Here’s what we know about the rumored iPhone 9: When, why, and how much

The iPhone 9 or iPhone SE 2, whichever you want to call it, is likely arriving this Spring. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

Apple is rumored to launch a new low-cost iPhone this spring (probably in March). What, you may be wondering, is all the hubbub about? What is the iPhone 9? Why should you care? Well, grab a cuppa and sit back while we give you the lowdown on Apple’s as-yet-unannounced low-cost iPhone.

You should also watch Apple analyst Rene Ritchie’s take on what we should expect from the iPhone 9.

Is it iPhone 9 or iPhone SE 2?

Good question. We don’t know. Apple could end up calling it iPhone turtle shell for all we know. We speculate on a name in part because it’s fun and in part because it helps us organize in our own brains what each iPhone in Apple’s lineup represents.

The [rumor of it being called an iPhone SE 2 actually started years ago. Back then, we’d been holding out hope for a new version of the four-inch form factor. That sweet beautiful iPhone SE design (can you hear my bias?). Within the past year, however, we’d been hearing strong rumors about this so-called iPhone SE 2 and its design, which is decidedly not that of the iPhone SE. It’s more akin to an iPhone 8 design. Why was it initially being called iPhone SE 2? It’s likely that the rumors coming from the supply chain were referring to a “low-cost” iPhone. What’s the last, truly low-cost iPhone Apple launched? The iPhone SE.

Why not iPhone SE 2? Apple doesn’t traditionally reuse a name like the iPhone SE and the “SE” identifier is too close to the four-inch iPhone. A larger SE would just make a lot of fans of the original SE angry (myself included) for not giving us an actual four-inch iPhone. It’s a good marketing move to avoid the SE nomenclature, and I hope that’s exactly what Apple intends to do.

Today, we refer to it as the iPhone 9. Why iPhone 9 and not iPhone 11s or iPhone 12, you ask? The idea comes from the current iPhone lineup at Apple.

There is the iPhone 11 line; that’s the base-model iPhone and the two pro model iPhones (one with a larger screen).

There is the iPhone XR, which is last year’s iPhone still available for sale for $599. Apple will often keep around last year’s model phone to give people variety. I’m betting that Apple will discontinue the iPhone XR by this fall, however.

And then there’s the iPhone 8, which starts at just $449. It is this part of the lineup that we believe Apple is trying to keep alive. Instead of introducing a new low-cost iPhone and calling it something unique, Apple could just continue selling the same design as the iPhone 8 (which goes all the way back to the iPhone 6). It’s got a Home button, it’s thicker than the X – 11 model iPhone, and it’s much less expensive. With the iPhone 9 rumors we’re hearing, it makes the most sense that this phone will be the replacement for the iPhone 8 line, which is why we’re sticking with the iPhone 9.

Like I said at the start, however, Apple could end up naming it something completely different. So take this all with a grain of salt.

When does the iPhone 9 come out?

We don’t know yet, and frankly won’t know until Apple announces it, but we’re hearing a lot of rumors, and getting a lot of interesting information about an imminent launch of the iPhone 9, which leads us to believe it is likely to happen this spring.

Apple launched the iPhone 5c in September of 2013 but launched the iPhone SE in March of 2016.

With the Coronavirus outbreak, there is a chance that supplies may be affected. With that knowledge, there are two options Apple could take this year. One would be a traditional March event where new products are announced, like an iPad Pro update (which happens more often than it doesn’t), the rumored Apple Tags, and the iPhone 9 we’re all waiting for.

The other option would be that Apple simply just rolls out new products across a couple of weeks. Apple has done this a number of times, including last spring when it launched new AirPods, a new iPad mini, and a refreshed iPod touch. In last year’s case, there actually was a March event, but Apple didn’t touch hardware at that event because it was focused on services.

The latter option seems very reasonable for Apple since the company could release products that have a robust supply, or that Apple isn’t expecting there to be a high demand for, like an updated iPad Pro, but could hold off launching some more popular products, like a new low-cost iPhone, until supplies are better paced.

