Apple Focuses on X Appeal with the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max

(Simon) #21

I’m not sure the “old when shipped” is correct. When it shipped it had the 6s internals which at the time was half a year old. The SE was considered very good value for the moderate price when it shipped. The camera was a compromise clearly. OTOH battery life was great and the price point was attractive no doubt.

Now of course it’s a totally different matter. Now it is old tech. After much neglect it’s no surprise demand dropped. In that sense…
Lesson Apple should have taken: Keep the SE updated.
Lesson Apple took: People don’t want the SE anymore.

My worry is this will repeat with the Mac mini.

Of course I could imagine there is a business issue with the SE. These days with smartphone shipments slowing or expected to slow as products mature and saturation approaches, Apple needs to increase revenue per shipped unit (eg. the more expensive X) to keep their revenues high and their shareholders happy . The SE would need to sell extremely well to make up for limited revenue per unit to still make it “worth their while”. Personally, I’d be willing to pay just as much if not more for a smaller device (assuming it’s top notch internally), but I realize that can’t be generalized.

I think you’re right about Ive though. He seems to be very focused on Watch these days. It does irk me that on the iMac edges where it serves no purpose Apple goes for super thin, but when it comes to phones they don’t believe there should be something I can use single-handedly.

(David Silbey) #22

I seriously doubt that if the SE was selling well from the beginning that Apple would have followed this path of neglecting it. I think it just didn’t sell well.

Again, is there some phone company that is selling a small phone like it and doing well? I don’t think there is.

(Adam Engst) #23

That’s certainly the logical conclusion, but the question is if it was doomed from the start by being aimed at the low end of the market and being somewhat behind in tech (yes, @Simon, only 6 months, but with a much worse front-facing camera, no 3D touch, no Taptic Engine, and slower wireless). I’ve heard similar criticisms of the iPhone 5c. Arguably, Apple is trying to avoid this situation again by making a different set of compromises with the iPhone XR.

As far as other manufacturers go, this article suggests that there are a fair number, though with plenty of compromises.

I also found this very odd site, which seems to claim that there are lots (some old, to be sure), mostly from off-brand manufacturers and largely aimed at the low-cost international market, where Apple has relatively little interest in competing.

(Adam Engst) #24

Ben Thompson has an interesting post about the new models at Stratechery.


Adam Engst

    September 14

Tim Cook’s Apple, which is quite heavily demand driven, sees no future for a smaller than ~6 inch phone.

I do find this general lack of small phones interesting, since I hear a LOT of demand for them, but as you point out, there’s very little supply. (In fact, I know a number of people who eschew smartphones entirely in part for this reason.) It surprises me that we’ve never gotten a public statement about this lack of demand, or real stats on it.

It’s questionable whether the market for smaller smartphones is more than negligible. But even if there is, smaller phones are much less profitable than larger phones. That’s why Android manufacturers are making fewer smaller models as well.

In the case of Apple, their revenue stream from services has been growing by leaps and bounds. People with larger phones tend to buy more things online, subscribe to streaming and other services. Apple earns a significant cut of all of this action.

I wonder if the lack of demand might be because the iPhone SE was old technology when it shipped. If it hadn’t been a compromise between size and capabilities, it might have been more popular. It could also then be more expensive, which Apple definitely wants.

This is a good point, and if they are going up the specs on the SE, they would have to charge more, significantly more + promotion. If the potential market was there, they would spend it. But I don’t think there’s enough of a market at the current price, let alone with a big increase.

(Adam Engst) #26

Amusingly, just before the smartphone revolution, the most expensive cell phones were the smallest. It’s all about the screen, so if we can offload some things to the wrist and others to smart glasses, one day we may not carry phones at all. :slight_smile:

(frederico) #27

Simon, take a trip over to Swappa or Glyde or some of the other resale sites; additionally I see pay as you go, unlocked carrier offerings for the big iPhone SE for well under $200 regularly, with warranty or transferable AppleCare. Sometimes they are used, refurbished, sometimes new in box. You can sign up for alerts at and see them weekly.

I, too, was scoping out a new or used SE because I am unsatisfied with the large size of the iPhone X; but the technology of the iPhone X is simply stunning and has changed the way I use iPhone.

If they do re-introduce a 4 inch class iPhone, it had better have most of the technology of the iPhone X, or it just isn’t going to sail. I think they made the XR as small as they could and are otherwise constrained by battery size/life.

Once everyone buys and start using the iPhone XR, assuming they have not already bought the iPhone X, and just can’t stomach the cost of the iPhone XS series, from Face ID to every other improvement and that killer A12 processor, The SE is just going to seem so quaint and ancient — even more ancient than three year old tech.

