There is a reason why many reports suggest that Apple may be discontinuing its iPhone mini models which it introduced only two years ago — the sales figures don’t measure up. This is in contrast to what Apple experienced in 2020 with the launch of the 2nd generation iPhone SE. The iPhone SE was a wild success as it remixed the tried and tested formula of the iPhone 6 design which went on as its flagship till the iPhone 8 with the innards of the iPhone 11 series and brought forth compactness, a level of surgical build quality and uncompromising performance at a price point that wasn’t seen before. The new iPhone SE, to the disappointment of many, has pretty much done the same thing again — used the design that was first introduced in 2014 and added the innards of the iPhone 13 series with the A15 Bionic chip and new battery chemistry which would possibly allow for better longevity.
But other than that it hasn’t done much. It uses the same camera hardware which is bolstered by better software propelled by the newer chip, the same screen which also looks nicer possibly thanks to improved color calibration and just added Apple’s shatterproof cover glass to make the phone more durable. It is a slightly newer wine compared to the 2020 model, in a now very old; ancient bottle.
But there is a method to Apple’s madness. The iPhone 6 design was arguably Apple’s most successful design even though its aesthetics were questionable even by Sir Jonathan Ive’s lofty standards. It remains utter compact, though not as much so as the new “mini” models which are even tinier. The bezels on the top and bottom of the screen also enable better one-handed usage. Then there is a little case of Touch ID which was first introduced with the iPhone 5S. It has been the most beloved way of unlocking a phone and in the wake of the pandemic, the fingerprint scanner was always more pragmatic than Face ID thanks to mask mandates. It is only now with iOS 15.4 Apple has conjured a solution to unlock the iPhone with a mask on. One-handed use with features like the double tap on the home button for reachability also works better on the iPhone SE design.
One of the main reasons people liked the iPhone SE design was they wanted the home button and didn’t want to learn or deal with the gesture interface that Apple introduced with the iPhone X. These were old-school iPhone users, the original early adopters. Apple and many of us armchair pundits thought, people were yearning for a smaller iPhone. Nope — — they wanted a classic iPhone and that’s whom this new phone caters to.
Sure no one will mind an iPhone that’s lighter on the pockets, and especially one which gets the same baseline performance as the premium model. Remember, iPhone users tend to keep their phones for longer periods. Apple builds so much headroom with the CPU and GPU and services the phone for more than 5 years with the latest iOS update that people aren’t upgrading as fast as on Android. A big chunk of Apple’s growth for the iPhone has been propelled by Android defectors. And this is the same crowd that perhaps doesn’t need multiple cameras as long as the baseline performance of the primary 0ne is good enough. Apple’s camera on the iPhone SE 3 is above average with the lack of night mode pulling down its overall score. That being said, it will still trounce any Android phone in video and microphone performance — even the premium ones in this Instagram and TikTok age.
The new SE improves upon battery life from the 2020 SE. It does around 5 hours of screen time. It surely doesn’t have the legs to keep up with the latest Android phones leave alone the marathon battery life of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but it again is decent enough, especially for a phone that has a tiny screen and may not be used for video consumption as much as a more modern phone with a larger panel.
Look, this phone forces upon a compromise when you look at its Rs 43,000 odd starting price. It provides uncompromising performance, sterling build quality, a decent screen, powerful speakers, and water and dust resistance along with Apple’s legendary privacy and software nuance. However, it remains a tiny phone, Jurassic in terms of design by modern standards and its cameras also don’t offer frills like a night mode that can be now had on Rs 7,000 Jio Phone.
But you can get a lot of this on even the iPhone 12 Mini without the compromises but then you don’t get Touch ID and that classic one-handed use case of the older iPhones from the late 2000s and early 2010s. That’s what Apple is gunning for, but now we’re in 2022 and time will tell if this is the right call.
Words by Sahil Mohan Gupta