It would seem that Apple engineers learned some important lessons from the iPhone 5C in what consumers care about for smaller phones. Most importantly, that a mid-range phone can’t feel like a gimped or “cheap” product. Taking the wraps off of the new iPhone SE today during Apple’s March keynote, we’re going to see a much more aggressive push into mid-range territory. Apple’s strategy of late has been to deliver price breaks on one year old phones, and larger price break or “free on contract” deals for two year old phones.
They’ve done well with that strategy, but the iPhone 5S is aging out of the market quickly. Apple is right to be worried about losing those sales, as the company sold over 30 million 4” screened phones in 2015. The iPhone 5S represented one of the last, true, premium small form factor devices sold by any manufacturer. Without some kind of replacement, there would be a significant gap in the market. No company likes leaving money on the table, least of all Apple…
The iPhone SE not only fills that gap, but it raises the bar on what consumers should expect from a mid-ranger device.
This phone doesn’t blaze any new design territory, maintaining the same general design and form factor from the 5S, but the internal tech represents a huge shot in the arm for a less expensive iPhone. Following almost six months behind the iPhone 6S, the iPhone SE brings much of the same technology to the table for a reduced price. The SE is powered by the same A9 processor, with the M9 motion co-processor for fitness tracking and to active “Hey Siri”. We’ll get the same 12MP camera with UHD video recording. Plus, the SE will inherit the NFC radio for Apple pay.
No mention was made during the press event as to what the screen resolution might be, but Apple’s product page is confirming the older Retina wide screen resolution of 1136×640. The base model SE will start you off with 16GB of storage, which is a bit cramped these days. There was also no mention made of 3D Touch, so that could be omitted to help pricing, but it’s difficult to find much fault with a phone that packs flagship guts and starts at $399.
At this price point, Apple is delivering a product which pushes into popular Android territory, handily undercutting phones like the HTC One A9. It also shows a maturity of branding. Apple couldn’t rightfully return to “plastic phones” and still expect consumers to pay a premium. Here Apple dodges concerns over build quality and image.
We’ve seen many Android manufacturers simply stop shipping “mini” versions of their flagship phones. Those devices were less expensive, but usually featured poorer performance than their larger counterparts.
Lastly, the iPhone SE should also answer any concerns over support. Buying an iPhone 5S last year meant you could be fairly sure that your software support was likely limited. Maybe you’d get new OS updates, but certainly none of the new processor intensive features. Since the iPhone SE shares a lot of the same hardware as the iPhone 6S, the update timeline should look similar to Apple’s current flagship.
This is exciting territory for Apple. This isn’t a company known for delivering “deals”. We now have a proper new phone option in the mid-range, which is flagship powerful, and is priced $250 less than the iPhone 6S. Nothing about the iPhone SE is revolutionary, but this is maybe the most responsive move we’ve ever seen from Apple. Learning from past mistakes, and making sure that gaps in the market are satisfied with high quality products. Tactically executing those ideas, and bringing more competition to more people, will always be exciting.