On Saturday, January 19, Apple dropped off its iPhone SE line at the clearance bin. Sure, we all knew that was coming. Apple pulled the iPhone SE from store shelves officially in October 2018 after having been the budget model since March of 2016. The clearance price was $100 - $150 off the last available price, marked at $249 for the 32GB model and $299 for the 128GB model. That's a darn cheap iPhone, but it's three years old with three-year-old architecture and a teeny-tiny four-inch display. Even at a mere $250, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting one of these.
But people did ... hella.
iPhone SE fans are everywhere
Within just a few days, the iPhone SE sold out at Apple's clearance section. All storage sizes, all colors, all gone. You may think, "well, that's because it was so cheap." But, I have a different thought.
I think it's because there are still a lot of us out there that long for the smaller sized form factor. Big screens be damned. We want small and comfortable!
Shortly after Apple launched the iPhone 7, I decided to switch over to see if I could give up my tiny phone for a conveniently larger screen. After just three months, I went back to my iPhone SE. The larger screen is really nice, but it's just not comfortable for the way I use a phone. I wasn't alone. A lot of people told me they prefer the four-inch form factor, too — wishing Apple would update the SE with better specs, but keep the size the same.
I reluctantly upgraded to the iPhone X in 2017. Though the size is bigger, it's still significantly smaller than even the standard 4.7-inch display, especially in width (the iPhone X less than a half-inch wider than the iPhone SE). I ended up really liking the X's design and decided I was willing to give up the SE after all.
Let me be clear. It's not because the iPhone SE was old and running slower. When iOS 12 came out, I saw significant performance improvement in the iPhone SE, more than any other model iPhone I ran version 12 on. My little SE was speeding down the rails with the big boys.
No, the reason I finally turned the iPhone X into my daily driver is that I really do like the edge-to-edge screen, which makes the smaller (relative to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus) iPhone seem large, while still fitting into pockets and having one-handed usability.
The future of SE
When Apple quietly removed the iPhone SE from its online store the day the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR were announced on September 12, 2018, I poured one out for my homie. There had been speculation that Apple was making a second-generation SE, but taking it off the shelves was the final nail in the coffin (and on my head) that the SE is over.
Or is it?
With this much excitement around a defunct, outdated iPhone that's nearly three years old, it's easy to rekindle hope that Apple would consider another four-inch model in the future.
But, to be honest, I don't think so. Apple spends millions of dollars every year on researching what works and what doesn't. The company didn't just flip a switch and turn off the lights in the SE building without a thought. The reason there is no more iPhone SE is that it wasn't cost-effective enough to keep it alive.
We, the four-inch iPhone fans are passionate and loud, but there are just not enough of us to justify an entire production line.
Sure, someday, small phones may again be en vogue and Apple will turn those lights back on, but it's not going to be soon, and it will probably never be the same, small but comfortable design of the iPhone SE.
Shout it with me
I know there are some iPhone SE fans out there. Let's start a buzz that'll make the Fyre Festival look like a whisper in the dark. Maybe Apple will take notice, at least enough to put it on their list of things to do someday.
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Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books. If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).