Yep, it is a little early to trade in my iPhone 11 Pro Diary for an iPhone 12 one. But I’ve been thinking about my options and whether I might finally get my true iPhone SE 2 this year.

I always buy my iPhones outright, rather than on any kind of contract or finance deal, which means I’m not on a predetermined upgrade schedule. Each year, I need to choose between sticking with the phone I have, buying the latest flagship model, or buying a lower-end one.

As a gadget lover, I will typically buy the flagship model, but there has been one notable exception: when I “downgraded” from the iPhone 6s to the original iPhone SE. I did so for the size, but also the aesthetics — I’ve always loved the classic slab-sided design.

I know it’s shallow, but let’s be honest here, great design is one of the reasons we all buy Apple kit. The UI and ecosystem may be bigger factors in the scheme of things, but we’re also people who appreciate gorgeous aesthetics and are willing to pay a (modest) premium for something as beautiful as it is functional.

I’m willing to pay a premium for great design because every time I look at or use a stylish device, I’m glad I did. I never had that feeling about the iPhone 6 or 6s, but I do have it about the SE. Only this time, I don’t even have to pay a premium: I’d actually have money in my pocket after selling my 6s. Win-win.

This year, I’ll get the return of the slab-sided design I already enjoy in my iPad Pro and a 2020 iPhone. The design alone means that I already know I’ll be upgrading this year. The trickier question, however, is: to what?

The real iPhone SE 2?

While Apple commandeered the “iPhone SE” name for something that was absolutely not a successor to the beautiful, compact original, things look set to change this year. Because the bottom-end iPhone 12 is sounding almost exactly like the iPhone SE 2 I’d long been wanting.

One of the best looks we’ve had so far is Marques Brownlee’s hands-on with some realistic-looking dummy models (above).

The 5.4-inch screen size is, of course, bigger than the 4-inch original, but thanks to a near-bezel-free design, the external dimensions shouldn’t be very much larger than the first-generation SE. Being almost as pocketable, and with the return of the classic design, it is — in my view — the true successor to the iPhone SE.

So … I already want one. The question is: what compromise might be involved in choosing the bottom-of-the-range iPhone 12 rather than the iPhone 12 Pro?

What would I sacrifice?

One likely difference is that only the Pro models look set to get the Time-of-Flight sensor for better AR performance. I can easily live without that, though. While I do find augmented reality an impressive form of tech, I don’t actually use a single AR app myself.

A possible difference is in the 5G tech on board. There have been conflicting reports about which iPhone 12 models will get which versions of 5G. In particular, will all models or all countries get the faster but shorter-range mmWave 5G? If not, will it be all models in only some countries or only some models in all countries?

Were I just thinking this year, I wouldn’t care: 5G is barely a thing yet, even in London. But it should become a thing by some point next year, and mmWave 5G is likely to be found in London in the kinds of places you hang out for some time, like airports and train stations. So if only the iPhone 12 Pro models offer that, things already get tricky.

Trickier still is the fact that the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 is set to come with only two cameras, while the flagship models get three. That could be a deal-breaker for me given that being a camera is a key part of my iPhone’s job description.

While I have found one key weakness in the iPhone 11 Pro camera, and don’t expect those to be fixed in the iPhone 12, the iPhone is the only camera I use most of the time. Travel (remember that?) remains the main exception, and even then I did use the iPhone as my only camera on my most recent trip. So ideally, I want the best possible camera(s) I can get in my iPhone.

Right now, reports suggest that the base models will get standard and ultra-wide lenses, while the Pro models will add a telephoto. Of the three lenses, the telephoto is the one I’d most willingly sacrifice. But if there are other camera differences …. that could be the deciding factor.

I’m really hoping there aren’t. If the 5.4-inch model gives me standard and ultra-wide lenses; no other camera compromises over the Pro; both sub-6HGz and mmWave 5G; and no other major differences from the Pro models — I think that will be my next phone. A true iPhone SE 2.

Image: Marques Brownlee

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Incase plastic ocean waste collection

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear