Is Apple paving the way for a new budget mini iPhone?

Was last weekend's cut-price iPhone SE clearance sale a trial balloon for a new budget mini iPhone?

Over the weekend, cut-priced versions of the iPhone SE made a brief appearance on Apple's US clearance page, before being quickly snapped up by buyers. Priced at $249 for the 32GB version, and only $299 for the 128GB variant (which represent a price cut of $100 and $150 respectively compared to the original price), it makes sense that these were quickly snapped up by those looking for a new iPhone, but who weren't interested in paying the big bucks for the iPhone XS or iPhone XR.

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As far as smartphone go, the iPhone SE is a pretty vintage piece of kit. First released in early 2016 (it was initially offered in 16GB and 64GB capacities, but those were phased out in March 2017 and replaced with 32GB and 128GB versions), it was powered by Apple's A9 processor (the same chip found in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus), and featured a more pocketable 4-inch display. The iPhone SE also retained the chunkier, boxy look of its predecessors, such as the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s.

Apple's sudden profits warning, issued January 2, made it clear that the all the rumors, speculation, and reports of a collapse in iPhone sales was indeed happening. While Apple offered up a number of factors why it issued the profits warning (even going so far as to admit that some of the damage might have been self-inflicted), The bottom line is that iPhones aren't selling like they once did.

So is the answer a cheaper iPhone? And what if that iPhone was also smaller, catering to those who don't like the larger form-factor of the newer handsets?

It would make sense. After all, there have been plenty of credible reports to suggest that Apple has been working on a replacement for the iPhone SE (while Apple had discontinued selling the iPhone SE back in September 2018, the handset was still available from authorized resellers)

This clearance aside, the cheapest iPhone available from Apple is the 32GB iPhone 7, which has the much heftier price tag of $449.

While we don't know how many iPhone SE handsets Apple had available, the fact that they were snapped up so rapidly suggests that there's interest in the aging handset, and it could be yet another way that Apple could use to help shore up flagging sales. For those looking for a basic iPhone, and who are perhaps upgrading from a handset that's a few years old, or who are upgrading because they want upgraded storage capacity, there's little wrong with the iPhone SE. And if the line was given a processor refresh could very well be relevant for a few years. After all, it's a solid design, has a decent camera and features such as Touch ID that users of older iPhones will be familiar with.

Given that Apple is also rumored to be working on a new iPad mini, along with an updated version of the budget iPad, so introducing a new budget iPhone with a 4-inch display would fit in with this pattern of refreshing the bottom-end of the product line up. That said, Apple will want to be careful not to cannibalize sales of high-priced models, so any refresh to the iPhone SE is likely to be cursory, and allow enough of a technological air gap between it and the higher-end (and higher priced) models.

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