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iPhone SE: Is Apple following Sony Mobile’s compact smartphone lead?

by Phill Maling | Mar 22, 2016

Apple announced its latest smartphone, the iPhone SE, at an event yesterday (21st March, 2016) in a break from their traditional September product announcements. iPhone SE is a “compact smartphone”. The iPhone SE is essentially an upgrade of the popular iPhone 5s which still features prominently in the SpecTRAX Shelf Share Top 5 Smartphones list almost 3 years after launch. Apple increased its smartphone display size with the launch of the iPhone 6 (4.7 inches) and iPhone 6 Plus (5.5 inches) and continued with this theme with the launch of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.  With the iPhone 5s still ranking well in terms of sales and availability the ageing handset needed an overhaul to compete with today’s smartphones. Apple has taken its cutting edge A9 64-bit dual-core processor and 12MP camera (seen in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus) and combined them in an affordable, 4 inch smartphone. For vendors such as Samsung, LG and HTC the “compact” or “mini” variants of their flagship products are usually a compromise between specifications and pricing; the processor and camera modules are normally the main downgrades.

Sony Mobile differentiated itself back in Jan 2014 coining the term “compact smartphone” with the launch of the Xperia Z1 Compact. The Z1 Compact featured the same Snapdragon 800 SoC and camera module as the Xperia Z1 (launched 3 months earlier, in Sept 2013). Sony Mobile continued this strategy with its next generation products, Xperia Z2 Compact, Xperia Z3 Compact and now the Xperia Z5 Compact.

Apple dominates the premium smartphone price tier (>500USD) with its flagship models. Legacy products (>2 years old) fall into the lower price tiers in a stepwise fashion as new products launch. The iPhone SE annoucement means Apple has broken with tradition and has intentionally targeted the mid-tier smartphone market at product launch.

Strategy Analytics’ PriceTRAX service monitors mobile device pricing (prepaid, contract, finance and unsubsidised) on a weekly basis from carriers and retailers across 48 countries. Strategy Analytics’ SpecTRAX database is updated with new model announcements each week, adding c. 150 new smartphones, tablets, wearables, mobile phones, USB dongles and mobile hotspots every month. For more information on SpecTRAX or PriceTRAX or to request a trial please click here.

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