This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. OK
Opinion 203 Shares 16 comments

What the iPhone SE could do for Android

Apple has just announced the iPhone SE, the newest addition to its smartphone lineup. The phone’s most interesting feature is its size: 4 inches. In the Android world, 5 inches is tiny. So why would Apple release a smaller device – essentially a repackaged iPhone 5s – in 2016? Let’s investigate.

iphone se 01
Say hello to the iPhone SE. / © Apple

Smaller Android phones

Smartphone manufacturers and their trends are often synchronized. That’s why the iPhone became larger in 2014, after it was already clear that larger Android phones were very popular. That’s why Huawei announced the Mate S with Force Touch technology one week before the iPhone 6s was announced with 3D Touch. That’s why we could see a Galaxy S7 Mini, or even more ‘mini’ models, later this year.

As it stands, you’d struggle to think of an Android phone which is smaller than the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, at 4.7 inches. Android phones below this size are virtually off the radar. That’s mainly because consumers have hungered for larger devices. But many Apple customers prefer smaller handsets, with more than 30 million 4-inch iPhones sold in 2015. Also considering that more than 35 percent of iPhone owners still use 4-inch models, Apple is making a clever move here.

Most iPhone owners in my social circle still own a 4-inch model. One of my friends, so deeply satisfied with its dimensions, replaced his iPhone 5s with a second-hand 5s after the first was stolen. Then when he left his second 5s in the back of a cab in Spain, he replaced it with a third 5s, even though the iPhone 6 was already out and clearly the better device. When I asked why, he said, “it’s the perfect size”. For Android users, the perfect size perhaps isn’t so clear just yet.

The iPhone SE displayed during the announcement. / © ANDROIDPIT

Souped-up iPhone 5s

The iPhone SE shares exterior design traits with the iPhone 5s and is not strictly an ‘iPhone 6s mini’ as first speculated. However, it has the internals of the 6s, predominantly the A9 processor, but offers them in a more compact unit, just the way some Apple customers like it.

After some initial confusion over whether the iPhone SE was going to follow the 5th or 6th generation in styling, Apple decided to go for a design and display size that has proved popular among its customers. And while it’s interesting to think of the SE as a smaller iPhone 6s, it’s more like a heavily modified iPhone 5s, sort of like this:

modified bmw
The iPhone SE is a modified iPhone 5s, like this car was once a Mercedes-Benz. / © Anthony dela Merced / Flickr

One size fits all?

Not quite. The announcement of the iPhone SE is, perhaps, a way for Apple to diversify its lineup of new phones. It might also be a way to make the 4-inch form factor more enticing for customers who are sitting on the fence, unable to pick a 5 or a 6 because the 6 is newer, but it’s larger than what they want. More than likely, it's just a way for Apple to sell off old parts gathering dust on the factory floor.

Ultimately, there is a market segment hungering for more compact phones. I, for one, have been using the 5-inch OnePlus X for a few months after putting aside the slightly larger Moto X (2014) for most of last year. How would I evaluate the change? Well, neither phone fits properly in my pockets and I’m hankering for something more practical. Are manufacturers of Android phones already planning more compact models? We'll have to wait and see.

Do you like larger phones, or would you prefer a compact unit like the iPhone SE? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Readers' favorite comments

  • Paul d Scott 7 months ago

    couldn't live with a 4" screen, but when it's in my pocket it should have a 4" screen but then transform into a 6" screen when I'm looking at it, bit like a TARDIS but the other way round....


Write new comment:
  • the car is STILL a mercedes

  • I recently had the opportunity to hold and try out an IPhone 5S for a few hours and was surprised at how much I liked it despite the micro sized screen. This I believe had to do with the fact that the device.. Despite utilizing IOS, was built well. Admittedly brand recognition did help as well.

  • Abhyuday 7 months ago Link to comment

    Small phones are fine but come on four inches is way too small. Just because consumers are now showing an interest in small phones doesn't mean apple is going to be extremely successful with the iPhone se sales by reducing the screen size so drastically.

  • Paolo 7 months ago Link to comment

    Oh, c'mon! Donald Drumpf would LOVE this phone, it's perfect for his tiny, tiny hands! How could y'all not realise that?

  • Its all about choice..i have large palms so anything below 5inches is too small for me but the perfect size fornme is 5.5 5.7 havent tried 6inches to know which is berra

  • For me the perfect size is 5,5 inches. My lg g3 has it and combined witch 2k display everything is sharp. 5,5 inches also fit into the pocket

  • Mark 7 months ago Link to comment

    Large screens are defiantly not for everyone. There are times when I would like a smaller phone. To bad it's an I phone or I might get one for when I just need a phone and don't need the larger one dragging down my pants.

  • couldn't live with a 4" screen, but when it's in my pocket it should have a 4" screen but then transform into a 6" screen when I'm looking at it, bit like a TARDIS but the other way round....

  • All what i would say is i know a few people with iPhone 5s and when I'm using my Z5 next to them they always look at it as if it's some monster phone but deep down they would prefer it but seem unable to get off the apple tree

  • MFG68 7 months ago Link to comment

    That Mercedes caption has me cracking up.

  • The appeal of a smaller screen to me is I'm less likely to stare at it all day. It would be less likely to get in the way of social interaction. I've got a computer and TV for consuming media. I can wait til I get home to watch something. And, if I REALLY can't wait, a smaller screen isn't a big problem. I would love a few android options in this size range.

  • I am reading this on a phone with a 4.5 inch screen, I can't imagine a phone screen being any smaller, especially now that phones are more about media than anything else

  • Siddharth 7 months ago Link to comment

    looking forward to but it.

    • Dean L. 7 months ago Link to comment

      I have an iPhone 5s and also still use my old htc droid incredible and when I see the >5 inch displays I drool with display envy. But after reading some of the other comments about wishing for a 4 inch screen when the phone is in your pocket makes me wonder if I would want a larger display phone. Hmmm...........

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. More info

Got it!