iPhone 9: What everyone is getting wrong

iPhone 8
iPhone 8 (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

Recently, there have been a few more spoilers around Apple's next less expensive iPhone. What's previously been referred to as the iPhone SE 2 or, more recently, the iPhone 9. And… even though I've already done a whole column explaining what I think it'll be and why, there still seems to be some confusion out there around both of those things.

So, I'm going to try again… but different. Instead of rehashing the rumors, I'm going to go though what I think the actual announcements will be. And, hopefully, that'll cut down on the expectational debt and make things just a little clearer.

Two markets, one iPhone

Flashback to the fall of 2014 and Apple introduced the big 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and bigger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. What Apple didn't introduce was an updated 4-inch iPhone.

Fall of 2015, same thing. iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. But then, in the spring of 2016, Apple did a couple of things they'd never done before — not only announce another new iPhone in the spring, but announce a back-to-the-future style iPhone with the SE. Same 4-inch design as the iPhone 5s, most of the new internals and cameras from the iPhone 6s, but an all-new, all lower price.

That let Apple address two markets at once — people who wanted a less expensive iPhone and people who wanted the nostalgia of a smaller iPhone.

Now, Apple is widely expected to return to that playbook again, this time with the same 4.7-inch design as the iPhone 8, most of the new internals and cameras from the iPhone 11, and retain that lower price.

If you're salty it's not rumored to have the more modern iPhone X-style design, or any new design at all, look up. That's the point just flying over you head, all missed and everything.

Because, once again, this phone isn't meant or priced for people who want new things. It's meant for people who that low price or just the nostalgia of a home button.

Anything that changes any of those things, just ain't it.

So, here's how I expect it to go. And this is just pure speculation but Apple is an extremely logical, rational company so it may actually end up being fairly accurate.

Good morning! New iPhone!

Tim Cook, Apple's CEO comes out, says good morning. Good morning! Maybe talks services, maybe other products, but eventually we get down to the iPhone.

iPhone SE an coffee

iPhone SE an coffee (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

That's when Greg Jozwiak, Joz, Vice President of product marketing takes the stage, or maybe Kaiann Drane, Vice President of iPhone marketing.

We'll hear how much customers are loving the iPhone 11 and how the vast majority of Apple's customers are loving the modern design and features like Face ID. But, for this event, Apple wants to talk about something else — their Home button iPhones. Turns out customers love those as well and continue to buy tens of millions of them each year.

For many of those people, Home button iPhones are the very first iPhone, the first experience with Apple's hardware, software, and services integration.

Outside North America, the majority of first-time customers might still be going for Home button iPhones.

This is why some customers may have asked Apple to please, pretty please keep Home button iPhones in their lineup.

So, maybe Apple is going to do just that. And make it a whole lot better. As we may have heard.

With the iPhone 9.

Now, the iPhone SE got something no iPhone 5s ever did — Apple's then-new rose gold finish. Whether the iPhone 9 sticks to silver and space gray, gets the current coppery gold, or maybe even takes a page from the iPhone XR or 11 and gets a colored model, we'll have to wait and see.

If Apple sticks to every page of the iPhone SE playbook, then we'll also hear how people love playing graphically intensive games on their iPhones, so 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.

Since people love taking photos with their iPhones as well, 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.

No 5G, of course, like most of the world still, but WiFi 6 and even the U1 chip's ultra low band radio for spatial positioning.

And, it'll still have the Touch ID some people still love and prefer. Works great with Apple Card, of course.

It'll meet all of Apple's environmental standards as well. Maybe even be the first iPhone made of 100% recycled aluminum? That's a total spitball, but I'd love to see it.

Now, maybe I'm wrong about a lot of this. Maybe Apple can't hit the low, low price point they really want to hit with the iPhone 9 by going with the guts of the iPhone 11.

If that's the case, then maybe they'll go with the guts of the iPhone XR instead. That means it would still be fast but not quite as fast. Still have single lens portrait mode but not night mode. And Wi-Fi 6 and U1 would be up-in-the-air as well.

Either way, though, Apple would be able to say something they haven't been able to say since 2017 — that it's the most powerful Home button iPhone ever.

And it'll start — again, all less expensive iPhone playbooks being equal — at just $399.

It's not for them

If that doesn't make any sense to the usual tech pundits, the ones who just can't help but judge everything by the raw specs, then I'm sorry. So very sorry. But it's not for them anyway. And let's be honest, they'' be fine. They'll be getting an iPhone 12 to find boring and skippable later this year, just like they did iPhone 11 Pro last year… well, until they actually held it and used it.

This phone is for everyone else. For everyone who couldn't care less about specs and just want a phone they feel comfortable with. One that makes them happy.

Because it's never about the numbers. It's about the equation those numbers are put in.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.