For the first time in a couple of years, Apple will likely release two completely distinct iPhone devices during 2016. Although the last couple of years have seen the consumer electronics giant releasing a smartphone alongside a phablet, with the latter being the newly created Plus series, the situation in 2016 will be completely different.
Apple will still produce a smartphone and phablet for release in the latter weeks of the Q3, and this will undoubtedly be called the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. But reports have increasingly intensified suggesting that Apple will also release a smaller version of the iPhone earlier in the year, and the latest name being linked with this device is the iPhone 5SE.
The SE in the title of this smartphone stands for Special Edition, indicating that Apple intends to create some market buzz with this device. So consumers looking to pick up a new Apple device in 2016 will be faced with a serious purchasing conundrum. Should they pick up this new, smaller iPhone 5SE unit in April – when the smartphone is slated for release – or instead wait for the release of the fully fledged iPhone 7 later in the year?
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iPhone 5SE Or iPhone 7: What we know so far
In order to assess this question, it is worthwhile understanding what we already suspect regarding the two devices. Apple has released absolutely no concrete information on either device, or even confirmed their existence. But leaks from close to the supply chain have provided us with numerous clues regarding the two smartphones, meaning that we can make a reasonable estimation about the specifications and capabilities of the two devices.
The first thing to emphasize is that the iPhone 5SE will not be the all-singing, all-dancing smartphone that is the iPhone 7. This is an affordable version of the iconic iPhone range, still intended to deliver an extremely capable smartphone experience, but not with all of the premium features of the more expensive handset.
No 3D Touch
So one major omission from the iPhone 5SE, at least according to the opinion of most analysts, will be the 3D Touch system that debuted last year. Introduced to make the iPhone 6S stand out from competitors, 3D Touch was generally well received critically, and was indeed promoted by Apple as a major selling point of its premium smartphone. Samsung is already moving to create a similar system for the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S7, and there is no doubt that the omission of this device from the iPhone 5SE should be considered significant.
But Apple will be ensuring that the new iPhone 5SE is capable of doing things that previous smaller versions of the iPhone range were not able to carry out. Early rumors suggest that the smartphone will be compatible with Apple Pay and Live Photos, neither of which were included in the palette of functions of the iPhone 5S.
It has also been reported that Apple will be improving the low-light shooting capabilities of the iPhone 5SE in comparison with previous iterations of the iPhone range. This may mean that the eight-megapixel snapper that has been linked with this diminutive iPhone version may actually be superior to existing iPhone cameras. What Apple has in store for the larger iPhone 7 remains to be seen, but the iPhone 5SE should certainly be an adequate performance in this department.
The screen resolution linked with the iPhone 5SE is roughly in line with that of the existing iPhone 6S, and considering the smaller screen, this means that it will have a superior pixels per inch rating. Considering that the price point of this smartphone is likely to be significantly less than the premium version of the iconic mobile – indeed it has been suggested by analysts that it will retail at around $449 – there do seem to be many plus points related to this smaller smartphone competitor.
Consumer appeal lacking?
However, there are definitely downsides to the iPhone 5SE as well. A recent survey of US consumers suggested that only 20 per cent would be interested in purchasing a smartphone with a smaller four-inch display. Undoubtedly, viewing media has become a major selling point for mobiles, and the iPhone 5SE would not be ideal for this particular purpose. In many ways, the four-inch display is counter-intuitive, and certainly goes against the fashion of the industry. In general terms, not merely in the smartphone niche, the trend has been for ever larger displays, with the intention of making the viewing of media a more immersive experience.
On the other hand, the size of the device could be viewed as a plus point for those who favor a convenient smartphone, as it will simply ensure that the iPhone 5SE is a truly mobile device. While the phablet-sized handsets that have appeared on the market in recent years can be technically impressive, they do not appeal to all tastes, with many people considering than unwieldy. It has been noted that people with small hands can find them difficult to operate, and this could be another selling point for the iPhone 5SE.
However, another thing that Apple unquestionably relies on in pretty much every geographical region is the positive image of the company. Many people revile Apple products for being fashion items, but there is no doubt that the brand credibility that Apple has built up plays a major role in the incredible success story of the corporation.
With only 20 per cent of US consumers indicating that they would be interested in the smaller version of the iPhone, the iPhone 5SE could be something of a curiosity or curate’s egg in the Western marketplace. Apple relies on hooking consumers in with its undoubted coolness and brand loyalty, yet people are not necessarily going to shell out for an Apple-branded smartphone if it does not meet the basic criteria that they require from a smartphone.
This could mean that the iPhone 5SE does not sell particularly well in the West, and indeed it is thought that the device has been developed with China in particular in mind. Nonetheless, those consumers wanting a more affordable alternative to the iPhone 7 will be tempted to buy the iPhone 5SE, particularly as it is being released long before the premium version of the iconic smartphone.
But those wanting all the bells, whistles and street cred of the fully-formed iPhone 7 will probably be willing to commit to the extra expenditure and wait the six months required in order to get their hands on one.