You may or may not know that I’ve had an affinity for “compact” or “mini”-sized smartphones for quite some time. Anywhere from 4 to 4.7-inch display is about the range I like for my smartphone screens to be. Recently, though, I’ve been participating in Samsung’s Ultimate Test Drive with the Note 5 and its massive 5.7-inch display, and if there’s one thing I’ve definitely learned over the past two weeks it’s that I still value smaller screen sizes that allow me to operate a phone easily with one hand (despite the pros that a larger screen offers).
Outside of the Test Drive, the Apple iPhone 6 has been my daily driver for almost a year now. The iPhone 6 was one of two iPhones on the market to feature a larger and more competitive size. As phablets grew less taboo and more favored in the eyes of consumers, it seemed like a welcome surprise for iPhone enthusiasts that both a 4.7 and 5.5-inch iPhone came to fruition. As for anybody still longing for the smaller 4-inch iPhone variant, 2013’s iPhone 5s was (and is) still available as part of Apple’s typical 3-year shelf life.
It’s 2016 now, which means that the 5s is due for retirement this year; rumor has it, however, that Apple hasn’t given up hope on the 4-inch display yet. The “iPhone 5se”, as many are calling it, appears to be an upcoming iPhone for those who still prefer the 4-inch display. Rumors surrounding specs speculate that it will feature an A9 and M9 chipset, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, TouchID, and share a design similar to the iPhone 6 and 6s (but smaller, of course).
I think Apple holding on to the 4-inch display for as long as they can is a smart move should the rumors be true. I still think that one-handed use is an important feature for many, and the 5-inch plus displays that most flagships have migrated to are still simply too big for comfort for a lot of people – yours truly included. Even the 4.7-inch display of the iPhone 6 is pushing it, especially with the controls of iOS (virtual back button always being on the upper left-hand corner of the display with no way to change its location). There is still some uncomfortable shifting that needs to be done from time to time when I need to go back a page or check my notifications on an iPhone, but it’s workable and I’ve grown to appreciate the extra real estate in comparison to my old iPhone 5s.
It’s also important to note that a 4-inch display is a screen size that the smartphone industry in general has moved away from whether it’s a flagship, mid-range, or even low-end device. A good current generation smartphone with a 4-inch display is non-existent. It’s an untapped market that, in my opinion, only Apple could tackle at the moment.
If the iPhone 5se happens to feature the aforementioned rumored specs, I could see it being a fairly popular device, especially considering that Apple is still a rather prestigious brand that millions of consumers value and respect. I think the biggest downside to the rumor is that 16GB is still the base model, but it also sort of makes sense if the phone is smaller (therefore “lesser”) and is to be released as early as March. People would still be mad at Apple for using the same base 16GB internal storage in the 5se, but then Apple could in turn make the launch of the iPhone 7 look “better” if they released a 32GB base model. It's just a theory, and purely speculative based on rumor at this point, but not that far-fetched. Apple's take on internal storage has been disappointing lately for me. I remember when I got the iPhone 4s that the 16GB base model (for Sprint, anyway) was considered advanced over the competition. The iPhone 4s came out a little over 4 years ago. Now Apple is way behind the times when it comes to storage.
There’s certainly potential for this phone to succeed, but there's also potential for it to flop. Aside from the alleged base storage issue, Apple isn’t known for putting cheap price tags on things and I can’t imagine that an iPhone 5se would end up being an “affordable” device by any means. Then again, the iPhone 5c was once rumored to be a “cheap” iPhone, and even though that didn’t happen I did end up seeing plenty of colorful 5cs out in the wild after its release.
It really could go either way, but if I had to put money on it I would say that even in this phablet saturated market Apple would be doing itself a favor by keeping the 4-inch smartphone around for a little while longer.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the rumored iPhone 5se? Would you be interested in a smaller iPhone, or any phone that features a 4-inch display for that matter? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!