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Why an iPhone SE on Android wouldn't be a flagship killer

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The iPhone SE 2020 has been hailed for its value for money in more ways than one. Some people are already talking about the "flagship killer from Apple". I find Apple's new pricing strategy interesting at a time when Chinese manufacturers, who invented the concept of the high-end killer, are becoming increasingly premium.

A change in pricing policy is all the more interesting when you know the ultra-hermetic range sequencing of Cupertino. I even dared the provocation by pointing out that 2020 is the year when an iPhone is cheaper than all the OnePlus phone released in the last year. But I don't think the iPhone SE 2020 is a real flagship killer.

The iPhone SE breaks the prices generally charged by Apple by keeping some elements of its spec sheet generally found on the high-end products: the Bionic A13 chip in the first instance, but also wireless charging and IP67 certification. But the iPhone SE is not a flagship killer like OnePlus and, especially Xiaomi, have been able to produce in the past. It is in no way to compete with the iPhone 11, which would in any case be totally counterproductive on the part of Apple.

Some concessions imposed by Apple would be unforgivable if a manufacturer in the Android world would venture to make them on its models. Imagine an iPhone SE, or its equivalent, launched by Samsung in 2020. I have no doubt that the technosphere and the trade press would raise their shields.

So why such an indulgence for Apple? Is the world turning upside down?

An Android version of the iPhone SE is an unnatural idea

Apple's so-called flagship killer is offered at a starting price of $399. This makes it the cheapest model in Apple's official catalog. In this price range, Xiaomi and its Mi 9T Pro or OnePlus and OnePlus 7T can also claim top-of-the-range killer status.

androidpit xiaomi mi 9t full front
The Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro costs around $400 too, but has an AMOLED display and more cameras. / © NextPit

The problem is that the spec sheets aligned by these models are far superior to those of the iPhone SE. The Mi 9T Pro and OnePlus 7T are not locked at 64GB of storage, don't carry just one rear camera sensor, have OLED displays not IPS-LCD, don't have huge bezels and also carry a high-end chipset with the Snapdragon 855 (or 855+ for the OnePlus 7T).

It is understandable that the name "flagship killer" when talking about the iPhone SE 2020 makes the Android fans scream. Imagining a Samsung smartphone sold for less than $400 but with a 2018 design and an unbalanced spec sheet is inconceivable. Bionic A13 or not, it doesn't matter.

How can I say that? "What about Google Pixel 3a?" I'm told in the earpiece. Indeed, it may have been forgotten, but the low-cost version of Google's flagship took exactly the same approach as Apple with the iPhone SE  last year. It features an LCD screen with wide bezels, a single photosensor, 64GB of storage, but also a less powerful chip than the Bionic A13 (Snapdragon 670), no wireless charging and no IP67 rating.

Yes, except that the Pixel 3a's camera literally worked miracles, offering performances worthy of the very top of the range. For many, photography is an even more attractive sector and seen as an even more important selling point than the processor's computing power. In this respect, I doubt the iPhone SE 2020 will do as well when taking photos.

Why does it work for Apple, then?

Are we all, from technophiles to everyday consumers to tech journalists, blinded by the strength of Apple's brand image? What is certain is that if Samsung had dared to release a similar model, the brand would have alienated a large part of its fan base and the trade press.

But then why the hell are we applauding Apple? Keep in mind that iPhones remain the most popular smartphones in the world, no matter what the anti-Apple (whose comments I look forward to) crowd think. According to a study by the very serious firm Counterpoint Research, the iPhone XR and the iPhone 11 were on the podium of the world's best-selling smartphones in 2019.

iphone se global smartphone sales 2019
The iPhone XR and iPhone 11 were the two top-selling smartphones in 2019 worldwide. / © Counterpoint Research

Logically, when Apple lowers the entry price of its user experience, which is popular with the general public but too inaccessible, this move is very successful. The average Apple fan, who has to resell his old model every year to partly finance the purchase of the next one, naturally sees this new pricing policy in a good light. And you can't blame him.

