Apple downsizes its smartphone with launch of iPhone SE

| 41 comments

Apple has designed a smaller version of its current iPhone, which is almost identical in shape and size to its older 5s model but with the same capabilities as the newer iPhone 6s (+ slideshow).

Announced by Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier today, the 4-inch iPhone SE has the same processing chip as the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s.

Apple iPhone SE

It also features the same 12‑megapixel iSight camera, and comes in the same four colour options: gold, silver, space grey and rose gold.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices – Apple's largest models to date – were criticised after they launched in September 2014 as owners complained that they bent under pressure.

The newer 6s versions were released a year later, designed to be more robust and including 3D Touch sensor technology that interprets pressure applied to the screen – a feature not included in the iPhone SE.

apple-se-iphone-dezeen-sq

In December, Apple announced it was releasing a rechargeable battery case to help extend the life of the iPhone 6 battery.

The SE will be ready to order as 16GB and 64GB versions in the US from 24 March 2016, and available from 31 March 2016, for $399 (£277).

Smaller was a continuing theme at Apple's event in Cupertino, California, where the tech company also unveiled a downsized version of the iPad Pro that will replace the iPad Air 2.

Apple iPad Air 2

The more compact edition supports accessories, such as the iPad Pro keyboard and the Apple Pencil for technical drawing.

Another announcement was the iOS 9.3 software upgrade, which includes a CareKit for patients to use their iPhones as part of their healthcare.

Apple's famous product launch presentations were recently spoofed by British comic Sacha Baron Cohen when promoting his new film.


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  • GDavies

    Apple have officially lost the plot.

    • matt

      Yep, terrible idea to cater for all the people who don’t want a massive phone and/or don’t like the 6… I was waiting to see what the 7 was like before upgrading but this is just what I wanted.

      • It’s still a missed opportunity to create a unique form factor. Why not improve what’s there? And perhaps give the 5/5s users another reason to upgrade.

        Apple used to stand for something forward looking – now the new product looks the same as something from four years ago.

        Interestingly enough, this works on the MacBooks, but the phone industry has new/different expectations.

        • matt

          Well they have been working on the 7 since probably before the 6 came out, and it will be released later in the year as per their normal cycle, this is just an additional revenue stream – and a very good one.

          • I’m sure they have the resources to handle new ID for a phone. Most consumers want everyone to know that they have the latest and greatest gadget. With the SE that image is gone. Unless you count the colours.

    • Kay

      I think that’s a bit strong.

  • Apple really should be looking at Microsoft in this area and start sorting their strategy out that is lacking. First is a decent user accessible file system like the past 40 years, dropbox on iOS is not the future. Secondly can it run flash yet? The “Pro” brand monkier is a joke without a proper operating system. More was expected after they went to x86 processors not this app store stuff.

    • donkey

      Flash? What year are you living in?

      • Let me know when html5 etc. can do the same things, it’s been about eight years and it’s still not capable. Take a look at the bloated code to do the same functionality as AS in Javascript; there’s loads of data overhead and it takes far longer development time and costs a lot more to do.

      • For a bit more information on what I mean by AS (ActionScript) please have a look at this – http://samsharpe.co.uk/projects/thinking/adobe_part_1_local_first.html#ActionScript
        and this – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ActionScript

        • spadestick
          • Flash ‘died’ firstly in 2010 when Steve Jobs posted this: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/
            but there were similar articles to the link you posted in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. That’s a long death by any stretch. As a designer, fine, rubbish a technology because of what it cannot do, I’ve no objection to that.

            What I have an objection to is parroting of a press release without a better technology ready and willing to take up the slack. I’ve been patient, but going on eight years since the iPhone was available globally and six years since the first utterance of the death of Flash I’m still waiting to see another way to deliver design-led projects online in a seamless manner. Flash still can, HTML et all cannot. It’s too compartmentalised and too reliant on code to deliver designs that are already dumbed down by any designer involved who understands the constraints of the technology.

            Flash is not on iOS for the same reasons that Blue Ray is not on OSX.

  • Roberto Sideris

    A missed opportunity to rejuvenate Apple design before the launch of the iPhone 7. They didn’t ‘design’ this, they just stuck new electronics inside the 5s and called it new.

    You thought the iPhone battery case was awful by design, look at this. People have been worried that Apple would lose its place like Nokia (maybe not so dramatically) and they have just upheld that. No innovation, no design, no creativity in the SE. Why did they even bother hiring Marc Newson?

    • Julien

      I personally really like that Apple does not change its product design every year (from computer to phone ). And new design every year shouldn’t be called design nor innovation but styling.

      That said, it’s a pretty boring announcement.

    • jon

      Err I’m no Apple fanboy but if you think there’s no design involved in completely changing the electronics then you either have no idea how much goes into an Apple product (or any product), or have a very twisted perception of design as being purely about aesthetics…

    • Agree. The form factor could have been addressed – it didn’t need to match 6/6s in its design, but it could also solve some of the issues this design has. Like the back glass plates – those always seemed like a compromise.

  • tom lever

    This is great, first choice phone for me now when I come to update. They need to sort their nomenclature out though, seriously. They should do iPhone M, L, XL and sell two generations of each.

