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

iPhone SE 2022 pre-order: Where to buy Apple's latest iPhone

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


Apple’s iPhone range hasn’t gotten cheaper with the launch of the new iPhoneSE this week. iPhone SE revealed at March Peek Performance Event starts at $429, bringing the faster connectivity of 5G with Apple’s A15 Bionic chip from the iPhone 13 lineup to improve on the 2020 model that was $399.

The slightly higher starting price is no surprise, but Apple’s discontinuation of the 2020 model misses an opportunity to enter a competitive market at a low price. In 2022, $429 is still too expensive for many people. Android phone makers such as Motorola, OnePlus, TCL and Samsung are offering new “budget” phones starting under $200. And increasingly, these phones get many of the features of Apple’s more expensive iPhones, including 6.5-inch screens (albeit at a lower resolution of 720p), multiple rear cameras, and up to four years of security updates.

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

Apple offers iPhone models ranging from midrange to luxury levels. From $429 and up, Apple seems to offer an iPhone priced roughly 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 a iPhone 12 Mini. Don’t like small phones? You can get a iPhone 12 for $699. Apple’s strategy is to keep iPhone models from the previous 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, the “Keep the old iPhone at a lower price” strategy is a good way to ensure there’s an iPhone for everyone, no matter the price.

So it’s surprising to me that Apple isn’t keeping the 2020-only 4G iPhone SE for another year, possibly putting it in the sub-$300 price range.

By officially making an iPhone around $299 available, Apple could include an iPhone option that is still priced higher 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 as well as access to the Apple App Store and various subscriptions like Apple TV Plus.

The reality is that carriers may be pushing Apple to upgrade the iPhone SE. We see something similar happening with Android phones. Last year, Motorola launched the Moto G 5G Stylus, which was based on its popular $299 Moto G Stylus. The 5G version added a few new features, but also had a higher price of $399, likely due to the higher cost of a 5G modem. In fact, Motorola replaced Snapdragon processors with MediaTek processors on the 2022 Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power to keep them 4G and under $300.

But Apple has a lot of retail sway 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, sometimes at slightly higher prices when carriers aren’t subsidizing the price with deals.

If the 2020 iPhone SE can’t be kept at a lower price, I’d like to see Apple release a new iPhone designed to sell for less than $299. I think back to the iPhone 5C, which came out alongside the iPhone 5S. The 5C was basically a refurbished iPhone 5 in a colored plastic case. When it was released in 2013, it cost $99 upfront with a two-year carrier contract. You can buy an unlocked version for $549. With advancements in manufacturing and a more robust market for phone components, I wonder what a 2022 version of the iPhone 5C would look like. Could a mostly plastic body go down to $199?

The truth is, the past two years have brought even more financial hardship to more families across the country. People are careful what they buy because inflation is on the rise. And while we’d love to see electronics get cheaper, ongoing issues with the supply chain have made high-end devices like the PlayStation 5 still very, very hard to come by (see our PS5 Restock Tracking). Could Apple make a truly “budget” version of the iPhone? I think it could. But the real question is, will he?