According to Mixpanel, which tracks active iPhones, nearly one-third of iPhone users are still using phones that are 4 inches or smaller. That’s a lot of people likely due for an upgrade to a new iPhone, but are holding out because they don’t want a giant screen.
Many were hanging on to their iPhone 5 because they liked how it easily slipped into their pockets or let them navigate with one hand.
The larger models are extremely popular and have fueled explosive growth in iPhone sales. However, some people have always felt the new sizes are too large. In fact, the original iPhones were smaller because Apple’s research indicated smaller phones were more usable. All sorts of people prefer the 4″ phone, but this is especially true of those with small pockets, bodies, or hands.
Even in the era of big 6-series phones, though, those customers have had an iPhone they could buy: the 5 or 5s. Unfortunately, this happy state of affairs will presumably end in September when the iPhone 7 is introduced; the 6s would become the mid-tier, the 6 would become the bottom-tier, and there would no longer be a 4″ iPhone to buy.
At the same time, Apple has never been happy with the bottom end of its iPhone line. Particularly in non-s years, the middle and bottom tiers look exactly the same. That’s got to lead to some confusion among customers: they know the $200 phone is the big new thing that’s in all the ads, but they aren’t really sure what the difference is between the $100 and the $0 phone. In an s year, the phones at least have different designs, but in a non-s year, they look identical.
When the iPhone 6 was introduced, Apple experimented with differentiating the lower end models: they replaced the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 5c, which was basically the same phone but in a case made of colorful plastic instead of aluminum. The 5c was popular with some customers, but by all reports it didn’t work as well as Apple hoped.
So what Apple is doing this year is killing two birds with one stone. The iPhone SE has a clear difference from the 6s it will be sharing a product line with in September: It’s smaller. This will simultaneously give the people who want small iPhones a product to buy andmake it easier for customers to decide between the $0 and $100 phones. And its specs are actually pretty good, better than the iPhone 6 in many respects. It’s a clever solution that serves both Apple’s and customers’ interests.