On Monday afternoon, from its headquarters in California, Apple did something it has never done before: It announced a new iPhone with a smaller screen than the last model.
The phone, which it dubbed the iPhone SE, has the same innards as the iPhone 6S, the jumbo device that the company released last year. Its processors are just as fast, and it comes in 16 and 64-gigabyte versions. Its camera even has the same number of megapixels (12) as the 6S.
But in place of the 6S’s 4.7-inch screen is a four-inch screen, just as the iPhone 5 had. (iPhone screens are measured by their diagonal.)
The new phones end what was essentially a long game of chicken played between Apple and its customers. Since September 2014, when the company first released iPhones with big screens, some users have pleaded for smaller devices. (I wrote a story that month asking if the new phones were too large for many women’s hands.)
Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, has used jumbo-sized smartphones to show the consequences of involving few or no women in a device’s design process.
“Increasingly, on the latest versions of the kinds of phones I want to use, I cannot type one-handed. I cannot take a picture one-handed. I can barely scroll one-handed,” she wrote. Tufekci cited research that the average male hand was about two centimeters longer than the average female hand.