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Opinion: Apple needs more SE Models.

Apple is in a completely new place right now since the advent of Apple Silicon, and while Apple is still seen as pretty much the expensive, premium option. But that has never really been Apple’s aim. But don’t take my word for it.

It’s finally got to the point now though that Apple has been able to produce products that they’re proud of at lower prices than ever before. That’s what their SE products are – right now we have:

  • Apple Watch SE at $279
  • iPhone SE (2) at $399

iPhone SE

Now the first gen of iPhone SE released in March of 2016 based on the iPhone 5S chassis with an A9 inside, NFC for Apple Pay, and a 12MP camera that could shoot 4K at 30fps for video. All for $399 in 2016. It was a revelation, and 5 years later, Apple’s budget option is still running the latest version of iOS and getting new features. Admittedly not all the new features, but it was also replaced with the SE2 a couple of years ago.

That next generation SE, which looks likely to be replaced again in 2022 ran the same Apple A13 as the iPhone 11, Apple’s flagship at the time, included wireless charging, a larger 4.7” display in the iPhone 8 form factor, better cameras etc. On launch it was again lauded as the best value in its price category – and Android even in their flagship devices haven’t caught up with the performance of A13 two years on. It’s still probably the best product at a $400 price point in the phone market. And the next version will almost certainly pick up the iPhone 13’s A15 SOC, improved battery life and most likely MagSafe charging too.

Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE takes the Series 4-6 form factor and gives you all the same big features that people use often, and just takes out the high end medical features like the EKG and Blood Oxygen sensor, while looking and feeling identical to the Apple Watch Series 6 that is was released alongside. All the fitness features, the bigger display, and watch faces. But $120 lower priced than the top of the line model. Its what I wear because it does all I need.

But why is Apple stopping here? SE could be a full range that massively grows the reach of Apple, bringing new users in completely from outside of Apple’s ecosystem with a first device, or a low risk way to try a new category. Some products just need to be relabelled, and others could be remodelled to fit. On the relabelled side, we have 2 perfect candidates. iPad, and AirPods 2nd Generation.

iPad SE?

The base iPad is to all intents and purposes already an SE. It takes an older form factor, drops in an older SOC (and right now, the exact same one as the iPhone SE, Apple’s A13), but also adds new features each time, this year Center Stage. The iPad costs $329 which is insanely good value, they perform great and paired up with a cheap bluetooth keyboard. Not even Apple’s own portfolio case means that you can get a massive amount of the day to day computing that most people would use a Mac or PC for for way under $400.

Remember these include better storage now, 64GB starting point the same as iPad mini or Air as well as Apple’s software suite – Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, GarageBand, Clips and more. So lets add that to our list. iPad SE.

AirPods SE?

AirPods 2nd Gen, again is a great product – its what I used every day until the third generation arrived. What are they missing compared to the new pair? Water resistance (though mine had been through a full laundry and drier cycle and worked fine the next day, if slightly deformed from the heat) and head tracking spacial audio. What you DO get for your $129 now, is true wireless, great sound, really decent microphones for calls, spacial audio for the Dolby Atmos on Apple Music (but not that moves with your head), magical device switching, Siri announcing notifications and instant pairing. That’s pretty compelling. AirPods SE. I guess the stems are a little longer, but are slightly shorter stems worth $50 to you? Make your own choice.

So with those added, we’re now covering iPad, iPhone, Watch and AirPods, leaving just Mac and TV & Home 

Apple TV SE?

Might as well touch on Apple TV – for years people have been asking for a TV streaming stick, basic Apple TV, so sure, lets call that Apple TV SE. Make it super cheap, doesn’t need a fancy remote with it, use the App on your iPhone (SE) or iPad (SE) to control it or even Siri – as Apple seems to like the idea of Siri controlling lower priced stuff, like the Apple Music Voice Plan. If you want to game on it, let it offload the processing to the iPhone and basically stream that game to the bigger screen. Sub $100, probably $79 would be low enough that a lot of people would impulse buy, but more likely $99. Apple TV SE.

Mac mini SE?

And so to the Mac. I’ve said Mac needs an SE device for a long time, in fact in October last year, I said that Apple would release an Apple Silicon Mac mini, trying to push the price back down from the $799 that it started from at the time down towards its old starting price of $499. And to be fair, Apple brought it down to $699, so I guess I was the only one who not only predicted the Apple Silicon Mac mini, but also the price drop. Someone call AppleTrack.

But in all seriousness, The package that the Mac mini comes in today, the carved aluminium box could be reduced in price, now that M1 is well and truly paid down in terms of R&D, so once the next generation comes in to take the Mac mini’s spot with the M2 at the $699 price point, the M1 could well drop in price again. Also half the enclosure of the Mac mini M1 is empty right now, and that even has an internal power supply. Throw that power supply out into a laptop style wall wort, miniaturise the enclosure and maybe make it more Apple TV-sized, which saves on packaging, lets you ship maybe twice as many in the same volume saving money there too. Is $499 so ambitious?

MacBook SE?

We’ve been hearing that the MacBook Air is getting a full redesign soon with the loss of the wedge shape, gaining MiniLED and M2 inside too, making room for a MacBook SE.

So driving down the price of our MacBook SE? Use the current MacBook Air shape, maybe we could manage without a P3 colour gamut in the display or True Tone if needs be. Could we do without TouchID to save a few dollars and use our Apple Watch SE for unlocking? Beyond these, I don’t think Apple would need to take anything else out to bring the price down to maybe $799 for a base model with an 8 core 7GPU model.

Then we get a range that looks like this:

  • iPhone SE,
  • Apple Watch SE
  • iPad SE
  • AirPods SE
  • Apple TV SE
  • Mac mini SE
  • MacBook SE

Let me know your thoughts over on YouTube or tweet me @icavedave

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