  • Kay

    It feels like Apple have run out of ideas. Perhaps the best is behind them? As a product it will be useful but people expect new ideas from Apple and it just isn’t delivering them. Apple makes a huge deal out of the simplest launches that are undeserving of the fanfare.

    • dan

      This is the best new Apple product for a long time. They’ve taken their best-looking phone and made it better – what’s not to like? If you want a screen that curves around the edge of your phone so that you can… err do absolutely nothing with it, you know where to go.

    • Ralph Kent

      “It feels like Apple have run out of ideas”. Are you only just feeling this now? It’s felt like this to me for about the past five years – at least.

      They are no longer an IT development company, they are an electronics styling company, mugging off consumers with units packed with underspecced components in a stylish radiused rectangular format.

  • Rob Steele

    Really? Surely this is just Apple admitting that they missed an opportunity with the iPhone 6. They should instead have offered a phone of comparable size to its predecessor, while offered one larger model for those who actually wanted it… This model is in fact a four-year-old design.

    • dom

      A four-year-old design, sh*t, how embarrassing. They’re just admitting that the 5 is a much nicer phone than the 6 (well they’re not, but they should) and I want one.

      • Rob Steele

        Absolutely agree, it is a far better design and I also will more than likely replace my iPhone 5S with this exact model. However, a clean slate design would have been far more interesting don’t you think?

        • dom

          Well I’ll definitely be interested to see the next iteration, but it was never going to be released before September – and I don’t hold high hopes after the 6…

  • Tom

    The form of the iPhone 4/5 is where Apple created a design classic – the 6 was a step too far for no justifiable reason other than to release ANOTHER phone. I can see why this has been created.

  • Jason

    Two words: product refresh.

  • What do I think? I think Dezeen and like-minded comment boards are in the business of syphoning customer intent and knowledge in an attempt to say they are the drivers of innovation.

    Apple is filling in practical gaps in their product line, whilst holding up a gold standard in how to stand up to an oppressive government attack. I’m sure being weighed down by snarky internet commentaries and critics really helps…

    • rob

      Actually I’m not sure anyone asked you. But yeah they are wisely filling gaps and standing up for themselves.

      • amsam

        Who asked anyone? It’s a comment thread. Weird.

        • rob

          Err yes I was being facetious – I was wondering why Rocky felt the need to start with a rhetorical question, which I also felt was weird.

          • I’m rhetorically rhetorical, correct. Apologies where mirrored.

  • Hildebrand

    Call iPhone SE boring, but it’s a great move business wise. It makes your iPhone 4/5 even more “classic” (in a good way). Besides, all the accessories will work with it.

  • JohnV

    What did you really want from them? Dropping an entirely new desire and so forth every quarter isn’t really progress. They produce quality over quantity. I know numerous people who prefer the smaller version so it is still wise to keep it in line but up to date.

    They release a new design every two years, then updates the following years. This has been its process for how long now? It’s not boring. It’s what has been their working strategy for years. If you’re not happy, go elsewhere. But when you leave, don’t cry about how the software is garbage, was rushed to production, and not baselines across all products.

  • Kris

    Good design goes beyond aesthetics.

  • Cam

    A great idea for a low price point. Compared to their last effort (5c) this is beautiful!

  • Manuel Leveille

    The iPhone 5 is probably one of the most well executed and most cohesive design in the history of industrial design. Like Volkswagen did during years with its Beetle, the iPhone SE is a flawless design technologically updated to still be pertinent. Unlike the “Newsonesque” iPhone 6, which design wise is a failure on many points.

  • Mr J

    The iPhone 5se could have been designed specifically with me in mind.

    I like the compact size and metal case, especially the inherited flat-sided design, which is great for video. Just place the iPhone on a flat surface to use it as an instant tripod replacement.

    Apple has ramped up the photo-av, with video now shooting 4k, again exactly what I need. Add a faster chip – et voila.

  • Great… Talking to the world through rose-colored smartphones.

  • Chad Sutter

    I’m cool with the smaller phone, the big clunky phones are not always the most convenient and not everyone wants a bigger phone. But if Apple needs a new idea, how about an old one?

    Get a better camera in the phone, even if it makes a bump in the phone. Having a lens that actually has some capacity to have optical zoom, rather than digital, would be a huge step up. After all, our phones have replaced stand-alone cameras for the most part.

  • LittleMadSus

    Hmmm let’s wait to hear what the other makers have to say/come up with. Most of the mobile phones out there still look pretty much like Apple phones (big screens) to me.

    Do we really need a new design idea on this front? Storage, camera, speed… blah blah. How many different phones have you all had over the years? And how many trees have you planted in the same period? There you go!

  • jalves

    To be honest this is not just an Apple problem, it’s a problem with all brands of phones that need to rethink how phones can be used, because since the iconic Nokias from a long time ago, until now phones are just boxes with new technology every new year.

    With more or less curved edges or smooth surfaces, the concept of the phone as the object that we have now it starts to be pretty dull. I’m not a designer but I think that is about the time to change the way all this technology, which is already part of our daily lives, is delivered to us.