Reconciling the Rumors: What the iPhone SE Might Look Like
Apple's rumored 4-inch iPhone is supposed to be debuting at an event set to be held on March 21, just under three weeks from today, but due to an unusual lack of part leaks, we still have no clear picture of exactly what the device will look like.
Rumors suggest the device, said to be called the "iPhone 5se or iPhone SE," will resemble the iPhone 5s while also incorporating the curved cover glass of the iPhone 6 and 6s, a marriage difficult to imagine because those are two very different design aesthetics.
With that in mind, we've commissioned designer Tomas Moyano to create a mockup that combines the curved front panel of the iPhone 6s with the boxier, thicker shape of the iPhone 5s, ending up with an attractive design possibility that satisfies all of the current rumors.
Last week, two conceptual design drawings of the 4-inch iPhone were shared by 9to5Mac and OnLeaks, each created based on information sourced from parties with knowledge of the 4-inch iPhone's design. Neither is a direct, ultra-detailed schematic like those we have seen in the past from case makers, and the design elements of the device in the two drawings do not match up.
The conceptual image created by 9to5Mac depicts a 4-inch iPhone that is identical to the iPhone 5s in size and shape, matching rumors that the 4-inch iPhone and the iPhone 5s will be able to be share cases. It does not align with rumors about a curved display, instead appearing to depict the same flat front panel that's used on the iPhone 5s.
OnLeaks' design drawing does include a clear curve on both the front display panel and the back panel, lining up with the display rumors, but the curved display results in a body design that would prevent the device from sharing cases with the iPhone 5s as rumored.
For our renderings, we have chosen to use the OnLeaks design drawings as a guideline because it incorporates the curved display glass, a feature that has been consistently mentioned in rumors and can't be ignored. With the 4-inch iPhone adopting internal features of the iPhone 6s, it makes some sense that it would follow some of the same design logic, but it should be noted that we do not know for sure that this is the design the device will adopt. The renderings include a power button located on the top of the device like the iPhone 5s, round volume buttons, and a pill-shaped camera flash.
You'll also notice a protruding rear camera, something that we originally thought was an oddity in the OnLeaks drawing. Recent rumors, though, suggest the 4-inch iPhone will use the same 12-megapixel camera found in the iPhone 6s, which may explain the protrusion. On the iPhone 6s, the camera protrudes approximately 0.7mm from the device's 7.1mm body. The 4-inch iPhone is said to be the same thickness as the iPhone 5s, at 7.6mm, meaning the camera could still be too big to fit flush with the body.
Ahead of iPhone releases, we typically see part leaks months in advance, with images that cover everything from the display to the body to the internal parts like the logic board. With the 4-inch iPhone, we have seen exactly one part leak -- a display component that does not divulge much information about the device.
There have been no part leaks that hint at the finalized design of the 4-inch iPhone, and it's not exactly clear why that is. It's possible we have seen no leaks because it does indeed use the exact same body as the iPhone 5s, but that does not explain why there have been few internal part leaks. There's also the possibility the device has just recently entering mass production, something that could explain why the event date was pushed back from March 15 to March 21.
If the latter case is true, and production has just begun ramping up, we may see part leaks over the course of the next two weeks that will give us a clear picture of what the 4-inch iPhone will look like. As it stands now, the device's launch is shaping up to be the biggest design surprise we've had in years.
Internally, rumors have suggested the 4-inch iPhone will include an A9 processor, the aforementioned 12-megapixel camera, and an NFC chip to enable Apple Pay. It is expected to come in the same colors as the iPhone 6s -- Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Gray -- and it may be priced between $400 and $500.
Apple is holding an event on Monday, March 21, where the 4-inch iPhone, the next-generation iPad, and new Apple Watch bands are expected to debut. More of our iPhone SE renderings can be seen below. Click on images to enlarge.