The iPhone SE was the best phone Apple ever made, and now it’s dead

“I only wanted one thing out of 2018’s iPhone event: a new iPhone SE. In failing to provide it Apple seems to have quietly put the model out to pasture — and for this I curse them eternally,” Devin Coldewey writes for TechCrunch. “Because it was the best phone the company ever made.”

“I’ve always loved the iPhone design that began with the 4,” Coldewey writes. “The 4 established an entirely new industrial design aesthetic that was at once instantly recognizable and highly practical. Gone were the smooth, rounded edges and back of the stainless original iPhone (probably the second-best phone Apple made) and the jellybean-esque 3G and 3GS. In the place of those soft curves were hard lines and uncompromising geometry: a belt of metal running around the edge, set off from the glass sides by the slightest of steps. It highlighted and set off the black glass of the screen and bezel, producing a of specular outline from any angle.”

“While I am disappointed in Apple, I’m not surprised. After all, it’s disappointed me for years,” Coldewey writes. “But I still have my SE, and I intend to keep it for as long as possible. Because it’s the best thing the company ever made, and it’s still a hell of a phone.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The iPhone SE is not “the best phone Apple’s ever made” nor is it the “best thing Apple’s ever made.”

The best phone Apple’s ever made (until the new ones arrive with official availability) is the iPhone X. And we’ve used every single flagship iPhone Apple has ever made. Our iPhone Xs Max units will surpass it as the iPhone X is just a bit too small (narrow, actually) for us.

Now, you can argue that the iPhone 4 thru SE is the best phone design Apple’s ever made. It’s subjective, but we won’t argue with you on that. It was exquisite and it had the sleep/wake button in the right place, not directly across from the volume buttons.

With the iPhone XR, Xs, and Xs Max, the small phone is officially dead – September 14, 2018
Women criticize Apple for designing iPhones that are too big for women’s small hands – September 14, 2018
Apple discontinues low-end 4-inch iPhone SE, replaces it with a much better ‘budget’ iPhone – September 14, 2018


  1. This is what happens in today’s politics, people twist their personal view into judgements about the world, and worse, dig in and fight others to the death. No such thing as civil debate, or agree to disagree.

    1. Well said.

      Here, we see MDN’s editorial comment trying to ignore the underlying message of the editorial – – namely that this isn’t about if its got the latest CPU (because that was Apple’s choice) — but merely that FORM FACTOR is a design attribute that matters.

      Yeah, I know … the SE was probably killed for the same reason why it was kept: it was Apple’s cheap iPhone and we all have to go worship profits.

      But this really is a Design Leadership FAIL.

      Because there’s no reason why Apple couldn’t make a premium small iPhone … they’re falling into the same trap as Detroit, where if you wanted a premium product, you had to go buy the big behemoth.

      In the meantime, half the population of the world anthropometrically can’t comfortably use Apple’s new products.

      Yes, “anthropometric” – – someone please go look it up for lead Apple designer Johnny Ive. And staple it to his forehead.

      And because this one disproportionately affects women, a bigger concern and question is … why did such a basic design element get missed? Or worse yet, did it get ignored? How’s Apple’s culture for misogyny … on their iPhone product design team?

  2. Hmmm… let’s face it the iPhone as we know it hasn’t been a ‘phone’ form factor for a longgggg time with the exception of the SE. The Phablets are here to stay as a crossover from phone vs tablet vs camera . Given the price of smartphones and tablets and cameras consumers are choosing to get an ‘in between’ device. For those that want a phone primarily then the SE was ‘the’ phone and only phone. It is a shame that Apple seem to have killed the smaller form factor but maybe just maybe they will release a smaller clamshell dual screen phone in the future? Here’s hoping.

    1. Apple has made the decision to market to the Hee Haw demographic. This is arguably a good move for the bottom line. For the Hee Haw demographic, bigger is better and compromising to get something between an iPad and an iPhone makes sense. An adult professional person with a larger disposable income can afford to frequently buy both the ideal sized iPad (10” maybe—obviously not everyone will agree) and the ideal size iPhone (obviously not everyone will agree what that is exactly but very few people have large enough paws to use one of the new iTabletPhones with one hand and reach the whole screen easily and comfortably with their thumbs)

      The more lucrative target global market must be someone who needs to compromise because they cannot casually buy a lot of expensive devices and because many of them just have a reflexive idea that bigger is better. So it makes sense for Apple to move to bigger and bigger tablet phones.

      It shows an arrogantly ungrateful attitude on Apple’s part to the demographic it used to cater to in the Steve Jobs era, just a few short years ago, to tell them you will buy Hee Haw and love it just as much as you liked the superior products we used to make in the Jobs era.

      There is no longer a phone-sized iPhone. There hasn’t been a really superior phone-sized iPhone sine the iPhone 5s was new. The iPhone SE is built with a ton of compromises to make it cheap. It’s out of date.

