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Apple Underwhelms with Announcement of Ho-Hum New iPhone SE

Apple Underwhelms with Announcement of Ho-Hum New iPhone SE: The new iPhone SE. (Photo courtesy Apple)

The new iPhone SE. (Photo courtesy Apple)

Donald Trump wins again. Today, Apple announced the iPhone SE, a smaller device that’s perfect for the short-fingered vulgarians among us. But this tinier, cheaper phone is as much about placating our small-handed, megalomaniacal future president as it is about helping Apple in Android-dominated emerging markets like India and China.

But wait, didn’t the iPhone just go all Samsung on us and unleash ginormous phones on our pockets with the 6 and 6 Plus? Yes, they did, because they realized the market was clamoring for the bigger phone. And in the U.S., the 6 crushed in sales. But the company ran into two problems: 20 percent of consumers still wanted a smaller phone, and the larger, more expensive phone was price prohibitive outside the States. For example, in India, the average iPhone cost is $842, whereas the average Android-enabled phone will only set you back $248. So it’s not surprising that Android has 90 percent of the mobile phone market in India. Apple needed to move now to make a dent.

Essentially, with the SE, Apple has updated the 4-inch iPhone 5 with advancements the company had packed into iPhone 6. It improved the power with a 64-bit A9 processor, gave it the camera to shoot 4K video, and made the front facing “selfie-cam” able to shoot better pictures. People clinging to their 4s and 5s because they liked the size can now have a more powerful phone. More importantly to Apple’s hopes abroad, this new iPhone will start at $399, as opposed the $649 for the current models, which should help to close the sales gap with Android.

But making sound strategic moves to expand in emerging markets—and offering updates for people who don’t like larger phones—doesn’t exactly get us excited. It’s evident that Apple has fully taken on the personality of CEO Tim Cook, favoring incrementalism and solid business decisions instead of category-shattering products given to us by founder Steve Jobs. The thrill is gone.

There were sad, empty echoes of the past in today’s event where the trained seal audience got excited when Cook would say something because Apple events are supposed to get you excited.

But it just felt weird to hear people clapping and whooping it up in response to when Cook, while discussing the Apple Watch, merely said, “new woven nylon band.” There may be nothing more boring than the mere mention of watch band materials. But there the fan boys were, cheering like Cook had launched the iPod. It gave the sense that we’re all just going through the motions now with these events. Cook will speak, fan boys will cheer, I will write, you will click on this article, we all will buy it. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s the product cycle of life.

Orders begin March 24, and the phone will ship March 31. We’ll see you in line.


Jeremy Repanich is a Senior Editor at Playboy and host of the show Let’s Get Fat. Follow him on Twitter @racefortheprize.

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