I just wanted one thing out of 2018's iPhone event: a new iPhone SE. By not giving it, Apple obviously sees the model for grazing – and for that I forbid them forever. Because it was the best phone company ever made.
If you were one of the many who went over SE back in 2015, when it made its debut, it's understandable. The iPhone 6S was the newest and best and of course fixed some of the issues Apple had introduced with the brand new design of 6. But for me, SE was a perfect match.
See, I've always loved iPhone designs that started with 4. The big phone is perhaps best remembered to be left in a bar in front of the release and leaked by Gizmodo ̵
4 established a completely new industrial design aesthetics that was immediately recognizable and very practical. Gone were the smooth, rounded edges and the back of the stainless steel original iPhone (probably the second best phone Apple did) and the jellybean-esque 3G and 3GS.
Instead of these soft curves, there were hard lines and uncompromising geometry: a belt of metal running around the edge, viewed from the glass sides by the smallest steps. It marked and put off the black glass on the screen and the pelvis, and produced a speculative overview from all angles.
The camera was flush and home button (RIP) subspole, completely contained in the body, which made the device perfectly flat both front and back. Meanwhile, the side buttons stood out boldly. Volume in bold, etched circles; The mute switch is easy to find, but impossible to activate by accident; Power button perfectly positioned for a current index finger. Note that all of these features are customizable: make things easier, better, more accessible, while being attractive and coherent as part of a single object.
Compared with iPhone 4, every other phone, including Samsung's new "iPhone killer" Galaxy S, was a cheap look of plastic, incoherent or, at best, work-related. And do not think I'm talking like an Apple fanboy; I was not an iPhone user at the time. In fact, I probably still used my love G1 – talk about the beauty and the animal!
The design was strong enough to survive the initially difficult transition to a longer screen in 5, and with that generation it also had an improved backside that alleviated the phone's unfortunate tendency to … well, crushing.
However, the two-tone gray iPhone 5S did not provide any room for improvement. And after 4 years it was probably maybe time to freshen up things a bit. Unfortunately, what Apple ended up was pulling all the personality from the device while you just added other than the screen space.
The 6 were just ugly to me. It reminds of the abundance of boring Android phones on time – just higher quality than them, no different. The 6S were equally ugly and 7 to 8 somehow confused some other designs that differed from one another while reversing the course on some practical measures by allowing an ever bigger camera job and losing the headphone jack. X, at least, so a bit different.
But to return to the subject at hand, it was after 6S that Apple had introduced SE. Although nominated for "Special Edition", the name was also a nod to Macintosh SE. Ironically, given the original meaning of "System Expansion," the new SE was the opposite: essentially an iPhone 6S in a 5S body, complete with enhanced camera, Touch ID sensor and processor. The move was probably meant as a kind of lifeboat for users who still could not change the drastically redesigned, and significantly larger, new model.
It would take time, Apple seems to have reasoned to convert these people, types that rarely buy first generation Apple products and appreciate usability over the news. So why not coddle them a little through this difficult transition?
SE appealed not only to the nostalgic and neophobic, but only to people who prefer a smaller phone. I do not have big or small hands, but I have preferred this very light, proven design for the new one for a variety of reasons.
Rinse camera so it is not scratched? Check. Normal pressable start button? Check. Flat, symmetrical design? Check. Actual edges to hold on? Check. Thousands of cases already available? Check – although I did not use one for a long time. SE is best without one.
At that time, the iPhone SE was more compact and better looking than all Apple offered, while virtually no compromises on functionality. The only possible objection was the size and it was (and is) a matter of taste.
It was the best item Apple ever designed, filled with the best technology it ever developed. It was the best phone it ever made.
And the best phone it's made since then also, if you ask me. Ever since 6, it seems that Apple has just driven, looking for something to captivate the users such as iPhone 4's design and new graphics capabilities made its way back in 2010. It chopped this design into a leading edge and when everyone expected that the company should jump forward, ran instead, maybe afraid to spit the golden goose.
For me, SE Apple was allowed a final win at the back of a design that it would never surpass. It is understandable that it will not admit, for many years, that someone might possibly prefer something that created almost a decade ago to a thousand dollar flagship – a device that I feel I must add that not only are compromises visible in its design (I will never own a chopped phone if I can help) but backpedals on practical features used by millions like Touch ID and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. This is in line with similar user-friendly choices that have been made elsewhere in its setup.
So while I'm disappointed with Apple, I'm not surprised. After all, it's been disappointing for years. But I still have SE, and I plan to keep it for as long as possible. Because that's the best company has done and there's still a hell of a phone.