There's no indication that Apple will refresh its iPhone SE variant in 2017. By extending the shelf life of the current-gen device by another year, Apple could instead attempt to bolster its gross margins while also avoiding intercompetition between other current smartphones, such as the flagship iPhone 7, which Apple only recently launched.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple is unlikely to release a refresh of the iPhone SE in the second quarter of 2017, or March, in Apple's fiscal year. The iPhone SE was first unveiled by Apple in March this year. It's a 4-inch iPhone with a 12-megapixel camera running on Apple's proprietary A9 chip. It's supposed to be Apple's less intimidating iPhone variant in terms of size, which also doesn't skimp on power and premium features.
Apple Insider reports that, while Kuo says that there will be no new iPhone SE by Q2, he does not mention if Apple plans to unveil a new iPhone SE model in Q3 or Q4 or sometime beyond the purported timeline.
Apple is likely skipping a revamped iPhone SE as a direct influence of the company's expected gross margin guidance for Q1 2017, which is lower than expected. During Apple's most recent investors conference, the company outlined gross margins between 38 to 38.5 percent for the quarter ending in December, which is lower than its forecast in 2015 at 40.1 percent.
Ditching an iPhone SE revamp might not be the only thing on Apple's checklist, to ensure that profits balloon for the forthcoming fiscal quarters.
Kuo believes that Apple is backing component suppliers into a corner, convincing them to cut the costs of iPhone components to keep margins healthy as it enters a new fiscal year. Kuo expects suppliers to obey Apple and slash the pricing of components during November or December.
Kuo, however, notes that not all suppliers may follow Apple's plea for cost reductions. iPhone component makers, such as the manufacturers of the device's panel in particular, have insufficient moxie to bargain with Apple because of the fierce competition among suppliers. But major suppliers like Samsung or TSMC have more leeway to reject Apple's austerity measures, leaving smaller-scale suppliers with no choice but to succumb to Apple.
iPhone shipments are predicted to hit 40 million to 50 million for this quarter. Kuo's longthrow forecast finds 35 million to 40 million iPhone units sold by the end of Q2 2017. Such predictions are lower compared with last year's.