Will the 4-inch iPhone SE start a reverse trend to smaller phones -- or does size still matter?
By Anand Parthasarathy
March 28 2016: The media which attended Apple's annual mela US last week with bated breath, was mostly underwhelmed by the main announcement: a new iPhone with little new to write about. But they were not about to admit to any disappointment -- which is we why have been subjected to much lofty speculation about the reason why iPhone SE ( for Special Edition) is at 4 inches, much smaller than the last few editions, with almost the same specs as iPhone 6 and 6 Plus ( OK, the front camera is better at 12 MP). Analysts suggest it is meant to woo new customers in markets like India and China-- or existing owners of the similarly sized iPhone 5.
The former argument turned out to be nonsense when Apple announced the SE's India price -- Rs 39,000 which is equal to $ 588 compared to the global price of $ 399. Clearly Apple doesn't want the business of ordinary Indians -- and is willing to keep prices here high to maintain an elite status.
Look at the phone being used by your bai, or the autoriksha driver or the FlipKart delivery boy: Chances are, it is larger than your own phone. For them, the phone is an all-in-one agni astra: a tool for time-pass as much as for personal communication. They are not bothered about operating the phone with one hand. They are happy to use both hands or stick it conveniently on handle-bar or dashboard, in the landscape mode, to view movies. And today they can get a 3G 5-inch to 5.5 -inch phone for Rs 5000 or less.
Apple's Back to the Future march to a 4-inch form factor is seen by some, not as a brilliant marketing ploy -- but as an amber sign that innovation in phone hardware is slowly drying up. There is just so much you can do with the available RAM speeds, CPU power and battery capacity. A recent Digital Index study by Adobe found that demand for both smaller phones and tablet markets were slowing down as users went for phablets which served multiple needs. They are ready to put up with the inconvenience of a 6-inch or larger phablet rather than carrying two devices.
The iPhone SE is not available here till next week. Meanwhile, we look at three different phones launched in India recently which straddle all sizes and budgets, while slowly narrowing the gap between phone and tablet.
Samsung Galaxy S7: More than Good Looks
Samsung recently updated its flagship device in India. The Korean smart phone maker is known for its device aesthetics and just like its predecessor, the Galaxy S7 is a chic and stylish looking device. We got a hands-on the S7 and feel that it scores well in terms of design.... read our full review here
Canvas Fantabulet F666: Largest phone screen
Another 0.2 inches and Micromax would have had to call this a tablet. But with a 720p HD IPS 6.98 -inch screen, they can claim to make India's largest smartphone or phablet . Fueled by a 1.3 GHz quad ship with 1 GB RAM and 16 GB of onboard storage, the Canvas Phantabulet F666 offers two SIM slots ( 3G + 3G), an 8 MP rear and 2MP front camera. Dual speakers belt out enough sound to support the video capabilities of the device, while the 3000mAh battery ensures you can see a 3-hour movie with one charge. It retails for Rs 7499.
Vivo Y51L: Need for speed
This is the first major launch in 2016 from the Chinese brand. The Vivo Y51L is a 5-inch dual SIM phone , with the custom Funtouch 2.5 OS sitting on top of Android Lollipop. The cameras are about average -- 8 MP and 5 MP -- and while the RAM is 2G, the storage of 16 GB can be expanded up to 128 GB with a micro SD card. Video recording, however is full HD 1080p. Like most Vivo phones, this one has very friendly camera features which will allow us dummies to tweak poor snaps into good photos., while taking selfies with simple gestures. Long chats can be stored by capturing screenshots. Considering this is a 4G LTE-ready phone, the asking price of Rs 11,980 is very reasonable.
And what of the future? Foldable phones? Read our story on Samsung's recent patent applications here