Just a couple of weeks ago, Apple revealed its newest iPhone: the 4-inch iPhone SE. The return of a smaller iPhone, for the most part, was a welcome return, mostly because the smaller iPhone doesn’t cut corners when it comes to performance (which we have typically come to expect out of “mini” flagships). While the iPhone SE looks identical to an iPhone 5S, the internals are mostly the same of the newest iPhone 6S. It is an impressive feat, and a move that opens consumers’ eyes to the fact that just because a device is smaller doesn’t necessarily mean that it will perform worse than the much larger phones we have grown accustomed to.
Apple isn’t the first company to make a powerful mini, as Sony has been doing this for quite some time now with their Compact series of smartphones. Where Apple differs is that their mini is actually a mini; a 4-inch display is probably the smallest display you’ll see on any smartphone in 2016, flagship or not. Most other “minis” don’t go smaller than a 4.5-inch display, which is pretty close to an average 4.7-inch display – which is another screen size that slowly seems to be going by the wayside.
So here’s the thing: At this point, it’s not uncommon to see a manufacturer come out with two sizes of flagship smartphones. You have big, and you have bigger. "Big" usually ranges anywhere from 4.7 to 5-inch displays, while "bigger" will range in between 5.5 and 6-inch displays. My question is, as the title suggests, should manufacturers start including a third, smaller option alongside the other two?
Part of me wonders just how many people are actually still interested in a smaller phone. I have always valued the ability to use a phone with one hand, and many flagships these days just don’t provide a quality one-handed experience for me. When the iPhone SE was announced, everything went better than I expected it to. Not only does the device bring back the beloved 4-inch form factor that Apple had held onto for so long, but it has nearly identical the performance of the larger iPhone 6s. It is the best of both worlds for me, and for a lot of people who have thus far been unwilling to sacrifice smaller form factor in exchange for a larger phone with better performance.
On the other hand, I also feel that I’m a minority here in my feelings. A lot of people who felt the way I did about smaller phones have already moved on to “bigger and better” things, so to speak, because that’s just the turn the industry has taken over the past few years. The flagships with the best performance got bigger, and if you wanted the best of the best you simply had to deal with these changes. Now that we have a couple of viable options for small smartphones that perform like flagships (instead of the pitiful attempts at minis we have seen in the past), will people actually want to go back to that? It’s true that there is a lot of value to be had with extra real estate, and even though one-handed usability is important to me, going back to a smaller screen is also a difficult adjustment.
I am grateful that Apple and Sony have provided a third, smaller size in their flagship lineups. It wasn’t too long ago that most companies just came out with one flagship, though, and now most will release two; would it be too damning to begin including a third as well?