap approximately two years from now.
Next, Apple is likely to migrate from the first generation Touch ID, which made its debut in the 2013 iPhone 5s, to the second generation Touch ID that arrived in the iPhone 6s/6s Plus series.
Finally, I don't expect Apple to make significant changes to the industrial design. The company could opt to make the product a little bit thinner, or it could make the phone look more like the iPhone 6/6s.
That said, the response that I'm seeing on a lot of the Apple-centric message boards is that potential iPhone SE buyers seem to prefer the iPhone SE's industrial design over that of the iPhone 6/6s series of phones. People also seem to be quite enthusiastic about the great battery life numbers the SE has apparently been putting up; perhaps making the device thinner at the expense of battery capacity is the wrong move for this class of device.