(frederico) #28

Also forgot to mention that Apple says the iPhone SE is still available through authorized resellers. Obviously meaning carriers or Best Buy and the like

(David Brostoff) #29

Just curious – could you elaborate a little on how you use it?

Thank you,


(Quentin North) #30

I made the transition from 5s to 6s and I got used to the bigger form even tho I didn’t like it up front. However, I’m going to be sticking with my 6s just like I did when the 7 and 8 were released because of the lack of a headphone socket built into the phone. I have also bought 3 SEs for the wife and kids because they were great budget priced phones with all the features you could want, and for kids they were extra great as they survived rough treatment and they didn’t get broken or stolen when they went to University. I can’t see those being replaced with Apple products in the future. Same with my MacBook Pro. The mag safe connector is great, so I will be sticking with that as there is absolutely nothing compelling about the more recent MacBooks

(Diane D) #31

I’d forgo battery life for a reasonably sized and priced phone. The SE battery has been fine.


(Simon) #32

SE battery life was actually always considered very good. Its display used much less power than the 4.7" displays and at the same time Apple had more device thickness to exploit for battery.

I never really got my 6’s thinness. It limited battery volume (capacity) and made it difficult to pick the device up. It’s slippery like a bar of soap. Sure, you could get a case but that defeats the thinness and design esthetics effort.

The hard boundary constraint you indeed cannot get around is weight. Although thicker cases mean more volume for batteries, big batteries are always heavy. If your max battery volume ends up being determined by your weight spec, you could just go for thinness (bar its usability issues). I wonder if that’s what Apple’s situation was. Maybe that was where they set the limit. I have no recollection of how 6/6s weight compared to earlier or later models.

(Simon) #33

Did anybody else notice that the audio adapter is not just missing from the new XR and XS, but actually also from the 7 and 8? Apparently, the 7 and 8 you buy now are not the same 7 or 8 you bought a few days ago. Apple clearly states no audio adapter included in the 7 or 8 box.

Maybe this was obvious to everybody else, but all my reading so far indicated Apple had only dropped the adapter from the XR/XS as compared to the X where it was still included.

(Curtis Wilcox) #34

When the iPhone 7 came out, a significant reason why I got it instead of the SE to replace my 5s was the SE had the same first gen. fingerprint sensor as the 5s. My wife had the 6s so I had experienced what a difference the speed and accuracy of the newer sensor made.

I’ve never really gotten used to the 7’s screen size. Yes, it can be nicer to look at but there’s a lot more I can’t do one-handed because my thumb can’t reach across.

(Simon) #35

That’s my issue with my 6. I just can’t reach across so I can’t use it single-handedly.

(And the silly Samsung-esque position of the on/off button but that’s probably just a corollary of the overall device size.)

(Adam Engst) #36

It wasn’t clear to us on announcement day, so it’s good to know. If you need one, it’s $9 from Apple.

I’m actually using one now, not because I care in the slightest about the headphone jack, but because I think Tristan absconded with my Lightning EarPods. He uses them vastly more than I do, so I haven’t harassed him into giving them back. :slight_smile: The adapter seems to work fine.

(frederico) #37

I wrote something more extensive about dictation on another thread here somewhere; but, in short, the vastly faster processing power over my 5 and SE, and even my iPad Air 2, is very noticeable in generating faster and more accurate application of text to a document. This can be true whether or not I’m using the same headset or just the native microphones. I understood the dictation to be taking place online, rather than off-line, as is possible on the Mac, so I’m not entirely sure why the local native processor makes such a difference, but it does.

Face ID is a game changer. I find I’m willing to pull my phone out of my pocket and use it more often, because I don’t have to worry about a faulty Touch ID, a gloved or damp finger, or being asked to enter a six digit or longer passcode just to perform a simple operation. Additionally, Face ID for everyday operations on secure websites and native applications that I have enabled additional face ID security on, is leaps and bounds faster and more convenient than Touch ID, especially when on the move trying to safely use one hand. I love being able to just look at the screen and be logged in to whatever I’m trying to do.

The 120hz (touch input) OLED screen is also a game changer for these aging eyes; and the accuracy of touch input is night and day over the SE. Yes, the retina displays are pretty damn good, but you don’t know what good is until you experience a Super Retina Display. It’s not the size, as much as it is the crispness of typefaces and the pure pure black and incredible contrast and gamut that it provides. I don’t care if the screen won’t last as long and will experience burn-in eventually; it’s just that good.

Relatedly, the many apps that have created true Dark Mode themes for iPhone X, as opposed to the simulated dark grays that were made to look best on IPS LED, Have also given me a great amount of relief from eyestrain, and not only at night; I find these dark mode themes considerably easier to read even in daylight. And I’m not opposed to the battery savings they provide either.

