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Commentary Phones

Here's why we need an iPhone SE 2 right now

Commentary: The gaping hole in Apple's phone lineup has never been clearer.

Angela Lang/CNET

For most people, the thought of paying $1,000 for any phone is preposterous. It's why I appreciate the iPhone XR so much. At the very least it's a concession to a possible direction for Apple where iPhones stay well under $1,000, but are still great phones. Here's the thing though, even before the XR, Apple already had a really good, more affordable phone: the iPhone SE. Many people loved it. It was small, had a fingerprint reader, a headphone jack. It was everything the larger iPhones weren't and aren't today.

And it's gone (although it was briefly available recently).

Apple may or may not have a spring event this year. At that event, a new iPad or two, new AirPods, and who knows, maybe even the AirPower charging mat could appear. But more than any of those, it would be great to see the iPhone SE 2.

Here's why.

apple-iphone-se-2017-23.jpg

Keep the headphone jack on this one, please.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Phones with headphone jacks still matter. Apple can try to evaporate all the headphone jacks in existence, but people still use traditional headphones. Having at least one phone with a regular headphone jack would be considerate.

Fingerprint sensors matter, too. Face ID is bold technology, and undoubtedly the future of where all biometrics end up across all products. But it still doesn't work all the time, and not everyone wants to use their face instead of their finger. Having a second option, for accessibility purposes alone, would be smart.

iphone-se-48.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

If Apple's selling services, the razor needs to cost less so people can afford the blades. It sounds like Apple's package of subscription content could get sizable, and it's heading everywhere. iTunes to televisions. Amazon Music to the Echo. Reports of subscription news and maybe even apps, plus the company's expected TV service.

How will anyone afford that and an iPhone, too? Maybe Apple will hit a sweet spot in a monthly package that includes a bunch of things, like Amazon Prime does. But again, Amazon makes its products pretty damn affordable. That's the whole idea.

The entry-level iPad has served this purpose pretty well, and become one of the best products in Apple's current lineup. The iPhone SE should serve the same role.

Upgrading the processor and camera would be more than enough. Most people care about how fast their phone is, how good the pictures are and how long the battery lasts. Assuming a new iPhone SE would have the same excellent battery life as the previous version, the only things I'd want would be an upgraded A-series processor and a better camera. The SE was basically an iPhone 6S. This time around, make the SE 2 the equivalent of the iPhone 8, internally (or even the 7).

Add water resistance, like the rest of the iPhone line has. It's great that current iPhones can fall in a pool and still be fine. Adding this to the SE 2 would be the icing on the cake.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple's iPhone SE 2 is the budget phone we need
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Increase the size, just a bit. The SE is perfectly pocketable. It's also maybe a bit too small. Going up to something like 4.5 inches from the SE's current 4 inch size, maybe, would allow for a bigger battery and still feel compact. (Apple could also add Face ID and expand the screen in a similarly small body as the original SE... but I'd rather have an iPhone SE that costs less.)

Wireless charging. Adding Qi charging to the SE 2 wouldn't just be convenient... it would free buyers from needing a Lightning cable. Qi chargers can be bought for really low prices almost anywhere, sometimes for as low as $5.

Keep the price low. The iPhone SE started at $399 (£379, AU$679) when it arrived in the spring of 2016, but only had 16GB of storage. A new model should aim a bit lower ($350?) and throw in at least 64GB of storage. Now, if my wish list of features -- waterproofing, better camera, wireless charging -- is too much at that price, I guess I'm fine with Apple shaving a feature or two.

That's it.

There isn't much rocket science to an iPhone SE 2. It's about whether or not Apple can hit a sweet spot on a more budget-level iPhone and still add enough value. We'll see what happens over the next month or two. Apple typically has its spring events in March. If you're looking for a low-cost iPhone in the meantime, maybe you should hold tight, at least until then.

iPhone SE review: Our updated review from 2018.

Apple: All the news out of Cupertino.