Why Apple has stopped making itsy-bitsy iPhones

With the release of iPhone SE (2020) featuring a 4.7-inch display and iPhone 8-exact physical dimensions, Apple has ceased making itsy-bitsy iPhones like the original SE, which sported a tiny 4-inch display or the original iPhone’s 3.5-inch microscopic screen (also found in the iPhone 3G and 3GS).

No more itsy-bitsy iPhones. Image: Apple's 4-inch iPhone SE
Apple’s original 4-inch iPhone SE

Samuel Axon for Ars Technica:

Consumers who were hoping for the return of the 4-inch display, or maybe even a slightly larger display but in the same grip size as the original SE, were likely disappointed by this week’s announcement.

Investor pressure mounted on Apple in recent years to make up for the slowing growth of smartphone sales, and a more expensive phone hasn’t been the company’s only apparent strategy. Another has been to pivot to sell additional products and services to existing customers, ranging from AirPods to the Apple Watch to subscription services like Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and Apple Music.

Generally, that strategy requires smartphones to be treated as primary media consumption devices—not just for short TikTok videos, but for long binge sessions of Arcade games or TV+ shows… I’ve written before about how aging lithium-ion battery technology is a burden to the modern smartphone. That’s still true now. A significant percentage of the bulk in modern smartphones is dedicated to batteries. The bigger the phone, the bigger the battery, and bigger batteries mean more battery life. This scale still tells the same story even if you account for the added battery drain of larger screens.

Why Apple should keep making small phones anyway: Failure to offer options to address the entire available market has been one of the key factors preventing Apple from achieving majority market share in some of its product categories. Bringing back the original size of the iPhone SE would be one of many ways the company could remedy that.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple doesn’t make products for market share. Apple makes premium products for premium customers at premium prices. When the company follows Steve Jobs way of thinking (which is generally an insanely great way to do things), they are making products to delight customers. There will always be some who clamor for itsy-bitsy iPhones, but if there are not enough customers who’ll be delighted by a product, Apple won’t make it. And that’s why there’s no 4-inch iPhone today.


  1. Yeah I’m disappointed I was hoping for an iPhone SE not something thats called an iPhone SE I will stick to the one I have till it gives up, I would have thought in the current situation that if it’s possible to make something that would sell then why not

  2. “Investor pressure mounted on Apple”

    If Steve jobs were still around, this would be meaningless. He did not run Apple to please investors.

    “Apple makes premium products for premium customers at premium prices.”

    Well, no. Apple makes some great products that are expensive. But many of their customers are just your everyday consumer or small business who understand ROI, and the value of not having to spend their life trying to maneuver the Windows or other hardware manufacturer’s environment.

    And as far as products go, I’d say that many of Apple’s services are competing in the same cesspool of mediocre products as all the rest. And they are not that successful.

    1. JC,

      I was with you until you started referring to Windows. My problem with Apple’s computers, specifically iMacs and laptops is that they are too thin which leads to too much heat retention and this lowers the projected life of the product.

      I just permanently retired my 2010 iMac (it finally died) and I don’t expect my 2015 iMac to have anywhere near the longevity of it’s predecessor. Insanely this leads to an insanely shorter working life.

      1. Ten years is a lifetime for a product that is in constant use. Imagine complaining that a car you’ve been driving 100,000 miles a year for half a decade MIGHT not make it to a million miles. So far my Homepod looks like it may be the only Apple product that I don’t end up squeezing every last drop of value out of, not because of hardware quality but poor software integration with the Mac.

  3. “the original iPhone’s 3.5-inch microscopic screen”

    The original iPhone was huge for its time. It arrived when cell phones were shrinking (Motorola StarTAC, anyone?)

    Also, the writer mustn’t have heard of the rumored 5.4″ iPhone 12.

  4. “Apple has ceased making itsy-bitsy iPhones like the original SE, which sported a tiny 4-inch display or the original iPhone’s 3.5-inch microscopic screen (also found in the iPhone 3G and 3GS).”

