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Why the era of the ‘small phone’ might be over — and what it means for web design

Now, here’s a question: what do you think of the third-generation iPhone SE, the relatively compact, budget-priced handset Apple released in March? You would easily be excused for not realising that this new SE had even been released, as it has indeed somewhat disappeared under the radar.

“Wave7 Research is unaware of any TV, radio, outdoor or print advertising for the device,” the research firm recently reported as quoted by PCMag, while some reports suggest that Apple has decided to cut orders for the device. However, these aren’t the only signs that the ‘small phone’ could soon be a thing of the past.

The new iPhone SE has received a lukewarm reception 

The new SE houses a 4.7-inch screen in a design that can essentially be traced as far back as 2014, when the iPhone 6 was launched. It’s not exactly a design that has been created with modern needs in mind, as becomes especially evident when the phone is used for web browsing. 

Tech Advisor deputy editor Dominic Preston says in his review of the third-gen SE: “Some Instagram posts can’t display in their entirety, cookie pop-ups block even more of websites than they’re designed to, and you better hope you don’t need to type anything.” 

As Preston explains, “the keyboard takes up half the screen, frequently blocking the text entry fields you’re trying to use.” The SE would also be a dubious choice for people with visual accessibility needs, as “a smaller screen means smaller text (and an even more cramped display if you opt to increase text size)”.

Julian Chokkattu — the reviews editor at the US version of WIRED — also takes issue with the typing experience, commenting when assessing the 2022 SE: “It feels like I’ve corrected more errors in the past week than I ever have using a larger iPhone.”

Should we start saying a final goodbye to the small phone?

Issues like these are why, for small-phone aficionados, the ‘mini’ models of the iPhone 12 and 13 could have greater appeal, given that they feature 5.4-inch panels on bodies smaller than the new SE’s enclosure. However, rumour suggests that, with the late-2022 iPhone models, Apple is set to eliminate the 5.4-inch ‘mini’ option due to its lacklustre sales.

Consequently, the ‘iPhone 14’ — as it has been dubbed — will reportedly arrive in just two screen sizes: 6.1 and 6.7 inches. What might have once been described as a ‘large phone’ or a ‘phablet’ has increasingly become the mainstream choice for shoppers perusing the smartphone market.

Still, continuing to keep the user experience on a small phone in mind with your website’s design could help you to improve it for everyone. So, we could design you an e-commerce website where integrating payment options like Apple Pay reduces how much typing shoppers would need to do on the site.

Meanwhile, for the sake of your website’s SEO, you should omit intrusive pop-ups where possible — though your site is thankfully unlikely to be penalised for a legally-required interstitial.

How to write product reviews rich in insight
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