It seems like every new Android phone these days has a display that’s 5-inches or bigger. And while I’m constantly asked by readers where they can get a high-end, small-sized phone, I wouldn’t dare suggest they switch ecosystems for the newly announced 4-inch iPhone SE. And that’s not because I’m worried about Android’s market share.
Android phones sales are growing in emerging markets, and that can be attributed to two things: they’re cheap and they’re huge. The new iPhone SE seems to solely exist as fan service for those who won’t release their iron grip on their aging iPhone 5 or 5s, or as a more affordable alternative for your teen who just can’t even be seen outside of the house without an iPhone.
For those with smaller hands
Remember when iPhone users wanted a big huge phone? Apple delivered with the iPhone 6+. It’s doing the same with the iPhone SE, which caters to a small subset of users who just won’t go for anything bigger. “It was a bit of a surprise when Apple said that there’s still demand from a small, four-inch size,” said Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner who attended today’s Apple event.
Indeed, there is quite a demand. According to MixPanel, about 18 percent of iPhone users are still wielding a three-year-old, 4-inch iPhone 5S. In fact, until the SE was announced, Apple still sold the iPhone 5S. But that phone is starting to show its age, and Apple is doing what it can to bring its users up to snuff. It also gives Apple the option of cutting off support for the iPhone 5S in the next major iOS revision without cutting out its 4-inch phone users. The advantage of the iPhone SE are its premium components, which should be a huge incentive for iOS users with aging devices. They get the latest processor and camera, and can finally get on board with Apple Pay.
On the Android side of things, there aren’t too many users clamoring for a phone that small—it's a vocal minority. There’s plenty of data that shows that bigger phones sell. Analysts at Statista report that this year, there will be 146 million smartphones sold that are larger than 5-inches, and this is following last year’s boom. And that doesn't count the hundreds of millions of phones in the 4.7 to 5-inch range. Those that are aching for smaller phones can choose between Motorola and OnePlus’s offerings, two solid phones that cost half the price of one iPhone SE.
It’s still too expensive
There’s no denying that the iPhone SE’s existence is great for Apple fans. “If you have notions of getting into iOS, now you have a wider variety of devices to choose from,” said Blau. “By adding this one more model with better components at a smaller screen size, that’s significantly expanding [Apple’s] product line to places they haven’t been before.”
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.