I find myself willing to do more communication and more task work using only the iPhone X, as compared to my older iPhones, where I would quickly get frustrated (especially now that my manual dexterity is rapidly succumbing to Parkinson’s) and reach for my iPad or go back to my Mac.

Haptic feedback and 3D Touch functionality, along with additional Accessibility features not available on previous iPhones are already helping me begin to prepare for the coming worse.

I also spoke at greater length on another thread here recently about how Apple Watch and Siri have changed my game with adding events, appointments, reminders, tasks and more; this of course is in tandem with the iPhone itself; further, as a long time automation geek, using URL callbacks and, now the new, it is amazing to see the workflows one can create and execute via Apple Watch or iPhone where previously a Mac and a keyboard was required.

Still, I truly miss and adore the size and weight of the iPhone SE, and especially my beloved iPhone 4. I thought the latter was the most gorgeous piece of iOS technology-as-art Jonny Ive ever created. I still pull it off its charger dock now and then just to fondle it while using it as an iPod and to triage mail.

There’s plenty more tech in the iPhone X that make the entire experience better (e.g., the camera is so great I rarely use my flatbed scanner anymore; true all day battery life; vastly superior LTE radios and data speeds; stereo sound; 256GB filled with much more lossless music; never running out of space for videos and images; more) and plenty of it, if not most of it can of course be found in this year‘s iPhone XR, and of course plenty more in the iPhone XS and terribly named Excess Max. I’m sure plenty of it was able to be experienced in the hideously large and awkward 7 and 8 and Plus series of the past two years and the 6 before it, but I just hated the sizes and the feel of the rounded edges. If I want to hold a waffle next to my face, I’ll go to iHOP.

As for the bad, as said, the iPhone X is heavier and larger than I would like, and the Control Center is just too far out of reach for even my very large hands (yes I know how to activate the short reach feature or whatever it’s called; it’s still inconvenient); I hate the camera bump, but I got the Apple leather case on sale for 25 bucks and it solves that problem neatly, even though I generally dislike all cases and prefer the naked device. I take a dozen accidental screenshots a day trying to silence my ringer, so I was sad the S and R keep the same lousy button orientation.

Mostly though, my decision was based on that my SE was mysteriously absconded with in Summer of ‘17, and my 5 would not run iOS 11 in the Fall, so I had to buy something a year earlier than I wanted to. I had given much thought to holding out till April May June hoping for an iPhone SE update, but my (now proven) sense told me it was likely not coming, and even if it did, it was most likely to have one or two or three-year-old technology again.

I almost bought a used SE to see me through, but I just decided to take advantage of the liberal 14 day return policy and try the iPhone X to get a taste of the future. By the time day seven rolled around, despite the size and other annoying issues, I knew I wasn’t going to send it back. I was just incredibly nervous that I was going to regret buying the first generation of its technology; but other than a vastly more powerful A12 processor, and some other unimportant-to-me camera improvements, I don’t feel like this S track year has made me feel like I should’ve waited, I’m like in previous generations.

If Apple does revive a 4 inch class iPhone sometime next year, my expectation is that it will have at least some of the technology of the X series; namely I expect that we will be soon seeing the end of touch ID in almost everything not Mac; Face ID is definitely the future, and I embrace it.

If what they produce ends up not being too much a second-class citizen, or worse a third class citizen, I will consider buying it and whatever loss I take on this iPhone X to be a worthwhile rental. Otherwise I intend to shoot for four years out of this crazy-expensive, but worth it, landmark iPhone.

Holy cow, I’ve dictated a novel. Sorry. I’m not even sure I’ve begun to enumerate all the little things that have me using it more. There’s nothing at all wrong with my iPad Air 2, but I can’t wait to replace it with a 120hz/120hz OLED screen with Face ID.

(Eolake Stobblehouse) #38

It says something about human nature that we keep being impressed by the “fastest Mac/iPhone ever”. If the new device was not faster and better, what’s the point of making it? Every new device is the fastest ever.

(morwen) #39

The title of the article only makes sense if you call them x’s. But they are tens. Tim and everyone else clearly said ten, not x, ten-S, ten-S Max and ten-R. :wink: Perhaps they changed Plus to Max to indicate that’s the maximum size they’ll ever make an iPhone? (One can hope.)

(Simon) #40

Fully agree. To me that tired old phrase has by now exactly zero meaning. It’s devoid of any meaningful content. Pure marketing fluff. As you point out, there would be no purpose in replacing an Mac/iPhone with something slower. Obviously the new model has to be faster than the old one. Nobody is expecting anything less.