So often, laptop manufacturers will maintain the same design as they upgrade the internals year to year. Take the MacBook Pro for example, it’s the top of the line laptop available from Apple, but hasn’t seen a significant design change in years. But this is hardly a drawback given that Apple continues to ship tens of millions of these machines per year. However, with the recent announcement of the iPhone SE, the concept of maintaining a signature design with upgraded guts seems to be met with a lot more criticism, to say the least.
The iPhone SE is arguably one of the most strategic moves Apple could do in an effort to bolster their mobile line up outside of announcing the iPhone 7
What if, and this may seem revolutionary for some, we were to step back and attempt to reason why a product like this would be announced at a time like this, as opposed to taking the easy road through click-bait articles that mark this product as a design failure. Why would Apple take an iconic mobile device and re-release it with the latest in mobile processing and photography, and at a much cheaper price? The more you read that question, the more rhetorical it sounds. You see, the iPhone SE is arguably one of the most strategic moves Apple could do in an effort to bolster their mobile line up outside of announcing the iPhone 7.
It wasn’t long ago that Apple took a crack at releasing a fresh take on the lower-end of their mobile spectrum with the iPhone 5c. Suffice to say, it was a flop. But at the very least, Apple learned a valuable lesson from that botched product launch: don’t skimp on polish. Fast forward to today, and the iPhone SE has the makings of a flagship device. Armed with the same processors and rear camerea seen in the iPhone 6s that’s housed under, what I would argue, the best cellphone chassis Apple has ever made, the iPhone SE is undoubtedly a polished device. But, why would Apple create this thing in the first place?
This phone is very important to Apple, and it’s a shame more journalists haven’t peeled the layers back on it
As product lineups widen, it’s imperative that we’re able to accept the fact that not everything Apple designs is for us. No other item underscores this more than the iPhone SE. You see, this phone is very important to Apple, and it’s a shame more journalists haven’t peeled the layers back on it. The iPhone SE exists to lower the barrier of entry for iOS, while providing a premium build quality in a form factor that that appeals to a niche audience. And only an incumbent such as Apple can build a product like this expect to sell tens of millions of them globally.
Historically, the on-contract $0 iPhone has always been the previous model to what was newly announced. And this has worked well for Apple. But if they are to succeed in key markets, namely India, Apple would have to build a Frakenstein device that is both cheaper ($400USD in this case) and premium, as opposed to lowering the price of older models year to year. And they seemed to have pulled this off. With the iPhone SE, a customer can expect to get some the latest technologies at an entry price of $0 on contract. This is what they are introduced to. From here, the customer can decide if they wish to invest in larger screens, or bigger batteries. But most importantly, when a customer is looking at “free” phones, Apple now has something to compete with mid-range Android phones that simply isnt old. And if a third of 4” phone buyers are new to the iOS, it's crucial for Apple to keep these switchers bought into the company by providing some of their best features.
When you hold the iPhone SE, it still feels premium, not plastic
I’ll keep it simple here: the iPhone 5s was the best designed mobile phone that Apple has ever made. And while I gave mine up a while ago in favour of a larger screen, I still prefer the look and feel of the 5s to the rounded and slippery iPhone 6s. But regardless of where you lie, the SE still feels premium. And to call it dated would be a disservice. And yet that’s what we’ve seen in many reviews. The crux of this problem is that we have a huge swath of tech journalists inadvertently commenting on economics and industrial design, when really, their expertise may lie elsewhere. That isn’t to say that they aren’t entitled to their opinion. But when it comes to the design of the iPhone SE, they are simply wrong. Throw it up against any major smartphone in the same price ranges, and you’d be hardpressed to find a device that uses similar materials and looks just as good. When you hold the iPhone SE, it still feels premium, not plastic.
The biggest problem facing Apple right now isn’t owning the top-end market. They own that market. Truly, the challenge they face is growth in an increasingly saturated market. How many customers are actually left? The iPhone SE is a key differentiator in that in encroaches the lower-end of the scale to create a tipping point that some customers may pay more for, whether it’s outright or subsidized. In 2015, 30 million people bought into the iPhone 5s, and while the larger market may be moving toward larger screens, there are still a passionate group of people that prefer a smaller, pocketable eperience. And if Apple expects to sustain growth in the coming years, having a fresh take in the 4” category isn’t a bad start.
There is a definitive purpose being ignored by analysts and pundits alike
With 3.4 million pre-orders in China alone and inventory becoming increasingly limited, things seem to be on the right track for Apple’s iPhone SE. See, this phone isn’t made for me, or maybe even you. But there's a definitive purpose being ignored by analysts and pundits alike. The iPhone SE will continue to attract switchers, which plays into Apple’s larger strategy of building an Apple ecosytem in homes. But most importantly, when you look at buying an iPhone now, Apple has the $0 to $500 price locked down with something relatively new. And while the SE didn’t create a splash for critics, it provides the best of iOS at a far more affordable price, and without an ugly camera bump. And that’s worth some celebration.