Singapore will be one of the first countries to sell new Apple iPhone SE

Members of the press taking photos and videos of the new 4-inch iPhone SE at Apple Campus Town Hall in Cupertino, US. The smartphone goes on sale in 12 markets, including Singapore, next week.
Members of the press taking photos and videos of the new 4-inch iPhone SE at Apple Campus Town Hall in Cupertino, US. The smartphone goes on sale in 12 markets, including Singapore, next week. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Apple's newly announced iPhone SE, the successor to the iPhone 5s, will launch in Singapore on March 31, marking a renewed attempt at the mid-range phone market here.

Singapore will be one of the first 12 markets - including the United States, China and Japan - to start selling the 4-inch iPhone next week.

Apple is taking pre-orders from today at prices starting at $658 for the basic 16GB model. The 64GB model goes for $828. Neither comes with telco contracts.

The iPhone SE has the same basic design as the iPhone 5s, which was launched in September 2013, but sports the souped-up innards of the iPhone 6s launched last year.

For instance, the iPhone SE has the same processor, and 12-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front-facing camera, as the iPhone 6s. It supports the Apple Pay e-wallet function, and is able to take ultra-high definition 4K videos and moving images called Live Photos.

It is smaller than the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch display sizes of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, respectively.

IDC Asia-Pacific research manager Kiranjeet Kaur said the new phone is Apple's renewed attempt at the mid-range market. "Apple stopped shipping the iPhone 5s to Singapore from the second quarter of last year," she said, adding that the iPhone 5c, launched here in September 2013, was also unable to capture this segment as it was regarded as too expensive ($848 for a 16GB model) for its features and design.

Mr Clement Teo, senior analyst at market research firm Forrester, said the iPhone SE will attract only a small group of users here. "Most people have embraced the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus with enthusiasm."

Violin teacher Eileen Chai, 38, belongs to this group of users.

"A smaller phone is easier for me as I have small hands. It fits easily in my pocket too," she said. She has been waiting for an upgrade to the iPhone 5s, which she is using now.

Another iPhone 5s user, Ms Beatrice Tan, 24, said she wants a 32GB model, which Apple is not offering.

The account executive said: "I would upgrade to the iPhone SE, but why is there no 32GB model?"

Meanwhile, there is still demand for a second-hand iPhone 5s.

Mr Ian Tan, senior director for marketing at used-phones e-marketplace Andios, said demand is as high as that for a used iPhone 6.

Andios has seen several hundred used iPhones transacted since last November. Around half are the iPhone 6, while the rest are a mixture of iPhone 5 and 5s.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore will be one of the first countries to sell new iPhone SE'. Print Edition | Subscribe