Since reports started coming in for an Apple product launch event this month, there has been chatter about a $199 iPhone SE. Analysts and tech insiders are increasingly building a narrative of this “$199 iPhone SE” which could increase Apple’s reach in markets like India and Africa where Cupertino is still a premium player. But the idea, though appealing, might not make it to store shelves after all.
To bring a $199 iPhone to the market, Apple needs to make changes to its business model, something the company has been averse to since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007. The company makes premium devices with a premium price tag that ranges from $399 to over $1000. Though these prices are hard to swallow in emerging markets like India where a phone from Xiaomi cost half the price of the iPhone SE, Apple hasn’t really ventured into a pricing game to gain market share.
In fact, a “cheap” iPhone doesn’t fit into Apple’s scheme of things. For a long, Apple has relied on either selling old versions of the iPhone at a more affordable price or attracting new consumers by offering the iPhone SE in emerging markets. That approach has actually worked for Apple in India, with Counterpoint Research predicting over 6 million iPhones shipped in 2021.
For the newer iPhones, Apple has relied on cashback offers and EMI schemes. By doing that Apple was able to broaden the appeal of the iPhone without offering a “cheap” iPhone.
A $199 iPhone will eventually be compared to low-cost Android smartphones from Realme and Xiaomi, not a good sign for the brand Apple which has had a carefully crafted image for years. It will also erode the aspirational value Apple phones have always had. Even the iPhone SE is not exactly a budget phone, it just has a more affordable price tag in comparison to other iPhones. The last iPhone SE, updated in early 2020, was a surprise hit and the price of $399 made much sense keeping the pandemic in mind.
The iPhone SE did wonders for Apple which took the best of its expensive iPhones — including a faster chip and an excellent camera — and fitted them into the body of the iPhone 8. Not to forget, the iPhone SE also came with features like water resistance, wireless charging and the ability to take portrait photos. People wanted an iPhone – a real iPhone at a modest price and Apple managed to deliver that.
Dual-cameras, a better selfie camera in a phone powered by the latest A15 Bionic chip could make the phone more appealing to buyers, though 5G might not still make the cut for India. From reports, the new iPhone SE will look like the last one, though with better innards. And all said and done, this phone is not going to be as affordable as budget Android phones. At best, it will be an “aspirational budget” smartphone.