While we cover everything Microsoft on WinBeta, it was kind of hard to miss the usual media frenzy around Apple’s special event that happened last week. In case you were living on another planet, Apple released a new iPhone SE along a new iPad Pro, but we’ll only talk about the phone here. As usual, nearly every detail about the iPhone SE previously leaked in the press before the event, so the only surprise left was the $399 price, which is quite affordable for an iPhone with decent specs.
Apple is known for slowly iterating, and the iPhone SE features the same body as the 2013 iPhone 5S. But under the hood, the iPhone SE just looks like a repackaged iPhone 6S in a smaller form factor: both phones feature the same A9 Soc, 12MP iSight camera and 2 gigs of Ram. The only features the iPhone SE miss from its bigger sibling is the newer Touch ID sensor and the “3D Touch” screen technology that allow iPhone 6S users to access quick actions through hard presses. That doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, and the iPhone SE is still the cheapest premium iPhone ever. But of course, you have to be a fan of old-school 4-inch screens.
If the phone industry is gearing towards bigger flagship phones and “phablets”, smartphones with 4-inch screens are still very popular. It’s hard to deny it as there are still obviously a lot of old iPhones out there, but it’s also true for Windows phones as well. If you look at the latest worldwide stats from AdDuplex, the 4-inch Lumia 520 is still the most popular Windows Phone in the market with 12.1% market share. If we count all Lumias with an up to 4.5-inches screen in the latest AdDuplex stats (we count the Lumia 435, 520, 530, 630, 635, 920), we’re at 39% of all Windows phones worldwide! As a lot these phones won’t be updated to Windows 10 Mobile, it’s quite sad to left behind these small phones and the owners who love them.
I think there is definitely a market for smaller premium phones because some people may care more about the specs and the camera than the big screen. Big screens are nice, but you may not need one if you don’t use your phone for gaming, reading, or other “content consumption” tasks. Also, they’re quite hard to use with one hand and they feel weird in your pocket. I think Apple is clearly acknowledging that, and I expect that a lot of old iPhone owners will likely choose to upgrade to the iPhone SE over the bigger iPhone models.
What about premium Windows phones? Well, back in June 2013, the Lumia 925 was the last Lumia flagship to ship with a 4.5-inch screen. The company moved to bigger flagships in the following months, first with the Lumia 1520 phablet which was soon followed by the 5-inch Lumia 930 in April 2014. Since then, Lumia fans have been forced to adapt to those bigger screens, as smaller devices like the 4-inch Lumia 435 or even the 4.7-inch Lumia 735 are compromised in one way or another (smaller memory, frustrating cameras, no dedicated camera buttons).
With its fifth generation of Lumias, Microsoft decided to focus its phone efforts on fewer models. The company released the big-screened Lumia 950 and 950XL for Lumia fans, but does every Lumia fan wants such a big screen? The cheaper Lumia 650, which actually looks like a bigger iPhone SE, also features a 5-inch screen. It’s definitely one of the best designed Lumias ever and it really deserves to succeed in the market, but I think it would have had a better shot at it if it was slightly smaller and cheaper. It’s also the first “metal” Lumia without a dedicated camera button, which doesn’t make a lot of sense when you remember that even the low-end Lumia 520 had one.
If you hope to find better alternatives from third-party OEMs, don’t hold your breath: the Alcatel Idol Pro 4, HP Elite x3 and Acer Jade Primo all feature screens bigger than 5 inches. Acer is rumored to be working on a mini version of the Jade Primo, but we have no more details on the handset yet.
So, we really want to know if you think the fifth generation Lumia is currently meeting everyone’s needs. And we really want to hear from our readers who love their old Lumia 920, 925 or 1020. Are you resigned to upgrade to a bigger phone, or will you keep looking for a small premium phone?