What size will it be?

If you’re hoping that this new low-cost iPhone is going to be “small” (AKA: sized like an iPhone SE), please put your hopes back in your pocket. The rumor is that the iPhone 9 will be a 4.7-inch iPhone, which, yes, has a smaller display size than the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max but that’s only because Apple measures the screens diagonally (and doesn’t take into account the bezels).

The iPhone 9 will measure something almost identical to the iPhone 8, which also has a 4.7-inch display.

Here are the case dimensions of all the iPhones in Apple’s current lineup, for reference:

  • iPhone 8 (what the iPhone 9 will be) – 5.45 by 2.65 inches
  • iPhone 8 Plus – 6.24 by 3.07 inches
  • iPhone XR – 5.94 by 2.98 inches
  • iPhone 11 – 5.94 by 2.98 inches
  • iPhone 11 Pro – 5.67 by 2.81 inches
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max – 6.22 by 3.06 inches

Although the iPhone 8’s display measures 4.7-inches, you can see that it’s very similar in width and height to the iPhone 11 Pro. Yes, it’s smaller, but it’s not a small iPhone by any stretch of the imagination.

What are its features?

This is where we get into speculation and conjecture. While we’re hearing strong rumors (and even pictures) of what the iPhone 9 will look like, what it will feature is a bit more fluid.

Here’s what Apple analyst Rene Ritchie hopes the iPhone 9 will sport.

The iPhone 9 will get the latest generation A13 Bionic chipset, giving in the same processing performance as the iPhone 11.

And amazing battery performance to go with it. Along with wireless charging.

The iPhone 9 will get Apple’s most advanced camera as well — the new wide-angle from the iPhone 11, with 100% Focus Pixels, updated Smart HDR, QuickVideo, that single-lens Portrait Mode system, maybe even Night Mode.

And, of course, 4K60 extended dynamic range video.

With the latest generation selfie — and slofie — camera to go with it.

It’s, of course, expected to have a Home button, but not Face ID. It will not likely come with 5G, but may have WiFi 6 support and include Apple’s latest ultra low-band radio chip, the U1, which could work with the unreleased Apple Tags.

This all sounds like a whole lot to fit into a low-cost iPhone, so it may not come with all of these features, but it will definitely be a huge upgrade from the iPhone 8, which is starting to show its age.

What colors will it come in?

Apple has really taken color in a new direction over the past few years. The iPhone XR sports six different colors and the iPhone 11 comes in six of its own colors. The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max come in four different colors. If you take out the space gray/black and silver/white, which is available across all the iPhone lineup, there are eight different colors to choose from.

But how will that play out with the iPhone 9? The iPhone 8 only comes in silver, gold, and space gray. Will the iPhone 9 take a page from the iPhone 11 lineup and come in six brightly-colored, frosted-back colors?

Apple has done a fantastic job with colors on the iPhone 11, so it’s easy to imagine the iPhone 9 lineup looking similar. However, Apple is probably hoping to have a distinction between its iPhone 11 lineup and its iPhone 9 lineup.

We’ve seen supposed actual pictures of a red iPhone 9, so we can predict we’ll see that one, but I’m betting that the only other colors it will come in are white, black, and gold.

How much will it cost?

The point of this particular iPhone is its position as an entry-level iPhone for newcomers and fans on a budget. For that reason, it can’t cost more than $500, and that’s coming in a little pricey. A lot depends on what kind of up-to-date features Apple puts into the iPhone 9. If the chassis stays the same, but the guts get updated (new processor chip, better battery, etc.) we’re going to see it come in at around $400 to $450. The iPhone 8 currently starts at $450, but Apple wants this to have no barrier to purchase. The iPhone SE launched at $399 and that’s what we’re betting Apple will do for the iPhone 9, as well.

Any more questions?

Are there any more things you want to know about the still-rumored iPhone 9? Ask us in the comments below and we’ll speculate like bosses.