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Apple just killed the mid-ranger with the iPhone SE

By Jaime Rivera April 24, 2020, 8:16 pm
iPhone se

It’s not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that’s most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin

Can anyone recognize Apple lately? The success of devices like the iPhone 4 and then the iPhone 6 kept this company in a bubble of endless growth, but we knew it wasn’t sustainable in the long run. That said, I want you to notice a very interesting pattern:

Does anyone remember during which iPhone cycle did growth stagnate? The answer is iPhone 6s in 2015. Does anyone remember when Apple launched the first iPhone SE? Yup, in early 2016 while the 6s was still the flagship. Now try to remember since when we’ve been covering rumors of a second iPhone SE. The answer is nearly two years, which also matches the second slump that happened during the iPhone XS days. It’s as if the iPhone SE is the company’s backup plan, which is only activated when it needs a boost in numbers, and in 2018, the iPhone XR saved the day. Then came 2019, which I’d like to think was a complete success for Apple because of a mere $50. Dropping the price of the iPhone 11 was such a genius move that brought Cupertino back to the top of the game. 

iPhone se storage

Again, can anyone recognize Apple lately? I mean, thicker iPhones with larger batteries, price drops on the mainstream model, a return to scissor switches on the Mac, the return to a modular Mac Pro. It’s as if the company has finally decided to stop drinking its own Kool Aid, and listen to its customers. 

The only thing separating Apple from total world domination was hitting its competitors in the only spot where they were making money, which was the mid-range. Cupertino already owns most of the smartphone profits, so the only thing it needed to own its competition in sales, was to launch a mid-range killer. 

But, well, 2020 and COVID-19. Even if the real intentions of the iPhone SE were met by something no one was prepared for, what we can’t deny is that the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. With the amount of uncertainty surrounding this pandemic, the last thing consumers can do is commit to buying an expensive phone, and we all know that having a long-time Apple user switch to Android is an exercise in frustration. If Apple had any concerns about having left-over A13 Bionic chips given the iPhone 11 sales slump, the iPhone SE is the answer. 

iPhone SE best cheap phone

But back to the topic in the title of this article. Now that we’ve discussed the timing, and the reasons, and the new Apple we’re getting to know, have you stopped to consider what the iPhone SE represents for the market in these weird times?

Sure, its design is half a decade old, but do you really think most teenagers in the US care about that? Trust me, I have two, and as much as I’ve tried to give them the more advanced Android phones that I have, all they want is iPhone. They don’t care if the bezels are the size of Texas, or if there’s only one camera. For some, having an iPhone is social currency. Sending out green bubbles instead of blue is a reason to be mocked in certain circles (I’m sure you’ve seen the memes). My older son didn’t even care if it was an older iPhone, so long as it was an iPhone, and that’s the reality for most people that have somehow been initiated in the Apple world. For others, it’s about how badly Android phones interact with the social media apps they care about. Yes, admit it, you’ve seen the memes of Snapchat for Android and its “potato camera.” And then there’s the case of the typical adult that might find your new “droid” cool, but love their iPhone. 

Point is, the iPhone remains an aspirational product, and if there’s a good batch of consumers that don’t care how the iPhone looks, then what if you told them that it’s just as powerful as the iPhone 11, has the same camera capabilities as the iPhone XR, brings the same design of the iPhone 8, offers that Product Red color option that many look for on the 11 and XR, and then you tell them that it starts at just $399. Like, who would even debate it? 

And sure, you can find more affordable Android mid-rangers, but how many of those Moto G devices that just launched currently rock the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865? Think about it: If Samsung were to re-launch the Galaxy S7 with a Snapdragon 865 and price it at $399, would you even gaze at any other mid-ranger? Heck even Google decided to drop the price of the Pixel 4 to $499 the day the iPhone SE was announced, because it’s clear that the Pixel 3a is simply no match. 

This is why the iPhone SE is so disruptive. It makes every single midranger in the market look bad. I’m sure even the die-hard Android users shopping for a mid-ranger are already thinking long and hard about giving that iPhone SE a try. Every single discerning technology enthusiast would feel scammed if the $399 product they’re buying is less powerful than what Apple is offering. 

Maybe this wasn’t such a statement in 2016 because Apple’s A9 was still not as powerful a beast as the A13 Bionic is when compared to any Snapdragon chip. And yes, I know it lacks the 5G element, but so does your carrier in most of the world today anyways. And then there’s the fact that Apple makes and controls such key components. Apple can play the game of refurbishing an old design, and it’s not like Cupertino has to discount its own chips to itself. Whereas I doubt Qualcomm would ever sell the 865 at a discounted price just to help OEMs compete. We have seen some of that strategy with devices like the Pocophone F1 and the Redmi K20 Pro, but going back to my argument a couple of paragraphs ago, regardless of how great these phones were, it’s different when Apple does it.  

iPhone SE Red color

This is why this statement is so important. What happens when the Flagship company becomes the Flagship killer? Well we have the iPhone 11 to prove that success. Now, what happens when that same Flagship company also decides to become the mid-ranger killer?

What have been the major pain points of mid-rangers and even some former flagship killers? Lackluster camera quality, slow or no software updates, and cheap materials that don’t age well. Guys, I’m not saying I forgive Apple for launching a 5-year-old design one more time, but you do have to admit that even the old iPhone 8 is made of better materials than most mid-rangers. I know most mid-rangers include 3 or 4 cameras today, but let’s admit none of them take photos that are as great as even iPhones from four years ago. And don’t even get me started on software updates, as we know that in that department, anyone thinking about holding-on to a phone for 4 years will only be served well by Apple.  

The Bottom Line

To conclude, I think you get where I’m going. Apple just launched a flagship phone, in the body of its 2017 flagship, and priced it so aggressively that your 2020 mid-ranger looks like a rip-off.  

I can’t tell you that I’d buy the iPhone SE for myself, for obvious reasons, and I’m sure that’s most likely the case for most of you reading right now or watching our videos. Apple didn’t build this phone for us. They built it for everyone else, and if you’ve done the math of how many tech-savy friends you have that match your taste, I’m sure you noticed they’re most likely just one or two out of ten. It turns out that the average consumer outnumbers us by a significant margin, and this is why this move is so genius. 

If you were to give a smartphone to a significant other, one of your kids, or a parent, I doubt you’d pick any other mid-ranger over an iPhone SE. That Apple that was so adamant to change years ago, is now the one that’s adapted best to change.

This is why the rest of the mid-rangers are DOA. Because Apple didn’t really launch a mid-ranger to compete at their same price. May they all Rest In Peace..


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