    2. There is another possibility.. maybe they will hold off on smaller form-factors untill they can miniaturize the face id sys further for it not to be too intrusive on a smaller screen…… and at same time creat some pent up demand..then maybe in couple years or so introduce an X style SE.
      Just dreaming out loud ..🤔😀

    3. What irritates me is, if Apple would actually give this size a fair shot.
      Last year they should have updated it to be the same CPU, camera, all inside specs as the iPhone 8 but in the small size. So as a buyer you got three sizes to pick from that are almost identical in specs.
      You want the SE to be the cheap iPhone, then keep making the earlier version of it also.

      It’s be like Apple not updating the MacBook Pro 13″ or just dropping it all together.

    4. I guess, if Apple senses there is still a need for an SE form factor, a new version of the SE will be launched in 6 months, similar to the time frame in which the SE itself came out.

  3. As much as I love my 7 I wish Apple would’ve dropped it (since they have the 8) and built an X-SE that had the design of the 4, the size of the 5 and the guts of the XR.

    Oh well….

        1. Exactly. The size of the 5 was case only (approximately), not screen.

          Losing the home button and edge-to-edge like the XR would make the screen larger….in my dreams of course.

  4. SE users now you know how it feels like to be Mac Pro user,

    For years our complaints were typically met with “STFU you are NICHE, Apple is right to get the products which would generate the most market share and money. Apple knows better to what they can sell. ” etc . Some put downs I notice from the same people now grouching about the SE yesterday elsewhere.

    I don’t know how many down votes I’ve got over the years over this at MDN and my response was “Wait Until they Get rid Off or Not Upgrade a Device YOU Depend On”.

    do people now see why Apple users should stick together ? because you never know when it’ll be your turn?

    1. For Apple not everything should be about market share or money. There is something about a corporations desire not to abandon loyal customers.

      I only hope my take is wrong on that and Apple didn’t update the SE not because of ‘money’ but because perhaps the directions of new tech like AR/VR etc requires a bigger form factor and they are working on miniaturizing (or something )…

      For the Mac Pro users I think our complaints have at least eked out a promise of a new MP sometime…

    2. Well said. I don’t wish ill on others denied Apple products they want but it is helpful to illustrate the point all Apple users should NOT put down what other Apple users need. That’s incredibly self-serving, pointless and insensitive. But then ugly human nature in some is to ignore what we ourselves don’t need and others do. And it’s no skin off your nose in any way to support all other Apple users so they in turn will support you. We are not adversaries. It’s a decided lack of character that brings the apathy trait for others out.

  5. Not everyone needs or wants a large iPhone. My wife kept her flip phone until the SE came out. For her it was a matter of comfort in her hand.

    If Apple only sells a half a million SE’s a year that is still half a million adding a bit of good margins and, more importantly, covering some corporate overheads.

    My bet is that Apple will bring back the SE (again). It adds Apple Customers to the fold and they have delivered it “out of sequence” before.

  6. This is why Apple makes different models. Vintage cars, guitars and fly rods (to mention a few) are prized by their owners, but that doesn’t mean these are the best ever made. The author should settle down and not make silly claims… unless (is it possible) he is looking for clickbait.

  7. Uh, the iPhone SE was the best iPhone Apple ever made:

    A. At the time.
    B. For those that wanted small displays and a small frame.
    C. For those that didn’t do a lot of business work on their phones.

    Shall I go on? It is and hasn’t been the “best” iPhone Apple had ever made for a quite a while now. If you have an iPhone X, THAT was the best iPhone Apple ever made. Now you have 3 display sizes to choose from and they are all amazingly awesome and all are the fastest and most powerful, most secure phones in the world.

    1. I will certainly concede A and B. The SE did not have current specs (2015 at best) and it was small. The first could have been fixed with an upgrade and the second was seen by some of us as a vital feature, not a detriment. Tastes and use cases differ, which doesn’t make small inherently inferior for all purposes, certainly not mine.

      C, however, is ridiculous. You have clearly not considered that the way that you use your iPhone for business is not the same as the way that others might. For example, I used my phone a lot for business. I did not do so when I was at my desk because I had a Mac and an office landline. When I was on the go, I often needed to use my phone to look something up or answer a call when I was carrying a briefcase. When I was out walking my dog at night on a leash, I thought about business matters and often stopped to make a note. When I was in a meeting or courtroom, I often needed to check data or my messages inconspicuously.

      I could do that with an SE or any iPhone before the iPhone 6. Afterwards, I had to put the briefcase down (or struggle with the leash, or look down with both hands occupied) because my right thumb did not reach all the way to the left edge of the screen. For example, the MDN app became completely unusable one-handed because the “< Articles" button is in the upper left corner.

      The best camera is the one you have with you. The best iPhone is the one you can use. No matter how amazingly awesome the new display sizes are, it doesn't matter if they are all so big that I can't reach a third of the screen or more. Most people who "do a lot of business work on their phones" are more concerned with that than with whether they can watch anime without squinting. For many of us (more women than men), the three sizes are not a choice; they are "too big," "too bigger," and "too biggest."

      Nobody said the new iPhones weren't the "fastest and most powerful, most secure phones in the world." Since all the other companies have replaced their small smartphones with phablets, too, the iPhone Xs is probably the best new phone among a range of really bad choices for some of us. That does not mean that we cannot prefer something better for our purposes. Please do not patronize us by "mansplaining" facts about the iPhone that we already know or claiming that we don't do a lot of business on our devices. You don't know us that well.

