Skip to main content

How Apple can make the iPhone SE 2022 a massive success

Apple’s spring 2022 event will take place on March 8, and there are plenty of rumors about a new iPhone SE being one of the products to make an appearance. Exciting, right? Well, yes, but do we really want another rehashed iPhone 5S or iPhone 8? We may have to live with it, because otherwise the iPhone SE released in 2020 could end up being the last hurrah of the iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and that would disappoint a lot of people.

It’s a difficult situation. The iPhone SE needs to advance with the times, but not at the expense of Touch ID. What can Apple do?

Related Videos

Why would killing Touch ID be a bad thing?

Touch ID works, and it works really well. I’m not saying Face ID is bad, far from it. It’s the best face unlock system I’ve used, but it’s not as versatile, unobtrusive, or convenient as Touch ID. Example? Over the past two years, everyone who owns an iPhone with Face ID will have faced (sorry) the problem of unlocking their phone while wearing a mask, while those with an iPhone SE 2020 will already be using their phone as we fiddle about entering a PIN code.

The iPhone SE 2020's Touch ID sensor, with a plant in the foreground.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Despite this, I don’t think Touch ID has a place on Apple’s top smartphones, at least not in its current and most recognizable guise. We want a large bezel-less screen, but because that doesn’t work with a home button and Touch ID, Face ID and its relatively minor inconveniences is a great solution. The thing is, for every person who is happy with the trade-off, there will be another who isn’t. Apple needs to continue serving them.

Touch ID on the iPhone SE 2020 is really excellent. Using it today is a stark reminder of how slick and pleasurable it is to use compared to Face ID. The Home button doesn’t need to be pressed, just grazed with your finger, and the subtle haptic alert signals the practically instantaneous unlocking of the phone. It feels good, and in a world where physical buttons of any type are becoming a rarity, it’s a tactile and enjoyable moment of interaction.

There will be people who bought the iPhone SE 2020 because it has Touch ID, and many who haven’t upgraded because there isn’t an alternative, squeezing the last life out of an aging phone until they’re absolutely forced to get a new one. If Apple kills off Touch ID on the iPhone SE, it’ll leave many people without any alternative, and will risk pushing them into the open arms of multiple Android phone makers still providing a fingerprint sensor on phones.

It needs to be brought up to date

Much as I like the iPhone SE 2020’s cute dimensions, it’s really small by modern standards, and not all that great to watch video or play games. The design of the iPhone 8’s design is several years old now, and both the smartphone as a device and the things we do with them have moved on significantly during that time. If Apple reuses the iPhone 8’s design for the SE again this year, it may end up as an anachronism.

The iPhone SE 2020 on the corner of a table, next to an AirPods case.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The SE has always been Apple’s cheapest and smallest smartphone, with the second-generation version and its 4.7-inch screen starting at $399, and this combination really does need to continue with any new model. However, it still needs to look and feel current. The iPhone SE 2020 doesn’t, and owners are being somewhat left behind. A 2022 iPhone SE needs to be both modern and classic if it’s going to be an attractive long-term purchase.

Rumors are split on what a new iPhone SE will be like. Some maintain that the new SE will once more use the iPhone 8 design, with the introduction of 5G connectivity helping to keep the phone (vaguely) fresh, while others hint at a design with a bezel-less screen and Face ID. These are also linked with a rumored iPhone SE Plus, a larger version potentially based on the 6.1-inch iPhone XR that may live alongside a smaller, cheaper, Touch ID-equipped iPhone SE. Given the lack of success Apple saw from the iPhone 12 Mini though, it may not be that keen to produce multiple small phones when one or two in its range would probably suffice.

What’s the real solution?

It’s a dilemma. Apple should not treat the new SE like a second-class iPhone, pushing it through with 5G and that old iPhone 8 design, and expecting people to snap it up. But Apple should also not abandon Touch ID in favor of a bezel-less screen.

Thw Apple iPhone X standing upright on a table.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Instead, what I’d like to see is Apple update Touch ID and make it part of the iPhone SE’s DNA, rather than a throwback in yet another iPhone 8 case. The solution is to use the iPhone X’s case and screen, and put Touch ID in the power button on the side. The iPhone X’s 5.8-inch screen is far more usable today, but the case is not so massive that it’ll completely put off those who like the iPhone SE for its small size.

For those who don’t remember the iPhone X, it’s only 3mm wider and 5mm taller than the iPhone SE 2020. The more modern look will probably appeal to a host of potential first-time Apple phone owners, but will at the same time not alienate those who still want Touch ID, or those who want a modestly sized iPhone. The screen will be far more relevant for today’s use, without the device itself becoming a monster, or relying solely on Face ID.

It’ll be a challenge to keep the $399 price, especially with the development of the new sensor and button and the inclusion of 5G. But without a complicated camera, a non-OLED screen, and perhaps with the older Bionic A14 processor inside, it doesn’t sound like an impossibility. If Apple’s new iPhone SE was like this, it would probably be the most talked-about iPhone hardware change since, well, the removal of Touch ID.

Apple’s spring Peek Performance event takes place on March 8, and you can read about what to expect in our comprehensive coverage.

Editors' Recommendations

How 3 Galaxy S23 Ultra camera features completely changed my vacation
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra back.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has the most versatile set of cameras on any phone, and it's the phone I took with me to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona, Spain, last month.

After my work at MWC 2023 was done, I had some free time to explore the beauty of Spain, and in doing so, the Galaxy S23 Ultra helped me capture some amazing shots that wouldn’t be possible on any other device. Here are the three Galaxy S23 Ultra camera features that I used extensively and which helped me make my trip memorable.
The clarity in 10x zoom is mind-blowing

Read more
I love the Galaxy S23 — here are 5 things the iPhone still does better
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Apple iPhone 14 Pro

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 has arrived to the masses, and it’s one of the best Android phones you can get right now, especially the S23 Ultra. However, for those who don’t need all of the fancy bells and whistles, like the S Pen and 200MP main camera, the regular S23 is also plenty powerful for the average person, especially if you prefer smaller devices.

I’ve been using the Galaxy S23 for the past few weeks, and so far, my experience has been delightful. I know that it’s still early on in the year, but for me, the S23’s small size is perfect and comfortable. Android also does a lot of things better than iOS, like individual volume controls and notifications, for example. But I am still primarily using my iPhone 14 Pro — despite Apple having some big flaws, such as overprocessing images after you capture them.

Read more
Google Pixel Fold: release date and price rumors, leaked specs, and more
Alleged schematic of Google's Pixel foldable in silver.

Folding smartphones are a staple of the Android smartphone world in 2023. And this year, we expect Google to join the foldable ranks with the long-awaited Google Pixel Fold.

Rumors of the Pixel Fold have existed for a long time, but all signs are pointing to 2023 finally being the year it makes its grand debut. And what a debut it's shaping up to be. From all of the latest renders, hands-on images, specs, and more, here's everything you need to know about the Google Pixel Fold.
Google Pixel Fold: design

Read more