Bring Back The SE

Today Apple is going to announce three new iPhones.

One of them should be a small form factor like the old SE.

Apple discontinued the iPhone SE at the tail end of 2018 and has stated that the next iOS update will not run on the old SE hardware.

I have a number of friends and family members who have the old SE, love the small form factor, and do not want a larger phone in their pockets, purses, and hands.

As a result, these people have been holding onto phones that have gotten a bit old and badly in need of an upgrade.

But more importantly in my view, if Apple wants to tightly control the hardware that iOS can run on (which obviously they do), then they should put a wide enough variety of hardware into the market to support their user base.

It is unlikely that any of my friends and family members are going to move to Android, where there is a wide variety of hardware form factors to choose from. The iOS lockin is very powerful.

So Apple doesn’t need to do this so much for business reasons. But I do think they should do this for other reasons.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Dan G

    “unlikely that any of my friends and family members are going to move to Android” too bad, gonna have to get used to big phones- trend that started by Samsung Note, or risk beeing on risky unsupported hardware

    1. kenberger

      EDIT: WOW, hell froze over and Apple is for the first time offering this over Youtube (super smart and obvious reason, if you think about it):

      1. jason wright

        This is a bit of a ‘tell’.

        1. kenberger

          William Tell (re the apple).

          1. jason wright

            Classic 🙂

  2. Jonathan Peterson

    I liked the SE form factor, but I really don’t see Apple coming out with a new phone I’m interested in ever again. Apple has taken at least one step back for every step forward since the 6s. The 7s taller screen was ok, and waterproof was awesome. But getting rid of the headphone jack is insane, the notch is stupid, swapping 3D push and fingerprint home button for FaceID was a HUGE step backwards in ease of use. A 7 with a headphone jack would be my ultimate iphone, but I’m not holding my breath. Also not expecting a Macbook that is better than the mid2015 Macbook Pro. The company has completely lost it’s way.

  3. William Mougayar

    I still have my old SE with a busted button. Not sure what to do with it, except to shelve it alongside a couple of old Blackberries. According to Amazon, I’m on my 7th iPhone and 6th Android. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  4. jason wright

    Robert Frank died yesterday. Towards the end he said that his medium had become old and outmoded, that now everyone has a phone (with a camera) his approach had stopped being relevant.…There’s that idea of putting a monkey in front of a typewriter, and that it’s just a matter of time before it types a work of Shakespeare by randomly striking keys. Give a monkey a camera and wait to see what it produces. It won’t be The Americans.

  5. jason wright

    I don’t think Apple does modal verbs.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Which company does ?

      1. jason wright

        Palantir. Its product determines the modality of access to data sets.

  6. Anne Libby

    Yesssss.While I know some men who love their SEs, I also think that Apple would benefit from talking with women. In addition to being purse and backpack-friendly, my SE fits in most of my pockets, including the pockets on my workout clothes. (And don’t get me started on pockets on womens’ clothing, which, when present, are often sorely wanting.)When I want a bigger screen, I’ll use my iPad or laptop.

  7. Randy Breen

    +1 – I am in full agreement! I am a hodlr of the SE and have been not so secretly promoting an update myself. The 5/SE was the pinnacle of iPhone form factor design IMO. I have an iPad, I don’t need one in my pocket. There was a time when small phones were the ideal. Unfortunately, rumors of the Apples iPhone roadmap don’t include a smaller phone until 2020.

  8. Pete Griffiths

    I’m not persuaded that the real ios lockin is that powerful.I freely grant that the perception of the difficulty of changing is sufficient to create a material perceived switching cost.

    1. Patrick

      The last time I tried Android, I had massive issues with texts being lost due to my number not properly ‘de-registering’ from iMessage. I followed all the steps, and spent a ton of time troubleshooting, but it never seemed to work.And I was never confident… test messages would show up, but I would never know if other messages were being lost without a trace.That alone was enough to bring me back. It’s kind of messed up that a ‘flaw’ on Apple’s part contributes to brand loyalty, but in practice, it did.Also, being able to use iMessage over wifi, and not downscaling videos like when texting a group that includes an Android user is pretty huge. Technically Signal/Whatsapp/Kik are an alternative, but try getting everyone including the Grandparents to make that shift…

      1. Pete Griffiths

        I use Google apps to avoid Apple lock-in but if course most naive users use the Apple apps then there is indeed a switching cost.

