Apple is missing out by not having an iPhone SE for under $300

The new iPhone SE shares the same overall design as the 2020 iPhone SE, but now includes 5G, the A15 Bionic chip, and a slightly higher starting price of $429.


Apple’s line of iPhones didn’t get any cheaper with the launch of the new one iPhone SE this week. The iPhone SE unveiled at the March “Peek Performance” event starts at $429 and brings the faster connectivity of 5G along with Apple’s A15 Bionic chip to the iPhone 13 lineup to improve the 2020 model that cost $399.

The slightly higher starting price isn’t a surprise, but Apple is missing a chance to break into a competitive, cheaper market by discontinuing the 2020 model. In 2022, $429 is still too expensive for many people. Android phone makers like Motorola, OnePlus, TCL, and Samsung are offering new “budget” phones that start under $200. And increasingly, these phones get many of the features seen on Apple’s pricier iPhones, including 6.5-inch screens (albeit at a lower 720p resolution), multiple rear cameras, and a commitment to up to four years of security updates.

To be fair, $429 is right on par with other mid-budget 5G phones like this Moto G stylus 5Gwhich costs $400, and the Google Pixel 5A, which costs $449. But the problem for me is that Apple doesn’t have anything cheaper. That leaves most people dependent on carrier discounts (of which I’m sure there will be many).

Apple offers iPhone models in the entire middle class up to the luxury class. Starting at $429, Apple seems to be offering an iPhone costs about every $100. Don’t want the iPhone SE? Well, you can pay $499 and get an iPhone 11. Want something even newer? Pay $599 and get one iPhone 12 mini. Don’t like small phones? You can get one iPhone 12 for $699. Apple’s strategy is to keep iPhone models from the last two years and sell them at a lower price.

Thanks to the impressive performance of the A-series chips and Apple’s robust approach to keeping iPhone models up to date with the latest software for years to come, the “keep the older iPhone close at a lower price” strategy is a good way to ensure there is an iPhone for everyone, regardless of the cost.

So I’m surprised Apple isn’t keeping the 4G-only 2020 iPhone SE for another year and maybe pushing it into the sub-$300 price bracket.

By making an iPhone officially available for around $299, Apple could offer an iPhone option that’s still more expensive than phones like the $160 or $200 Samsung Galaxy A03S Motorola G Power – the 2022 version, which also doesn’t include 5G – but offers an option that would be more accessible to people who just want features like iMessage along with access to Apple’s App Store and various subscriptions AppleTVPlus.

The reality is that it could be the carriers that are pushing Apple to update the iPhone SE. We’re seeing something similar on Android phones. Last year Motorola released the Moto G stylus 5G, which was based on his popular $299 Moto G Stylus. The 5G version added a few new features but also had a higher price tag of $399, likely due to the higher cost of a 5G modem. In fact, Motorola swapped the Snapdragon processors on the Moto G Stylus 2022 and Moto G Power for MediaTek processors to keep them 4G and under $300.

But Apple has a lot of retail influence of its own and might consider selling a 4G-only iPhone exclusively in its own stores or on its website. Apple already offers unlocked models of its other iPhone models, which are sometimes a bit more expensive if carriers don’t subsidize the price with offers.

If the iPhone SE 2020 doesn’t come at a lower price point, I’d love to see Apple launch a new iPhone that aims to sell for under $299. I think back to the iPhone 5C that came out alongside the iPhone 5S. The 5C was essentially an iPhone 5 repackaged in a colorful plastic case. When it released in 2013, it cost $99 upfront with a two-year carrier deal. You can buy an unlocked version directly for $549. With advances in manufacturing and a more robust phone component market, I wonder what a 2022 version of the iPhone 5C would look like. Could a mostly plastic body bring it as low as $199?

The truth is that the past two years have seen even more families across the country find themselves in financial trouble. People are careful about what they buy as inflation rises. And as much as we wish electronics got cheaper, premium devices like the PlayStation 5 are still very, very hard to come by due to ongoing supply chain issues (see our PS5 refill tracker). Could Apple make a truly “budget” version of the iPhone? I think it might. But the real question is, will it?

New Technology Era

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