Gizmos

Somehow Apple Is About to Release a New iPhone

Not even a pandemic could stop the latest SE model.

People are seen in front of a closed Apple store.
Do not enter. Morris Mac Matzen/AFP via Getty Images

Apple is expected to start taking orders for its new 4.7-inch iPhone SE as soon as Friday—a stunningly normal development considering there’s a pandemic, most Apple Stores are shuttered, and the nose-diving economy would deter most companies from even dreaming of rolling out a new product right now.

The device is a follow-up to the 2016 iPhone SE, a smaller-budget option that was well received at the time. Whereas the 2016 iPhone SE fit the processing power and capabilities of the iPhone 6 into the body of an iPhone 5, the 2020 iPhone SE will essentially have the body of an iPhone 8 and the features of an iPhone 11, such as an A13 processor. The phone will come in white, black, and red, and have 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB memory options. Early reports suggest that the new phone will cost $399. It is unclear when the products will ship.

Several tech blogs learned that the iPhone SE’s release was imminent after the listing for the Belkin Invisiglass Ultra Screen Protection in the Apple Store accidentally listed its size as being for the “iPhone SE/8/7.” Apple subsequently removed references to the iPhone SE from the listing.

Rumors had been floating around for a while that Apple would release a more affordable iPhone in March, though the onset of the coronavirus made those rough projections even more uncertain. The Chinese factories that make up of the backbone of the company’s supply chain had reportedly been operating at 30 percent to 50 percent capacity due to labor shortages and transportation hurdles that resulted from the country’s quarantine measures. The hiring of seasonal workers at the factories was also a challenge due to travel restrictions, and attempts to ensure that plants did not become new infection sites led many of them to temporarily shut down. However, production was slowly picking up again in major manufacturing sites in Zhengzhou and Shanghai toward the end of February.

A cheaper device may indicate that Apple is trying to court a broader array of customers, as sales for increasingly expensive smartphones have declined—and certainly, with millions of layoffs across the globe, fewer people will want to shell out $700 to $1,000 for a top-of-the-line iPhone the next time they need a new device. Nonetheless, this phone comes at a time when the company has had to cut its quarterly revenue guidance, largely due to depressed supply and demand in China. Apple closed all its stores in greater China on Feb. 2 and in all other countries on March 14, a couple days after the World Health Organization designated COVID-19 as a pandemic. While the company began resuming operations at its China stores in mid-March, it decided to extend its closures in the U.S. and other countries beyond the initial March 27 reopening date. For once, when a new Apple phone rolls out, there won’t be a line in sight.

For more on the most important stories in the world of technology, listen to What Next: TBD.