Recently, the website 9to5Mac pointed out something interesting: Olixar, a smartphone case manufacturer, began accepting pre-orders for a case it claims will fit Apple's next smartphone, dubbed by Olixar as the "iPhone SE 2018." As the name implies, the phone would be a new version of 2016's iPhone SE.
Before I get into the renders of the phone, I should stress that there's no proof that Apple's even working on a follow-up to the iPhone SE. Even if it is, there are compelling reasons to believe it won't look anything like this (more on that later).
But if you want to have some fun, please join me while I engage in the ridiculous pastime of picking apart low-resolution images of what may or may not be the next iPhone, and as a bonus, I'll also explain why Apple would be thoroughly silly to not make a follow-up to the iPhone SE—the device I consider to be the best iPhone ever made.
Behold: A completely unsubstantiated render of what could be a new iPhone SE
Now, lets get down to brass tacks and analyze this thing like it's a frame from the Zapruder film.
From what we can see, it's essentially the iPhone SE body (which was originally the body of the 2013 iPhone 5s) with some minor tweaks here and there.
Although this build does feature the same iPhone SE antenna lines that wrap around the sides of the device, it does not feature the thick, plastic strips that adorn the top and bottom of the original SE's back.
And, while it's difficult to tell based on the render, the slight shimmer on the phone's backside might imply a glass finish. Aside from the screen, the original iPhone SE was a slab of aluminum with the aforementioned chunks of plastic. This "updated" version appears to maintain the aluminum sides, but replace the aluminum on the rear with glass.
The biggest difference, of course, is the hypothetical phone's screen: a marvelous-looking edge-to-edge display that calls to mind the iPhone X, right down to the inclusion of its infamous black notch.
Although Olixar is currently offering four different color variants for these cases on its website, the phone itself is only portrayed in a color resembling the "Space Gray" version of past iPhones.
Could this possibly be real?
Unfortunately, as an active officer of the Fun Police, I've got to issue all of us a written warning for flagrant speculation. There's a couple of reasons to seriously doubt this mock-up, attractive and realistic though it may be.
For one thing, the type of edge-to-edge screen on display is an expensive feat of engineering—one that would most likely fix this iPhone within a much higher price bracket than the original iPhone SE.
Like the iPhone X, the edge-to-edge display eliminates the iPhone SE's home button, implying that the phone's security system is based on Apple's Face ID technology.
While we expect Apple to be "all-in" on Face ID for its mainstay iPhone lineup moving forward, the inclusion of Face ID hardware in this mock-up suggests that the iPhone SE follow-up be much more expensive than the original SE.
I suppose it's possible that Apple's no longer interested in making the SE a budget-friendly, $400-$600 iPhone experience, but I'm not quite sure what the reasoning would be behind resurrecting the iPhone SE in every way except price point.
Don't get me wrong: I truly hope that an iPhone SE revival of some sort is in the works. I just think it would make much more sense to keep the home button and fingerprint scanner around for one more iPhone generation before doing away with it completely.
And that brings me to my final point:
The original iPhone SE is the best iPhone ever, and Apple would be stupid not to make a new one.
Sorry, iPhone X users—the best iPhone of all time isn't the $1,000 showstopper of 2017. The iPhone SE is the all-around best smartphone Apple's ever made for three reasons: hardware, style, and price.
To understand this better, put yourself in early 2016—a time when the iPhone 6s represented the best Apple had to offer.
Along comes the iPhone SE: a phone with the same basic hardware as the iPhone 6s, but retrofit into the body of the iPhone 5s.
The SE was so similar in hardware to the 6s, in fact, that the biggest discrepancy you could point to at the time was the SE's inferior selfie camera and its lack of 3D Touch (a feature that still hasn't quite lived up to its initial promise over two years later).
At its heart, the SE was a throwback to the iPhones we knew and loved several years prior—before their chunky edges were rounded-off and their profile slimmed-down.
This powerful, four-inch phone laughed in the gargantuan screens of its contemporaries. You could hold it in one hand and still feel like you were gripping a premium piece of hardware.
Basically, the original SE was packed to the gills with the type of hardware and software that Apple had stuck in its latest flagships—for several hundred dollars less.
I still see the iPhone SE everywhere—on trains, at restaurants, and at social gatherings. When I encounter fellow SE users and they learn that I cover smartphones for a living, the next question asked is, "Do you think Apple's gonna make another iPhone SE?"
I don't know it's in the works, but I do know it'd be stupid for it not to be.
So, what would a winning iPhone SE in 2018 look like?
If an iPhone SE in 2018 followed in the footsteps of its forerunner, it would ideally feature hardware similar to that found in last year's iPhone 8. If this hypothetical iPhone was to win over the crowd that adored its predecessor, all of that contemporary hardware would be crammed inside of a chunky, retro-looking body.
Essentially, I want a fast-as-hell iPhone that's built for 2018 and beyond, except that it looks like it stepped out of the summer of 2013 and it's really hoping this new Daft Punk album isn't gonna suck.
I imagine Apple would go back to its fingerprint-scanning home button one more time—not just for the sake of minimizing production costs, but because that's what iPhones are for a lot of people. Just as the original SE embraced design elements from years past, the 2018 SE would hearken back to a time before your face unlocked your iPhone and you swiped up to get back to the home screen.
While we're at it, Apple could even use this opportunity to stick the headphone jack back into the mix. Why not, right? It could even act like it was doing as all a favor by letting us have it again. I'd even put up with the inevitable hot takes about how brilliant Apple is for letting its customers use wired headphones again.
Most importantly, however, any winning formula for an iPhone SE in 2018 begins and ends with price. If Apple decides to make a version of the SE without the budget-friendly price tag that accompanied its predecessor, no amount of retro iPhone nostalgia will make up for the missed opportunity.
A brand new iPhone SE needs to be fast, affordable, and remind me why I love the small, chunky phones of yesteryear. The original was Apple's best phone, and it'd be stupid not to make another one.