    Reminder: In 2007 Steve famously said 3.5 inch was the “perfect size” for the original iPhone and I agree to this day. Half inch larger the NEWER perfect size was the 2016 SE developed after his passing. Both were the most powerful small form factor phones in the universe to this day.

    The only “itsy-bitsy” part of this equation CONTINUES to be the small mindedness and condescension from those who prefer larger phones, directed toward those that do not.

    The new SE is in no way the ”perfect size” — too big with an ugly camera bump. Apple made it the same size as a previous iPhone 8, was it? Tooling and supply chain already in place to save money and maximize profits, classic beancounter Cook move.

    Totally ignoring the legacy customers clamoring for smaller phones that easily fit in everyone’s hand from children to women to men. Shame on tone deaf Apple and MDN, sorry…

      1. An ad hominem attack: why doncha stick to the topic?

        Plenty of people wear ’em. Let’s start with the military. And they are sold in stores too. And some wear cargo pants on their jobs.

        The point of my comment is that Apple keeps making larger and larger iPhones — call e’m small iPads — that are harder and more impractical to carry. I have no problem with those who want to carry their iPads in their purses. But some of us guys want a small iPhone, to stick in a pocket.

        A belt case? No thanks. I lived all these years without carrying a telephone. But it would be nice t have a small one. I think there’s a market for one.

        A belt case? You mean a fanny pack? Get real.

      2. Obvious what you are really saying is you don’t wear cargo pants anymore. Only the arrogant clueless attempt to speak for all people. I wear cargo pants to work everyday. There, you’re wrong! 👎🏻

  5. I am so tired of hearing the ignorant statement that Apple doesn’t make products for marketshare. I can’t even count the number of times Jobs and Cook have stated very happily what the marketshare for a particular product was. When asked about the low marketshare of the Mac, the response was that it allowed them a lot of growth in the market. They were talking about increased marketshare.

  6. And on the ignorant “itsy-bitsy” note, I’m outta here. There is better Mac news available without such pointless and fact-less commentary. MDN has become full of themselves, and it is no wonder from ignorant and baseless commentary (and headlines) like that that MDN needs to beg for money to stay alive. MDN is starting to take a lead from your President regarding hurling insults, and remarkably, has nothing I can’t get elsewhere. Bye-bye; bookmark deleted.

    1. You are so correct. Hopefully I’m not the only one who remembers MDN calling the 4-inch iPhone “right-sized” while criticizing Android companies for their “too big” phones.

  7. This debate on phone size amuses me. Once again, we see an example of men (and I assume all the posters here are men) showing great concern over the size of something incredibly important to them. Come on, MDN and iPhone SE lovers, stop fighting about size. Remember, it’s not the size of your phone that matters; it’s what you do with your phone that counts.

  8. I really wish Apple realized there is a larger customer base that WANTS a SMALL sized phone. I also remember when Steve Jobs said the 3.5 size was the perfect size. Even at 4″, the size was still around the same 2.25″ wide; which seems to be the best one-hand size for width. The problem I think is that many people want to tuck the phone away in a pocket and not have this massive phone to manage. Many of my friends are not face timers, and use the phone for basic needs; and prefer the smaller size. I have not cycled my phone because of the lack of available small size. The new SE still does not fit my size. I wish they offered a phone in the 2.25″ width. I understand the battery concept, but I would gladly charge more often to have a phone that I could fit in one hand and fits in my pockets. I really hope Apple realizes the hole they have in their product landscape right now; and filling that void would balance out their product line & financials with phones. Note: If there an option for every product cycle that offered a “perfect size” phone (as stated but the founder, and person who made the company what it is today), I would have purchased a new one every cycle, or at least every other cycle; which would have brought Apple another $2,500 – $5,000 in revenue. I bet that revenue loss, when you take in. consideration all the people that would also cycle more often, is in the billions of loss revenue. I find it ironic that the first time Apple saw a decline in market share / iPhone revenue share, was the timr they killed the small factor / lower price option for customers.

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