[Op-Ed] What kind of market will the iPhone SE find?

Apple recently announced a refresh of their design from the iPhone 5/5s line, and are calling it the iPhone SE.  The odd thing about this refresh is that it now gives Apple not 1, not 2, but 3 different size iPhones for consumers to choose from.  After such a long time of offering a single choice in mobile smartphones, Apple has done a 180 and first moved up from a 3.5″ display mode (iPhone 4), to 4.0″ display (iPhone 5/5s), then finally the current generation iPhone 6s (at 4.7″ display size) and the 6s+ (at a whopping 5.5″ display size) – one might view this as a reversal of trend, as most smartphone OEMs these days are abiding by the motto of “bigger is better!” when it comes to display size.  But is this really what consumers want?  Are we stuck with nothing but smartphones that are so large they create an unsightly bulge in our jeans pockets?  Or has Apple found an untapped market, as they seem to so often do with their products?  Let’s explore in more depth.

For a long time, the world seemed to decry “large screen” phones.  From my old Droid Incredible at 3.7″ display size, I’ve moved up in size progressively every new phone, and not always by choice.  It seems like most in the Android space seem to agree that the so-called sweet spot is anywhere from 5.0-5.3″ in display size.  There are those who really like the larger size devices (Sean is one of these) and my daily driver is a Nexus 6P, which I love – but I did have an adjustment period with the size and form factor of the phone.  Even smaller display size phones (like the LG G4) are still very large by the standards of just a few years ago.  Most of the major Android flagships are anywhere from 5.1″ (Samsung’s Galaxy S7, rumored size of the HTC 10) to 5.3″ (LG’s G5) to bigger (5.7″ for the Nexus 6P and the Samsung Note 5) – even Apple’s own offerings are substantial, with the 5.5″ iPhone 6s+ being a very popular option for upgrading iPhone users.

This is the market that the iPhone SE is being introduced into.  In a world of large display flagships, Apple throws a 4″ iPhone out there and says “come get some.”  But is it too late?  Can a small phone make a big splash in this era of devices designed and marketed around mobile media consumption?  The tablet market is shrinking, due largely in part to the fact that people now have phones with displays large enough to be able to use them as almost tablets, removing the need for anything bigger still.  As an iPhone 5s is in my possession for work reasons, I have a basis for comparison of what the SE will bring to the table.  And, I’ll be honest, I don’t think its for me.  I use my Nexus primarily to watch video and stream audio, and for watching TV shows and movies, the large crisp 5.7″ display and front facing speakers are very much what I’m looking for.  The SE would just be too small for what I do with my phone.  And in today’s “YouTube/Vine/Instagram video” society, I think it would be too small for what a lot of people do with their phones.

And yet, reports are that 3.4 million iPhone SEs were pre-ordered in China.  These numbers (while not great by accounts) are still a LOT of folks.  Some might argue that its the “affordability” of the iPhone SE that’s drawing folks towards it, but in China – the pricing isn’t the same as it is in the US.  Even though Foxconn makes some of the parts for the iPhone and they are based in China; it ain’t like Apple be about giving anyone a discount.  And according to that report, its not so much a pre-order as it is a reservation – there’s not even a monetary hold used in their pre-order.  So how many of the 3.4 million orders actually turn into shipped unit remains to be seen.  And that’s only one market…how many orders are shipped to U.S. addresses will be a real good test for if the iPhone SE will be considered a success.  And while international buyers may be very interested in a small, powerful, and more affordable smartphone,  it remains to be seen if buyers in the U.S. will choose to “go small and go home.”


[Op-Ed] Are smart watches worth your time?

Since so much time has passed since the Moto 360 came into my life (including the release of its successor the Moto 360-2 and the Moto 360 Sport) I thought I might skip the straight up review, and instead focus more on the driving question behind this, and other wearables on the market right now: are smart watches a fad, a nice to have, or a must have?  I asked in the title of this article if “smart watches are worth your time” – using a very obvious but still clever pun – and hopefully I can answer this for you, and other folks considering picking up one of a great number of options available today.

First off, let me say that I have the 1st Gen Moto 360, and I love it.  I purchased it as a gift for myself and while at first I thought it would be one of those “why the heck did I buy this” kind of things, it actually grew on me and I found more and more uses for it each day.  Now, low these many months later, I still find uses for it.  Fitness tracker, viewing phone callers without picking up my phone, receiving/reading/replying to text messages – all of these are just a few of the uses of the M360.  And smart watches have come a long way since then…offerings from Samsung, Asus, Huawei, and even high end makers like Tag Heuer have entries into the smart watch business that are as beautiful as they are functional.

And none of this even mentions the Apple Watch, which is probably now the most ubiquitous.  What niche do they fill?  What purpose do they serve?  Are they $400 expressions of our vanity?

I think for the most part we still aren’t 100% sure what do do with this category of wearable technology.  But we sure do like to make it flashy and fun.  We can have almost as much fun with getting different watch bands, choosing the right color and style of the housing, and then even the right size for our wrist, be it thick or dainty.  Then there are the watch faces…they can be changed as often as one wants and into just about anything you can imagine.  I have 3 or 4 I use as daily drivers, depending on the need, the setting, and literally what mood I’m in that day.

Do we need them?  Maybe not….do we love them?  Absolutely.  Battery life and connectivity are always a concern, but a lot of these issues have been addressed as the tech has advanced, if not outright solved.  The idea of being able to get notifications on your wrist isn’t done out of necessity so much as out of seeing whether or not such a thing is even possible.  For what I do, it saves me a bit of time each day, and for now, that’s enough.  I talked to others who’ve had their smart wearables for a little while now, and they feel much the same – if you’re expecting it to revolutionize your life, you’re probably going to be disappointed.  If they wouldn’t have gotten it for free, they probably wouldn’t own one.  But if you have a few hundred dollars burning a hole in your pocket, and you want to, you should check out a smart watch.  It might just be worth the time it saves you; or at the very least, the time it tells you.

Something new…coming soon

Hopefully!  So the Two Tech Geeks have not given up their love of all things tech (never that!) but we’ve been working on something new and even more exciting for all you followers.  Not going to give it away yet, but maybe you’ll be “hearing” something about it soon.

Stay tuned for more details…