OPINION: After years of neglecting the vast mid-range smartphone market in place of taking aim at the summit of the technology pile, Apple has now dipped its toe into the pool twice in two years with the announcement of the iPhone SE 3. Is this the return of a conquering hero, lord of all it surveys?
The performance level is unquestionably excellent, knocking the socks off every other device at that price point. From what we’ve seen of the A15 Bionic — the same chipset that powers the flagship iPhone 13 Pro — there’s not going to be a similarly-priced competitor that can even get close to this one, and it’s by far the biggest asset that the iPhone SE 3 has to its name.
The camera also looks promising, especially if it really has been significantly upgraded from that of its predecessor, the iPhone SE 2. Of course, there are plenty of mid-range Android phones that can hold their own on this score too, including the Google Pixel 4a and the Realme 9 Pro Plus to name but two, and the iPhone SE 3 may well have its work cut out trying to top or even equal these handsets.
But where basically all Android devices on the market can take a look askance at Apple’s new challenger is on the subject of the screen. It feels almost surreal to write that the world’s leading technology company, the first in the world to reach a $3 trillion valuation, released a phone in 2022 with a 4.7-inch 60Hz LCD display.
There are some Android devices such as the Poco X4 Pro 5G that would simply leave this display in the dust, with a 6.67-inch AMOLED that has HDR10 support and a 120Hz refresh rate — but more to the point is that pretty much every Android phone at this price point has a better screen. That Apple has allowed such a display to go on sale feels a lot like complacency. It certainly can’t kill off your Android competitors when it lags behind them to such a pitiful extent on what is arguably the most important aspect of the modern smartphone.
Software is king
Yet beyond the hardware specifications, Apple holds a few other cards in its hand that should worry Android manufacturers across the board unless they also up their game.
One of those is iOS, and the fact that this software is guaranteed to receive operating system and security updates long after the devices have been released. On this score, Android phones have a lot of catching up to do. iOS 15, Apple’s latest operating system, is still supported by the iPhone 6s and (pertinently to this article) the original iPhone SE, which were released in 2015 and 2016 respectively. There are no Android mid-range phones (or even flagships for that matter) that can guarantee such long-term support, much to their shame.
Apple’s policy in this regard not only gives you peace of mind and added value at the point of purchase, but it also is a great step forward for sustainability, as older handsets can be used securely for longer.
It’s worth mentioning that the manufacturer has made other strides in this regard, by sourcing sustainable or recycled materials, using renewable energy in production, and reducing both wastage and packaging — all of which I would also like to see more widely adopted by rival companies.
To return to the titular question, it’s clear that far from knocking the wind out of the Android market, Apple has actually got a lot to learn from the excellent specifications and value of other mid-range phones, and its current complacency will get found out eventually.
The next iPhone SE needs to have a significantly better screen, no ifs or buts, and once this is achieved then its rivals will really start to sweat. However, in the meantime the rest of the Android market can learn a lot from Apple too, principally about sustainability and software support, which up until now has been shamefully neglected and needs to be much better for the sake of consumers and for the planet.