I could be writing about the inanity of Trump, or how conservatives will try to use “bathroom bills” to make up for a candidate that turns off the holy rollers, but I don’t want to lose my mind and start smashing up the room like Kylo Ren, so instead I’ll fixate on the iPhone SE. Again. Because there’s no point in denying it: I really want this phone, and the only reason I haven’t bought it already is because we’re probably only four months from the announcement of a notional iPhone 7, and there is an outside ghost of a chance that it might be desirable.
But is it really? Go back and look at iPhones past and whether I was compelled to get them and why.
iPHONE 3G: I bought it a couple of months after it came out, just because I had shorted out my original iPhone with lint packing into the dock connector. It brought real GPS and 3G to the iPhone, so it was definitely a desirable upgrade, even though I missed the metal shell of the original.
iPHONE 3GS: Brought a video camera and more speed, but that wasn’t enough to make me buy it. Good thing, too, because that left me free for…
iPHONE 4. Honestly, it felt like I had that 3G forever, although that might just be because I dragged it abroad in 2010 and it felt SO dated by the time the iPhone 4 landed. Classic styling, HD video capture, retina display, 5 MP camera…totally worth it.
iPHONE 4S. I luck-boxed into this one when my AppleCare-covered 4 had one issue too many, and they didn’t have replacement units so free-rolled me into this one. Not a lot to compel me over its predecessor other than Siri and a slightly improved camera (8MP rather than 5, 1080p video capture rather than 720p).
iPHONE 5. The main appeal to this was being off contract and having the opportunity for work to take over my phone and put me on Verizon with its LTE footprint. Had that not been on offer, I think I would have been content to stick with the 4S. Sure, the 5 had a slightly larger screen and LTE, but the 4S brought non-LTE 4G to the phone which was honestly as fast as much of the LTE coverage I could get (yes, there was 50Mbps LTE speed at the train station, but anywhere that had 3 bars of Verizon or less – in other words, 80% of Silly Con Valley – wasn’t breaking the 8Mbps that non-LTE 4G on AT&T was routinely providing me).
iPHONE 5S. The big appeal here was to add a 64-bit processor and TouchID. Neither was enough to tempt me to spend my own money on an upgrade or change service. I honestly don’t know if it would have even were I still pushing a 4S, unless the battery and LTE were tempting (and the 4S did seem to lose battery quickly, but I don’t know how much of that was just Twitter).
iPHONE 6. This was bought purely out of the move back to AT&T. I had misgivings about the size almost from the beginning (actually from the very beginning) and my worry that the screen would offset the bigger battery seems to have been borne out, especially given the improvement in the SE over the 6S. It’s fine, but when combined with the Apple Watch there’s nothing that would compel me to take it over a 5S (and the only reason I haven’t taken over the wife’s old 5S is because of the damaged camera; even that wasn’t enough to prevent me using it for a couple of days with no problem).
iPHONE 6S. Absolutely nothing attractive about it, and in many ways a step backward. Giving up battery capacity for a “3D-Touch” gimmick reminiscent of the dumbest Samsung nonsense should have been a warning shot all the way round.
So the question is…what could the iPhone 7, so-called, have up its sleeve that would make me sorry I took it over the SE?
According to the Great Mentioner, the next iPhone is supposed to be eschewing the traditional headphone jack for something involving either the Lightning port (which has interesting implications for charging and listening at once) or wireless (which has interesting implications for battery life) and may be even thinner (which has even worse implications for battery life). There’s also talk of wireless charging, which may imply that you’re meant to set the thing on some sort of charging pad whenever you aren’t walking around with it (which is a hell of an alternative to just providing a sufficient battery in the first place, but I digress). The rumblings also include things like AMOLED displays (YES YES YES) and an all-glass body (NO NO NO). But the fact that the SE is out now, and unnumbered or otherwise designated, suggests that whatever phone emerges from Jony Ive’s skinny britches this autumn will not be another 4-inch phone.
Which is a problem. The Moto X has a 4.7” and is at the very limit of what I’m comfortable as a one-handed daily phone, and Apple’s current design choices around symmetrical bezels and physical home button/fingerprint scanner strongly suggests that they won’t be able to put a similar size display in a similar size device. Going any thinner than the 6S – already round and slippery with the camera protruding awkwardly from the rear – is absolutely idiotic, but one never knows.
Here’s the thing: in August 2015, I was expressing a desire to take over the wife’s iPhone 5S in place of my iPhone 6. Hell, the day they announced the 6S I was wishing for a 5S in the body of a 5C. It’s been pretty clear for a while what I want. I bought the iPhone 4 on launch day in 2010, the day after a crazy day of news and sports and “are you seeing this??”, and in the ensuing six years, I’ve paid for exactly one cellular phone: my Moto X. Mathematically, I guess I’m on reasonable ground to splash out for a new device. So am I at risk of buying something and being stuck with a phone I don’t want in six months?
I doubt it. I really doubt it. More and more, it looks like the only thing that’s going to move the needle on cellphones past 2013 is virtual reality, and I doubt that’s going to be an attractive enough prospect to pay for in the next 12-24 months. I could be wrong, but I’m prepared to live with it if I’m not…or to get work to replace my work phone, which after 2 years should be a straightforward proposition.
I guess I’m going to buy an SE. If nothing else, so I’ll shut up talking about it.