  9. Salt Shaker

    I’ve read the SE, 6S and 6S Plus will be compatible w/ the new OS, while the 6 (which is what I still use) will not. What really pisses me off though is Apple pushed a deal on battery replacement not too long ago and I upgraded my battery, which I would have not done if I knew OS 13 would be incompatible.

    1. Richard

      “ Pissed off” because a 6 year old phone in a product that’s been around for 11 years is incompatible with the latest operating system? I’m going directly to Summary Judgement on this one.

      1. Salt Shaker

        If new iPhone models provided tangible and significantly beneficial features, then no problem. But the need to continually upgrade to the latest models w/ tweaks is nothing more than a marketing gambit w/ out substance, IMO. That’s from the court of common sense, no summary judgement needed.

        1. Richard

          Sorry, but I have to call Cheapskate on this one. You purchased a piece of hardware for $600 that lasted six years. Hardware that you’ve been able to trust with all your personal information and and that has provided you with exceptional service.

          1. Salt Shaker

            Have you been talking to my wife, Richard?

      2. Dave Robeson

        The iPhone 6 is not a 6-year-old phone; it was introduced in 2014 and discontinued in 2016. So brand-new from Apple, it would be at most 5 years old and potentially only 3.

        1. Richard

          Thanks – any idea what upgrades I should consider for the 21.5 iMac – how much DDR memory etc.

    2. Mayson

      My SE is happily running iOS 13.1.

  10. Richard

    Might be a good time for Fred to comment on his emphatic prediction – 5 years ago? – that within 5 years time Apple will not be a top 3-4 company.All companies struggle with size / function selection limits. Tim Cook is the master of hardware logistics and inventory management. If apple could carry the smaller phone profitably, they of course would.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Yes. Its a operational complexity question, and all hardware companies face this challenge. Have been there as a HW product mgr, when there is a product/peripheral that you like, some but not enough customers want, and have to EOL it because it does not justify the supply chain/inventory management complexity.If not business reasons, what other reason is there for a “business” to offer a product?

      1. Richard

        There are scenarios for having a loss leader such as Chevrolet’s Corvette. I can’t think of situation where its an old model however.

        1. Girish Mehta

          A loss leader is very much a business reason.

          1. Richard

            Not always – Fred has mentioned many times of not getting an adequate ROI on this blog. Let’s not forget the power of cognitive biases.

    2. fredwilson

      Wrong again. I am wrong so often that this blog should be called Often Wrong Never In Doubt

    3. Matt A. Myers

      The smaller phone is the Watch they want to sell..

  11. Mike

    I prefer the smaller models as well to fit in a pocket. A maturing market but 0 to > 170M units per year in a little over 10 years ain’t bad.

  12. Sean Benson

    Here’s another vote for Apple to release a new SE. I’ve had mine for 3 years and love the small form factor. I don’t think the switching costs to Android are that daunting, I already use Google Play extensively and will switch if Apple doesn’t offer a smaller phone in the near future.

  13. Pointsandfigures

    Thinking a flip phone might be better these days!

  14. Patrick

    Yes please!I’m one of the holdouts who still use my SE and love the small size. Even if I get made fun of for using an “iPhone 4” anytime I take my phone out in front of other people.I just laugh and say “times are tough” instead of trying to explain that the SE did in fact exist, and has a small but passionate following.If they announced an SE successor, it would be an immediate purchase for me. I really want an upgraded camera, but am not willing yet to accept the larger form factor to get it.That being said, I think I’ll be disappointed today…

    1. Kim White

      Same camp!

  15. jason wright

    I wonder what percentage of all the people who have ever bought and used an Apple Watch no longer use one?

    1. Lawrence Brass

      Very few. Today, Apple Watch division is the top watch maker in the world. In 4+ years.

      1. jason wright

        I’m a little surprised that there’s not quite a bit more churn.

    2. Patrick

      I’ve bought two Apple watches. I gave a Series 1 away after realizing I never used it. I then convinced myself it’d be different with the Series 3. It was not…

      1. jason wright

        Apple’s strategy feels like it’s about convincing early adopters that its very next iteration of the product will be ‘the one’ that realises *its* vision of the future. I think its about exploiting any sense of dissatisfaction we may have with the present state of our lives and our world.

  16. Thomas

    Apple discontinued the iPhone SE at the tail end of 2018 and has stated that the next iOS update will not run on the old SE hardware.Source? Isn’t iOS 13 still compatible with the SE?It is unlikely that any of my friends and family members are going to move to Android, where there is a wide variety of hardware form factors to choose from.What’s one Android phone with a comparable form factor and specs to the SE?

