Apple iPhone SE (2020)Source: Apple

Rumors this week claim that the iPhone 13 mini might be the last 'mini' iPhone that Apple plans to release as a flagship.

Earlier this week, supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who rarely misses) reported that Apple will release a mini iPhone 13 later this year, but that next year the small iPhone will disappear in favor of another 6.1-inch iPhone. The iPhone 12 mini is, according to multiple reports, the least popular iPhone 12 model, accounting for as little as 5% of sales since its launch.

Given the reports about low sales and waning popularity, this might not come as a surprise. Indeed, the iPhone 12 mini is the cheapest iPhone 12, but it's not a true budget model, that's the iPhone SE. In fact, the iPhone SE seems to be the go-to choice for many customers who want either a smaller iPhone or a cheaper one. Many of Apple's most fervent smartphone customers, the early-adopters and the yearly-upgraders will likely be put off either by the phone's smaller form factor or its weak battery life, for only $100 more the iPhone 12 is usually a stronger option for most buyers.

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But then, on Friday's iMore show, a burst of inspiration. The iPhone 'mini' might be on the way out as a flagship, but what if Apple was to resurrect the 5.4-inch form factor next year as its next-generation iPhone SE. Some thoughts.

Demand

As mentioned, the popularity of the original iPhone SE and Apple's decision to upgrade it last year with an A13 processor show there is definitely a market for a smaller, cheaper iPhone.

We've also heard rumors that Apple has another new iPhone SE in the works, with some reports hinting at an upgrade to the current version, and others suggesting a larger 'Plus' iPhone SE could be on the way.

Design

The iPhone SE is currently based on the design language of the iPhone 8, featuring a larger "chin" and "forehead" around the screen, a Touch ID sensor, rounded edges and corners, and more. Yet Apple made a huge change to its iPhone design language with iPhone 12, switching back to the squared edges of old. Would it really make sense for Apple to release a new iPhone SE next year that doesn't also match this?

The iPhone 'mini' is a 5.4-inch smartphone that incorporates all of Apple's latest design language changes, yet the iPhone 12 mini is held back by poor battery life. So what if Apple could take the iPhone 12 mini's form factor and turn it into the iPhone SE?

Features

Apple has already proven with the iPhone SE that it can make a small form-factor phone that packs a punch. The iPhone SE offers great battery life and powerful processing but compromises with an LCD display, keeping cost and energy demands down.

Next year, I want to see Apple take the 'mini' 5.4-inch iPhone and tweak it down to a true budget smartphone offering to replace the iPhone SE from last year.

That could mean an LCD display, or it could mean Apple holding onto OLED whilst the iPhone 13 and beyond move further ahead thanks to LTPO and 120Hz.

It could also mean a new processor (the iPhone SE had the current-gen processor from the iPhone 11), or holding onto the A14 from the iPhone 12, which we all know is no slouch.

Apple can also hang onto the dual-camera setup of the iPhone 12 mini. In our iPhone SE review, one of our only gripes was the single camera, and it seems high-time the iPhone SE got a second camera to bring it up to speed.

Price

The iPhone 12 mini is $699, the SE is $399. Obviously, if Apple wants to keep the SE as a budget option it needs to bring that price right down, but enough "savings" when it comes to features as detailed above should pave the way for an iPhone that is almost just as a cheap (if not as cheap) as the current SE.

What a great idea

There are no rumors to suggest Apple might do this, just musings and a few good ideas. Would you be interested in an iPhone SE that looked like the iPhone 12 mini? What features would you expect it to have, and how much would you be willing to pay? Drop your thoughts in the comments or over on Twitter.