      1. TXUser, maybe you should return your iPhone for a refund, because you’re too stupid to use it.

        Just swipe ANYWHERE to right from from the left edge to go back to articles. You can do this back motion with webpages, the settings, just about anywhere

        The fact you’ve been using your iPhone wrong ALL THIS TIME says little about your learning abilities.

        “Mansplaining” your shocking lack of knowledge about standard iPhone UI elements shows that your brain is too small, and you definitely need a bigger one.

        It also shows that if you had a bigger iPhone you wouldn’t know how to use it because you obviously never bother to learn things properly.

        Please stop reaching for the top of the screen where <Articles is and just swipe to the right from the left edge

        You’re friggin’ welcome, pretend iPhone expert who doesn’t want to listen to explanations and thus doesn’t know important ways about how their phone works! Sheesh!

        1. I knew that. Holding my 6s firmly in one hand, reaching that far to the left, and then swiping far enough to the right still strains my thumb. After just a couple of swipes, it hurts. Do it as many times as I have to go back in a day and the pain won’t go away. I understand they call that a repetitive stress injury.

          Thank you anyway for your obviously helpful attitude and openness to the concerns of others.

          1. Use two hands, brainiac. Only a fool keeps straining their thumb for no reason. Go buy a dozen SE models so you never run out. Use a stylus. There are so many answers yet you personsplain excuses after excuses. It hurts people’s brains to read your excuses.

    2. and
      D. For people who didn’t need to compromise because they were could afford to buy both new iPhones and new iPads.

      Those people still exist though. There are lots of them in America, Japan, and Europe. If Apple made an up-to-date, full-functioning, phone-sized iPhone X Apple would sell lots of them and make plenty of money doing it. Tim Cooke and the other people making the decisions on what to sell know better than anyone that that is true. However, they have made the business decision that they will make more money NOT doing that because making more sizes will cost more and the people who would love to buy a normal sized iPhone X will sigh, complain awhile, and eventually settle for second best.

    3. What kind of business do you need a phone for? I have assistants for that. I just want a phone that fits in my shirt pocket. Why should I have larger pockets made just because you have size envy. SE was just right. A smaller plane that holds two pilots can take you anywhere. Not everyone needs the biggest stuff.

  8. I agree with the author in that I do like my SE mainly because of it’s size and will run it until it is no more. Hopefully by then there will be a next generation SE sized iPhone available. I don’t need a giant screen on my phone, I have an iPad for that.

    1. And you could buy an SE and an iPad for a combined price less than an iPhone Xr and have two devices that each did one thing well, rather than one device that did both things less well (at least for those of us who prefer a one-handed phone).

      1. It’s striking that both you and GoeB agree that the iPhone SE was just right. Actually, many have commented at MDN praising the SE form factor, including me. Apparently there are things that bind us in a common humanity, or at least shared personal consumer preferences, that transcend evanescent political fashions. Steve Jobs was right: the 4-inch iPhone fits perfectly in your hand. Sadly, he’s dead and now his brain-child has evolved into a series of Android-mimicking grotesque mutations, chimeras induced by crass market calculations married to exquisite industrial design.

        1. With the new screens covering the entire watch my 4″ SE diagonally bezel to bezel would actually be a 5″ phone. Not an unreasonable size for the new architecture and we could even have a bit bigger screen in the existing footprint. Sounds like a winner to me. I think Steve would agree. I’d buy it the day it comes out

    1. Trying to watch movies and play games etc are making phones bigger, to the point a tablet should take over the job. For communications, PIM, GPS, Internet, or banking etc, smaller mobile device is more convenient and more than suffice.
      Remember the StarTac of yesteryears? Perfect size for tossing it around and throwing it in any pocket. It even had a convenient external battery for instant exchange. I would pay $1K for something like that with today’s screen and guts.

  9. I was in bed the other night. My alarm set to 1:50 am central. I reached for my iPhone X. And then thought about the day that I reach for the max instead. I thought about how nice it was to be able to hold the x in one hand and actually type. I can see everything. Great screen. Great sound. Camera is plenty amazing. And then decided to put my phone down and not preorder the new iPhone for the first time since the iPhone 3GS.

    The iPhone X is not the greatest iPhone ever made. I’m sure the new ones are. I just am not in awe of them enough to order one. The x was ahead of its time and hard to surpass to the point of enticing me to upgrade.

    1. If the components for an iPhone 6 or 6s fit in the smaller size, so would the components for at least an iPhone 8. If miniaturization were still a priority for Apple, I suspect that an iPhone X would fit with only a few compromises. It’s chicken and egg: if the parts don’t fit in a smaller case it’s because the designers knew they could expand into a larger case.

    1. Your analogy would work if the reason he kept his 1972 Frigidaire was that it was the last refrigerator with appropriate dimensions to store what he needed to keep cool. Why do you expect him to throw away an appliance that does what he wants so that he can replace it with something that doesn’t?

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