Commentary

Low Price Of iPhone SE Gets Reviewers Talking

While everybody’s attention was fixated on the news and escapist entertainment on the screens in front of them last week, Apple released a new iPhone that is proving to be a hit with reviewers because it goes against the grain. At $399, the iPhone SE is relatively cheap.

“It costs about 40% less than the regular $699 iPhone. The device has the design of an older generation of iPhones, with the same computing power as newer ones. That means the SE looks like an iPhone from 2014, with a smaller screen and a home button instead of a face scanner, but is as fast as the fancier iPhone 11 from 2019,” Brian X. Chen wrote for The New York Times after the device was unveiled via a virtual slide show last Wednesday.

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“Later this year Tim Cook will take to the stage to reveal ‘the best iPhone we’ve ever made.’ Whether there will be an invited audience in front of him remains to be seen, but the launch of Apple’s iPhone 12 family is a key moment; packing in 5G, a laser-powered camera, a faster processor, and a refreshed design. Unfortunately the one phone that could derail Apple’s ambitious launch is already here. The iPhone 12 killer is the iPhone SE,” writes  Forbes senior contributor Ewan Spence. 

“The question now is if the SE will bring in a significant number of new users to the platform, or if it will cannibalize the existing audience looking for an upgrade,” he adds.

“I initially snoozed through the announcement of the new SE. It’s an iPhone SE, but it's not as small as the previous iPhone SE. And, yeah, at $399, it's relatively cheap. OK. Fine. Spec bump. Yawn,” writes  David Gewirtz for ZDNet.

“But, then... I thought about the price/performance implications of this model. Here's the TL;DR [too long; didn't read] of this whole piece: This is the iPhone most people should buy. Period. Full stop. That’s it. This is the mainstream iPhone. It's perfect for almost everyone but power buyers,” Gewirtz continues. “It completely changes the calculus of buying an iPhone.”

And writing for MacWorld, a reviewer using the name “The Macalope” takes issue with a Shira Ovide column in The New York Times titled and subtitled, “Why Apple’s New Phone Doesn’t Matter. New smartphones have become like refrigerators. They’re just not that exciting.”

“While it’s true annual smartphone launches aren’t the monumental events they used to be, The Macalope thinks the 2020 iPhone SE might be the best phone for our times, even more than the phones Apple will announce in the fall. A bit of affordable stability could be just what we need right now,” he writes.

CNET’s Lynn La compares the features of the SE to the current Apple standard bearer, the iPhone 11. 

“The most obvious difference between the two phones is that the iPhone 11 is larger. The iPhone 11 has a 6.1-inch screen while the iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch display. While you get more screen real estate for your apps and watching videos with the former, the iPhone SE will draw users for its comfortable portability and compact grip,” La writes.

But Apple may have blown another opportunity to go against a current trend by not making it even easier to handle.

“After every iPhone release over the last few years, conversations I had with friends and acquaintances who don’t follow the tech industry always led off with ‘Why doesn’t Apple make a smaller iPhone anymore?’ At first, I chalked it up to design trends, but more recently, I’ve resorted to joking, ‘Because Apple hates you and your tiny hands,’” writes  Adam Engst, whose TidBITS newsletter has been covering developments at the company for 30 years.

“Do Apple designers never hear complaints from women who find current iPhones too large for their hands, much less their pockets? That’s a common refrain from [my wife] Tonya, Glenn Fleishman’s wife Lynn, and many of my female friends, plus plenty of guys…. So yes, the new iPhone SE is significantly larger than the first-generation iPhone SE. It’s even a hair larger than the iPhone 6s that many people have been holding onto as each successive generation of iPhone has ballooned.”

You can preorder now, but apparently you won’t be able to get your own hands on an SE until early May, according to 9to5Mac’s Chance Miller. 

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