Especially since the iPhone SE isn't as low cost as Apple's previous low-cost models. I keep hammering it home, but we still have a Bionic A13 processor from the iPhone 11 in there. Take the example of the iPad 2019 which is Apple's entry-level tablet. It only comes with a Bionic A12 SoC, while the iPad Pro 2018 released a year earlier features the more powerful Bionic A12X. Pro is Pro, period.

That's what I'm talking about when I talk about Apple's hermetic sequencing of its product lines. Normally, low cost means low cost except that with the iPhone SE 2020 we get a little more for our money than usual with the Apple brand.

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In fact, the proponents of flagship killing are already starting to be disenchanted. Xiaomi and OnePlus, who have been gnawing at their margins for years, are starting to abandon the concept more and more. A choice made in part to satisfy new ambitions but also because of a rise in the price of components, including Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips.

This problem is that Apple is immune to this as the firm has produced its own chipset since the iPhone 4. As the death of the flagship that I have detailed in the article above, we could very well witness the death of the Android flagship killer. But it's still far too early to play the Nostradamus of tech.

In the meantime, the iPhone SE 2020 will sell like hotcakes, even if it is not a real flagship killer. I personally don't see the point of buying it when my OnePlus 7T does a better job for the same price. And I'm still convinced that an equivalent smartphone on Android wouldn't have received the same praise.

But there's no denying that this new strategy from Apple is worthy of interest. Perhaps technological sovereignty over its components is the key to giving a second wind to the flagship killer concept.

Go to comment (6)
Antoine Engels

Antoine Engels
Senior Editor

Black belt in specs sheet analysis. OnePlus fanboy in (slow) remission. Average estimated reading time of my articles: 48 minutes. Tech deals fact-checker in my spare time. Hates talking about himself in the 3rd person. Dreams he was a gaming journalist in another life. Doesn't get the concept of irony. Head of editorial for NextPit France.

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  • 11
    Randy Dennis Apr 23, 2020 Link to comment

    The pixel 3a has an OLED screen, not an lCD display. That doesn't really change the point of your article, but a professionally published article should not have such a simple fact error.

  • 1
    Hod Apr 23, 2020 Link to comment

    The fact is a phone simply needs a flagship SoC and a low price to be considered a "flagship killer". This is why, for example, the Pocophone F1 was considered a flagship killer but the Google Pixel 3a was not. Therefore the iPhone SE should rightfully be considered one, too. And there's nothing wrong with that. Flagship killers typically have to sacrifice some features to lower their prices, and the SE is no exception in this regard. Sure, the corners the SE cut were different from the typical flagship killer, but in return it retained features hardly ever found in phones of that price, such as IP rating and wireless charging.

    I will not say that an Android equivalent will sell as well as the SE. After all, it would be a lie to say that Apple's brand name plays no part here. But I won't say that it will be panned, either. For most people, what's more important right now is to spend less, and a cheap phone is what will capture everyone's attention.

  • 2
    Gary Dee Apr 22, 2020 Link to comment

    As an Apple hater and long time user of Android I went for the Iphone SE 2020. Why? Because of what really matters, the computing power and the Operating system. Say what you will, IOS is a better Operating System then Android period. You also don't have to worry about System updates because your phone is 2 years old like Android. As long as you have the computing power your Iphone will get the update. My only concern is me getting use to the 4.7 inch screen and learning IOS. Remember I don't like Apple but a good product is a good product and at my starting price of $359 for the 64gig (because I am a veteran) is better than all the Android phones I looked at in the same price range, like Pixel 3, 3a, Samsung S10 was higher by at least $100 etc. Time will tell if I made a good decision. Regards....

    • 49
      storm Apr 23, 2020 Link to comment

      What criteria make it a better system?

  • 49
    storm Apr 22, 2020 Link to comment

    Competition creates choices. And yes, apple competes but within the apple line you have highly limited choice.

  • marco sarli 39
    marco sarli
    • Admin
    Apr 22, 2020 Link to comment

    Xiaomi and Redmi are the real flagship killers. Except for the fact that the present situation seems to be bringing a bit of realism in the prices and specs and for the other relevant fact that flagships are a thing of the past. It is not possible anymore to go up with the prices and play with irrelevant and cosmetic changes and so the way to go is down and sideways, compete in the medium and low price ranges and try to push competitors out of the market . This is going to be interesting

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