Reflections on an iPhone-less life
I’ve been without an iPhone now for over a month. I ditched my iPhone SE (2020) when Apple announced their iPhone 14s and offered no small phone/home button option. I had held out hope that they wouldn’t abandon this “sizeable” market.
Back in March 2022, Apple re-released the iPhone SE with upgraded innards. It kept the physical body style that has been present in iPhones since the iPhone 6 (2014).
"Notes from the Trail" is a reader-supported publication. When you become (or invite someone to become) a subscriber, you’re an encouragement to me, and in a sense you’re saying, “Write more! Do it again.”
“iPhone SE has been an incredibly popular choice with our existing users and for new iPhone customers, thanks to its iconic design, exceptional performance, and affordable price. This year we’ve built the most powerful and durable iPhone SE yet, with better battery life thanks to A15 Bionic, the same chip as our iPhone 13 lineup that also unlocks advanced camera features like Smart HDR 4, Photographic Styles, and Deep Fusion,” said Kaiann Drance, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing.
So when the iPhone 14s were announced this fall, did Apple give a nod to the small phone demographic? Nope. It not only canned the scrappy and nichey iPhone mini (first introduced in November 2020), but it made the new phones “bigger and better.” Perhaps that’s why sales have lagged behind expectations for the iPhone 14?
My experience with an Android so far
That did it for me. As I wrote here, I switched to an Asus Zenfone 9. It has a small form factor (though not as small as the iPhone SE or iPhone mini). It has a home button (on the side), and had excellent reviews (see below).
However, I’m still skeptical. It does everything I want it to do. It does everything my iPhone did. The battery life is truly outstanding. I rarely get under 50% after a good day’s use.
But here’s the bad:
It’s not iOS. Aside from the small phone/home button ecosystem that I want, the Android cannot imitate art. And iOS is truly… enjoyable to use. Using an Android just feels… creaky. It’s not pleasant. It’s not enjoyable. It just gets the job done.
Even though I can customize almost every single thing about the phone, it’s… just not iOS.
iPhone users are smug for a reason
I have always enjoyed poking fun at Android users. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed messing with iPhone users on this side of things. They are smug. Rightly so, unfortunately. However, most iPhone users haven’t thought about why they enjoy their iPhones so much. They base all their smugness on their blue bubbles in iMessage. That’s it.
What they should be bragging out about is:
Picture quality - even my iPhone SE (2020) took incredible pictures.
iOS - the integration of the iPhone operating system with all apps, and its cohesiveness is simply something that only a regular iPhone user can understand.
The feel of the iPhone. Holding my Asus and then picking up my old SE is a contrast in tactile quality. That’s not even comparing a newer iPhone “feel” to an Android.
The volume settings. I know. That one took me by surprise too. I didn’t think ti would be hard. It took me forever to figure out how to set my volume settings on the Android. I prefer my texts and phone calls to simply vibrate. I set it that way, and then I almost missed a meeting on my first day because my alarm didn’t go off… I still struggle with these settings. They just aren’t intuitive.
The Asus Zenfone 9 is a fine phone
Don’t get me wrong. Asus has impressed me. When so many other phone manufacturers are going bigger and bigger, Asus went smaller. (You could even claim that the Samsung flip phone did the same). Not everyone wants a window pane to smash against their face.
Tom’s Guide declared it “One of the best small phones ever”
Android Authority said it was “Small in stature, big on personality”
ZDnet said the Asus Zenfone 9 was, “The iPhone mini alternative for Android enthusiasts.”
The Verge reviewed it and claimed it to be “one for the small phone superfans.”
Reviews.org said the Zefone 9 was, “The last bastion for small phone fans.”
Even Forbes said that Asus had nailed it - “Small And Powerful Is Back In Fashion.”
Hey, Apple. Here’s what a good portion of us want:
It shouldn’t be hard for Apple to understand that “bigger and better” is not actually better. Step out of your ecosystem for just a minute, Tim Cook, and listen. You have a lot of Apple lovers out here who are a bit dismayed with your myopia. We don’t want square watches. We don’t want larger and heavier phones. We don’t want lightning ports.
When did it become a good thing to ignore some of your Apple fan boys who helped you rise to technological ascendancy? I was one of those who endured endless abuse for being a Mac user. We stood with you. Now stand with us…
I really would like to return to the iPhone. It wouldn’t be hard. Here’s my wish list:
Give us a home button. It is so enjoyable to not have to “swipe up” to return to the main screen or to unlock the phone. Come on, Apple. Face it, not everyone likes face ID. We know you have the technology. For Steve’s sake, even the iPad has a touch button on top. We know you can. You’re just being stubborn.
Give us a full screen. The black bars on the SE are just… so iPhone 6. It’s already a small phone, covered with glass… give us our real estate. Every inch helps on these small phones.
Give us a small phone (anything between the iPhone SE/mini size and the iPhone 14 ~ 5.4”-6.1”) I would think 5.8” is a sweet spot. (The Asus sports a 5.9” screen - just a smidgen big, I think)
The iPhone rumor mill is always churning. At present, there’s some speculation that we’ll see a new iPhone SE coming out in early 2023, with the body style of the iPhone XR… but no home button is mentioned.
I obviously think this is a mistake, and that Apple simply has lost “touch” with what small phone/SE users want.
Give us a S.M.A.L.L. iPhone, Apple. With a home button. You can do it.
Apple announces the new iPhone SE: a powerful smartphone in an iconic design - Apple.com, March 8, 2022
The iPhone 14 is not selling as much as Apple expected, and here’s why, TechPoint (Africa), October 4, 2022
iPhone 14 Prices Falling Twice As Fast As iPhone 13, Forbes, October 5, 2022
Apple stock drops on concerns about iPhone 14 demand, CNN, September 28, 2022
Apple iPhone SE 4 to reportedly launch as a flagship-killer smartphone, GizmoChina, November 22, 2022
iPhone SE 4 rumours, release date, specs, camera, design, more details, International Business Times, November 18, 2022