Why an “iPhone 6SE” would make sense

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I’ve thrown most of my expectations of this fall’s Apple iPhone out the window by now, partly because leaks and reports are wishy-washy; partly because I don’t want to believe some of the more aggressive rumors; and partly because everything I’ve expected from Apple seems to have turned on its head.

Over the years, Apple has fallen into a predictable upgrade cycle. Since the introduction of the iPhone 3G, each following year grants us an “S” variant of the previous year’s model. The S variant typically come with notable software and spec improvements, but little (if any) change in the design department. After an S year, the iPhone continues in sequential order to the next number, this time with both software, spec, and design changes. The next year is again presented with another S variant, followed by the rollover to a new number, followed by an S, etc.

Until this year. Maybe.

Apple already shook things up earlier this year with the release of the iPhone SE, the 4-inch comeback device that allows Apple to maintain its leadership in the all but forgotten “small smartphone” category. The best thing about the SE wasn’t that Apple just threw a new 4-inch device on the market, but they actually made it competitive with many of the same specs that the iPhone 6s comes with. It also came with an arguably “cheap” (at least for Apple) price tag at just $399 for the 16GB model.

Rumor has it that Apple isn’t done “shaking things up” in 2016, as this year’s iPhone7 also manages to defy expectations by allegedly not following Apple’s tradition from the past 7 or 8 years. Rumors and leaks heavily suggest that the iPhone 7 may:

  • Look almost identical to the iPhone 6 and 6s, save for antenna lines and perhaps a larger camera lens.
  • Remove the 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of Lightning port headphones.
  • Bump up internal storage variants to 32, 128, and 256GB.
  • Have new colors.
  • Introduce a third “Pro” model with even better specs and camera.
  • Drop the iPhone 7 moniker for “iPhone 6SE” or something else to continue the “6” line.

Overall, it’s not much to look at. Considering that there won’t be new hardware design, it would make sense that Apple might make it a continuation of the iPhone 6, since apparently they’re waiting to pull out all of the stops in 2017. I’m not sure how much of that I believe right now – seems a little early to start talking about next year. Then again, nothing is official yet, so this could also just be somebody’s way of compensating for the apparent lack of innovation this year.

But perhaps it’s also time to stop expecting drastic innovation so often. We keep expecting something drastically new and bold every year or two from manufacturers. This seemed appropriate earlier in the game given how rapidly smartphone technology was advancing, but it seems like it’s time to coast and enhance on what we already have. Most smartphones are in a good place right now – I can’t remember the last time I thought a smartphone was “bad”.

If the rumors of the iPhone 7 end up being true, I’d almost hope that they would go with a name like iPhone 6SE, or something similar rather than iPhone 7. But a rose is a rose by any other name, I suppose.

 

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