One of the best things about my job is that I get to test just about every gadget before anyone else.
One of the worst things about my job is that people outside my profession constantly nag me with questions about which phone or other gizmo they should buy.
The bright side?
It gives me some insight into how normal people think about consumer technology, which is pretty refreshing since I'm usually surrounded by a bunch of tech dorks all day at my job.
This weekend I was at my sister's wedding, and a lot of friends and family members were quizzing me on Apple's next iPhone, the iPhone 5se. As Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac originally reported, the iPhone 5se is expected to have a 4-inch screen, the same size as the one on the iPhone 5. In fact, it's supposed to look a lot like the iPhone 5 except for a slightly refined look and improved specs that pretty much match the power and features of the iPhone 6s.
I thought it'd be a strange move for Apple to reverse course and make a smaller-screen phone. After all, we spent years begging Apple to make big-screen iPhones that could stack up to the likes of Samsung's Galaxy phones. Apple was supposedly doomed unless it gave the people what they wanted.
Then, it finally happened! The iPhone 6, which starts with a 4.7-inch screen, kicked off a super upgrade cycle in 2014, helping Apple shatter sales records.
So why go small with the iPhone 5se after the wild success of the iPhone 6?
A lot of the people I talked to this weekend seemed excited about a smaller iPhone. Many were hanging onto their iPhone 5 because they liked how it easily slipped into their pocket or let them navigate with one hand. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were too unwieldy for them. My colleague Cadie Thompson is still using her iPhone 5 for those very reasons.
These people aren't alone. According to Mixpanel, which tracks active iPhones, nearly one-third of iPhone users are still using phones that are 4 inches or smaller. That's a lot of people likely due for an upgrade to a new iPhone, but are holding out because they don't want a giant screen.
So that's the big opportunity for the iPhone 5se. It'll offer all the best features found in the iPhone 6s — Apple Pay, Live Photos, a fast processor, etc. — but with a smaller, more manageable screen and a discounted price likely to appeal to a lot of people who haven't upgraded yet.
Tech dorks may get juiced up by big screens, but it seems like there's a big opportunity for Apple to keep things small for the rest of its customers.