  17. Shawn Tolidano

    ONE measly centimeter in width and 1.5 centimeters in height. That is the difference (and half a millimeter thinner!). Just get a 6S. Enjoy the extra 0.7″ of screen size.

    1. Nicki

      Bigger is not always better. A 6s inside of a protective case will not fit into any of my jeans pockets, much less any dress pants (because apparently women don’t need normal-sized pockets???).

  18. jason wright

    I watched it. I gained the impression that Apple was trying hard to hide the front of the 11 as much as possible, to not show the letterbox notch at the top of the screen, which looks a bit dated.Why are the people in the iphone photos always smiling?

    1. Lawrence Brass

      Because they are happy with their iPhones and don’t watch the news.Say cheese!, Jason. 🙂

      1. jason wright


  19. John Verco

    The SE is a great phone. The only reason why I think Apple won’t bring it back is because there is not enough demand for it. I don’t think it is easy for Apple to create the SE without setting up new factories and a totally different process for assembling it than the one they use for iPhone X and its descendants. It would be costly if tried did this, not worth the effort for only a few people who love the SE. They would lose money on the effort. But as a former iPhone SE owner I understand why you would want to hold on to it. It does have the perfect form factor. It was the most beautiful smartphone I’ve ever owned.

  20. Joseph Fung

    100% agree – the lack of decent successor was actually my trigger for switching to an Android device

  21. Lucas Gonze

    I just bought a new phone, a Pixel 3A, and I leveled down in size. I’m glad to have less in my pocket, and I don’t miss the extra screen real estate at all.Before I made that choice I looked to see if I could move to an actual SE, but its time is past.

  22. NewIntellectual

    I’m surprised that few people identify a real issue around Apple not releasing an updated SE form factor phone: failing to do so is sexist.How? Because it’s simply a fact that women have smaller hands than men. The SE is much easier to hold for many women than the larger sized phones, and this accounts for a great deal of the demand. Nor can this actually be a small demand. It’s certainly in the millions and very likely in the 10’s of millions.So I’d like to see that circulating as a meme: Dropping the SE size is sexist.

  23. my2cents

    I am still using a 5S (yes, 5S!). I have a new SE in reserve; that way, I will continue to have a “small” iPhone (at least for a while) regardless of what Apple does in the future.

  24. sigmaalgebra

    iPhones? Lots of people like them, for some reasons, even especially like their old model the SE.Q. I don’t understand why hardly anyone cares much at all about any of iPhone, Android, etc.I’m wildly thrilled and optimistic about computing and the Internet, but, still, I don’t get it on iPhones, etc.I should understand such things: What am I missing? Why do 1+ billion people or so like iPhones, etc. so much?From personal experience or hopefully more generally, why 1+ billion devoted customers?

  25. j238

    iPhone SE will run iOS 13. One more good thing about it!

  26. david rosenfeld

    The SE was really a pinnacle of a certain kind of design sense, Leica, Deiter Rams etc.The stainless rim and little round buttons really made it feel like a fine camera.Screen size of the newer (8 and later) models are useful, elegant, rounded, smooth, and technologically vastly improved, but somewhat anonymous and lacking the character and verve of the SE typology.. yes, subjective, I know, but there you have it.

  27. Aig

    I’m left-handed and it is a struggle to open Control Center on iPhone X or any later model. X or 11 are just too big to reach over with a thumb to upper right corner. 7/8s are of perfect size for me. An iPhone of the same or a bit smaller size, with no notch and usb-c, I would buy one right away. Similar situation with laptop – I prefer minimal form factor and fan-less – Apple has discontinued MacBook with no replacement. So, in a couple of years where I had everything I wanted and liked of phone/laptop tech from Apple, at the moment I have nothing to upgrade to. I really wish Apple reintroduces a smaller, no-notch display phone and a fan-less computer in 2020. In the hope, probably in vain, I grudginly delay my upgrade to next year.

  28. dertobi

    Oh yes, the same holds true for MacOS as well. Don’t wanna license it to third party’s? Ok Fine. But then please have a subnotebook, a bezleless Notebook, decent keyboards etc..

  29. jason wright

    Now that we know there’s not much new except for cameras and battery life and a buggy 13.0, is there a conclusion about the iphone as a machine in 2019?

    1. Dan G

      not innovative