Leading up to Apple’s March 21st Event, it seemed like anyone following the tech press knew Apple was going to be releasing an iPhone SE (an iPhone 5S with upgraded internals), a couple of new Apple Watch bands, and an updated 9.7″ iPad. While Tim Cook and Co. did announce exactly that, there is already some chatter online about the iPhone SE being a disappointment – a sentiment I wholly disagree with.
For many of us, we’ve been on an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, or the even newer 6S/6S Plus, so the idea of an updated 5S seemed totally ridiculous. For me, personally, I had the iPhone 6 and welcomed the size increase from my iPhone 5. When the 6S and 6S Plus came out this past fall, I saw it as an opportunity to jump up yet another size. I know that I’m not alone in that thinking – when Apple launched the larger handsets in 2014, they were the hottest thing in mobile phones, outselling any iPhone in history.
All of that considered, why would Apple about face and release a new iPhone in the “old” 4″ scale? If the 4.7″ and 5.5″ screens were so in-demand, what’s the need for the iPhone SE? Surely the reason has to be more broad than targeting kids, or presidential candidates with unusually small hands.
When Apple’s Greg Joswaik began discussing the iPhone SE, and more generally, 4″ iPhones (5, 5S, 5C) during the event, he highlighted that, while some people just prefer a smaller phone, it’s also a very popular entry sized device for many iPhone customers, accounting for over 30 Million of the iPhones sold in 2015 . Even more-so, in countries like China, the most popular size for new-to-iPhone customers was in the 4″ scale.
By updating the 4″ iPhone with more modern specs, like Apple Pay, a higher-end camera, improved processing power, and the new M9 coprocessor, customers can get the best iPhone experience, regardless of what size of device they choose. By offering a smaller iPhone, it also allows Apple to maximize device sales in all points (the new iPhone SE starts at $399 without contract).
While it wasn’t explicitly mentioned, I also believe that the new iPhone SE is a device that might offer appeal to businesses, looking to outfit a large number of employees with an iPhone, at nearly 40% less than it would cost with a 16GB iPhone 6S. Additionally, it could be possible for businesses to use the NFC chip within the iPhone SE to replace an access card, similar to the handling of Walgreen’s Balance Rewards card, which would allow the device to act as a keyless entry badge for entry into secure facilities, an initiative Apple has actively been working on since the introduction of Apple Pay in 2014.
The iPhone SE might not have been a game changing device for those who have taken the dive into the larger iPhone 6/6 Plus/6S/6S Plus, but it certainly is a device that might encourage those on an older iPhone to upgrade. In doing so, it will undoubtedly usher in an increased adoption of newer features (Apple Pay, Live Photos), helping more other technologies forward. It also helps to broaden the product line of top-spec device, helping Apple compete in lower price ranges, without sacrificing features in those lower cost markets or high-volume business customers.