What's the 'SE' in iPhone SE? Our top guesses

It certainly doesn't stand for "Super Expensive." Apple failed to explain what the initials behind its new 4-inch phone stand for, and that's our cue to "Speculate Eloquently." No, that's not it...

iPhone Secret Edition?

Screenshot by Josh Miller/CNET

Update: 10:53 a.m. PT, March 22 -- Apple's Phil Schiller told Fortune "SE" stands for "Special Edition," and that for him personally, it's also an homage to the Macintosh SE, so I guess that means two of my guesses below were kind of right.

Apple has a new iPhone. It's smaller, it's cheaper, it's called the iPhone SE and CEO Tim Cook forgot to tell us where the name comes from.

Oh well. I guess I have to engage in one of the most time-honored of iPhone traditions -- speculating about what's going on inside Apple's hive mind.

Cook started off the media event Monday at which the iPhone SE was introduced by striking a defiant tone over the ongoing confrontation between Apple and the US federal government (regarding the FBI's request to break into an iPhone used by a terrorist). So perhaps SE stands for "Secure Edition."

The more conventional, and boring, explanation is that SE is for "Special Edition," or maybe "Second Edition," since Apple is coming back around to making a 4-inch iPhone.

But if either of these is the real root of the name, why not just tell us? They both make perfect sense. It makes me wonder if there's a reason Apple doesn't want to explain the "SE." Maybe it's a silly in-joke like "Small-Hands Edition," "Sad Edition," "Squeezed Edition" or something more nefarious like "Surrender, Everyone."

Before Cook got to the iPhone SE announcement, he brought out Lisa Jackson, Apple's VP of environment and former director of the Environmental Protection Agency, to talk about the company's sustainability efforts and show us some awesome pictures of yaks hanging out by some of Apple's solar panels in China. So perhaps SE stands for "Super Environmental."

Looking back at Apple's history, the company released a Macintosh SE in 1987. In that case, the SE stood for "System Expansion" because it was the first compact Mac to feature an expansion slot. No PCI card slots on this 4-inch phone though, so that's probably not it.

Given the lukewarm response on Twitter and elsewhere to the new, smaller iPhone, perhaps "SE" was simply anticipating the public's response by borrowing an abbreviation from statistics, where the two letters are used to shorten the phrase "Standard Error."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What do you think the SE in iPhone SE stands for? Let us know in the comments and by tweeting @crave.

Featured Video