So, Apple announced the iPhone SE. A smaller version of the iPhone aimed at users who are still holding onto their iPhone 5-class phones and refusing to upgrade due to the increased size of the iPhone 6-class phones. While it is easy to make fun of it as an iPhone 6s shrunken down into the body of a 5s, it actually makes quite a bit of sense.
But first, let’s show the internal hardware of the SE. See if it rings any bells.
|Processor||Apple A9 SoC w/ 2x Apple Twister cores clocked at 1.84GHz per core + hexa-core PowerVR GT7600 GPU, 14nm FinFET chip (Samsung), 16nm FinFET chip (TSMC)|
|Memory||2GB of LPDDR4|
|Storage||16GB/64GB of NAND flash storage, NVMe-based storage controller|
|Display||4-inch IPS LCD display w/ a resolution of 1136×640 (326PPI), oleophobic coating + scratch-resistant glass|
|Software||iOS 9.3 (current version)|
|Camera||Rear: 1/3” 12MP sensor w/ 1.22-micron pixels, f/2.2 aperture, PDAF, dual-LED flash
Front: 1.2MP sensor w/ f.2.4 aperture
|Battery||1,642mAh sealed Li-Po unit, no fast charging, no wireless charging|
|Features||TouchID, Apple Pay, Wi-Fi AC, LTE-A, Bluetooth 4.2, Siri, iCloud|
Yes, indeed. The iPhone SE pretty much has the same hardware as the larger iPhone 6s, bar some stuff like the display and front camera. While the outside design is pretty much the same as the outgoing 5S (albeit with a “Rose Gold”, A.K.A. Pink color option), the inside is a total revamp.
So why does this make sense?
According to the chart above by David Smith, there’s still a significant number of users who are still on the iPhone 5-class phones. Whether that’s due to budget issues or other factors is on marketing researchers’ side. But to Apple, this is a significant chunk of the market and one that they can’t ignore, especially since people who want a smaller phone will have to step back to a 5S as the increased size of the 6-class phones might not suit them well.
The plan might look like a lack of innovation in the sense that Apple looks to have basically shrunken down the internal hardware of the iPhone 6s and stashed it into the body of some spare iPhone 5S bodies while spraying them with a new coat of paint, but it actually makes sense. Why? Because those who want a smaller phone but don’t want to settle for 2013 hardware now have the phone to satisfy them in terms of hardware while retaining the size that they want. THAT’S WHY!
What does this mean for the entire market?
The issue with any non-Apple device is that any phone smaller than 5-inches is viewed as a “budget” or “value-oriented” option, not helped by the prevalence of “Mini” versions of their respective flagships, which died down recently. These “Mini” phones like the Galaxy S4 Mini and HTC One Mini packed in a similar design to their larger brethrens but often have gimped hardware and are slower to receive software updates.
Sony’s “Compact” line is perhaps the best example of a smaller flagship done right. It keeps nearly all of the hardware of the larger version (minus some stuff like the display and such) while maintaining a small form-factor. It was actually quite a hit back in the day, but has been silently killed off in favor of the X-line.
What I am hoping to see is that the iPhone SE actually makes a change significant enough for other OEMs to make PROPER “Mini” versions of their flagships. Don’t gimp the processor or storage or any critical internal component. Keep them the same as the one on the flagship. Make it more accessible to those with smaller hands.