I solely needed one factor out of 2018’s iPhone occasion: a brand new iPhone SE. In failing to supply it Apple appears to have quietly put the mannequin out to pasture — and for this I curse them eternally. As a result of it was one of the best cellphone the corporate ever made.
When you had been one of many many who handed over the SE again in 2015, when it made its debut, that’s comprehensible. The iPhone 6S was the newest and best, and naturally mounted just a few of the issues Apple had kindly launched with the solely new design of the 6. However for me the SE was an ideal match.
See, I’ve at all times liked the iPhone design that started with the four. That storied cellphone is probably greatest remembered for being left in a bar forward of launch and leaked by Gizmodo — which is just too dangerous, as a result of for as soon as the product was worthy of the lavish unveiling Apple now bestows on each system it places out.
The four established a completely new industrial design aesthetic that was without delay immediately recognizable and extremely sensible. Gone had been the sleek, rounded edges and again of the stainless unique iPhone (in all probability the second-best cellphone Apple made) and the jellybean-esque 3G and 3GS.
Within the place of these gentle curves had been onerous strains and uncompromising geometry: a belt of steel operating across the edge, set off from the glass sides by the slightest of steps. It highlighted and set off the black glass of the display and bezel, producing a of specular define from any angle.
The digicam was flush and the house button (RIP) sub-flush, solely contained inside the physique, making the system completely flat each back and front. In the meantime the facet buttons boldly stood out. Quantity in daring, etched circles; the mute swap simple to seek out however unimaginable to by accident activate; the facility button completely positioned for a reaching index finger. Word that every one these options are immediately pointed at usability: making issues simpler, higher, extra accessible, whereas additionally being engaging and cohesive as components of a single object.
In comparison with the iPhone four, each single different cellphone, together with Samsung’s new “iPhone killer” Galaxy S, was a cheap-looking mess of plastic, incoherently designed or at greatest workmanlike. And don’t assume I’m talking as an Apple fanboy; I used to be not an iPhone person on the time. Actually, I used to be in all probability nonetheless utilizing my beloved G1 — discuss magnificence and the beast!
The design was sturdy sufficient that it survived the initially awkward transition to an extended display within the 5, and with that technology it additionally gained the improved rear facet that alleviated the cellphone’s unlucky tendency in direction of… effectively, shattering.
The 2-tone gray iPhone 5S, nonetheless, primarily left no room for enchancment. And after four years, it was admittedly maybe time to freshen issues up a bit. Sadly, what Apple ended up doing was subtracting all character from the system whereas including nothing however display area.
The 6 was, to me, merely ugly. It was harking back to the plethora of boring Android telephones on the time — merely larger high quality than them, not completely different. The 6S was equally ugly, and the 7 by eight one way or the other additional banished any design that set themselves aside, whereas reversing course on some sensible measures in permitting an more and more massive digicam bump and dropping the headphone jack. The X, not less than, appeared a bit completely different.
However to return to the subject at hand, it was after the 6S that Apple had launched the SE. Though it nominally stood for “Particular Version,” the identify was additionally a nod to the Macintosh SE. Sarcastically given the unique that means of “System Enlargement,” the brand new SE was the alternative: primarily an iPhone 6S within the physique of a 5S, full with improved digicam, Contact ID sensor, and processor. The transfer was doubtless supposed as a kind of lifeboat for customers who nonetheless couldn’t carry themselves to change to the drastically redesigned, and significantly bigger, new mannequin.
It could take time, Apple appears to have reasoned, to transform these folks, the kinds who hardly ever purchase first technology Apple merchandise and cherish usability over novelty. So why not coddle them a bit by this tough transition?
The SE appealed not simply to the nostalgic and neophobic, however merely individuals who choose a smaller cellphone. I don’t have notably massive or small palms, however I most popular this extremely pocketable, confirmed design to the brand new one for various causes.
Flush digicam so it doesn’t get scratched up? Verify. Regular, pressable house button? Verify. Flat, symmetrical design? Verify. Precise edges to carry onto? Verify. 1000’s of instances already out there? Verify — though I didn’t use one for a very long time. The SE is greatest with out one.
On the time, the iPhone SE was extra compact and higher wanting than something Apple provided, whereas making virtually no compromises in any respect when it comes to performance. The one potential objection was its measurement, and that was (and is) a matter of style.
It was one of the best object Apple ever designed, full of one of the best tech it had ever developed. It was one of the best cellphone it ever made.
And one of the best cellphone it’s made since then, too, in case you ask me. Ever because the 6, it appears to me that Apple has solely drifted, casting about for one thing to captivate its customers the best way the iPhone four’s design and new graphical capabilities did, all the best way again in 2010. It honed that design to a innovative after which, when everybody anticipated the corporate to leap ahead, it tiptoed as an alternative, maybe afraid to spook the golden goose.
To me the SE was Apple permitting itself one final victory lap on the again of a design it will by no means surpass. It’s comprehensible that it will not need to admit, this a few years on, that anybody might presumably choose one thing it created practically a decade in the past to its thousand-dollar flagship — a tool, I really feel I need to add, that not solely compromises visibly in its design (I’ll by no means personal a notched cellphone if I might help it) however backpedals on sensible options utilized by hundreds of thousands, like Contact ID and a three.5mm headphone jack. That is in line with equally user-unfriendly selections made elsewhere in its lineup.
So whereas I’m dissatisfied in Apple, I’m not stunned. In any case, it’s dissatisfied me for years. However I nonetheless have my SE, and I intend to maintain it for so long as potential. As a result of it’s one of the best factor the corporate ever made, and it’s nonetheless a hell of a cellphone.