An ode to my ‘iPhone mini’

May 28, 2019

Every time I check my phone, I get looks. People make fun of me. I get it: I have an old phone.

The iPhone SE, to be precise. I picked up this beauty after dropping my iPhone 6 in the toilet at Kara Swisher’s holiday party in 2016. Yes, the closest contact I’ve had with tech’s most revered journalist is when she gave me a bag of rice to try and save my phone.

The Apple Store was out of the sleek new iPhone 6S thanks to the holiday rush, so I had to buy an SE.

For those who don’t remember the hazy days of 2016, the SE is the same shape as the iPhone 5. Its 4″ screen is at least 25% smaller than any major smartphone today.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone SE

It’s a testament to how quickly phone fashion changes that this phone looks so outdated. Or maybe not, since it looks like the iPhone 5, which Apple introduced in 2012.

I’m the CEO of a company that makes a mobile app (download Hitlist!), and friends have gone so far as to say it’s unprofessional for me to walk around with a phone that looks like it could be – gasp! – 7 years old.

Let them have their criticism.

Here are the reasons I love my tiny old iPhone:

  1. It’s small. I can hold it in one hand and reach anywhere on the screen. I can sit with it in the front pocket of my pants and not feel like it’s going to snap. It is the second lightest iPhone ever made (a mere gram more than the iPhone 5).
  2. It has a paltry amount of storage, 16 GB. Essentially enough to keep mail, calendar, maps, Whatsapp/Messenger, Uber/Lyft, and Spotify going. I can’t even download Facebook and Instagram because those apps are so damn big. This means it’s less distracting. Everyone’s talking about reducing their screen time, then spending $1k on a phone designed to make you want to use it all the time. Instead of relying on self control or system-controlled time limits, buy a small phone you don’t want to stare at for hours on end.
  3. I’m more productive with this phone. Unless you’re a social media influencer, very little serious work happens on a phone. What needs to be done on the go – checking and quickly responding to emails, taking conference calls – this phone can handle. Anything beyond that is usually 50%+ faster to do on a laptop. I’m not tempted to try and work more on my phone, so I do more faster when I get back to my laptop. (If you’ve found great ways to be productive on your Mega Phone, would love to hear how in the comments).
  4. Because I’m on the phone less and don’t have data-hungry apps I save money on data. I switched from my $80+ a month T mobile plan to Google Fi and rarely exceed $40/month now.

Pretty much the only thing I wish for is a better camera. The built in one is serviceable but I do drool a bit when I see what the Pixel 3’s night vision can do. If I’m dreaming –

Here’s a complete list of things I actually want in a phone:

  • Small size (4” screen or smaller)
  • Rubberized exterior, or something equally durable, so I don’t need a case
  • Amazing camera
  • Long battery life
  • Waterproof
  • Basic health tracking (step counter)
  • headphone jack

And I’d happily compromise on screen & processing quality: as long as it works for emails, navigation, and messaging I’m good. I don’t actually want to play games or watch streaming movies.

In conclusion

For now, when my iPhone mini croaks – which it doesn’t seem likely to anytime soon – I’m more likely to buy a refurbished SE on eBay (current price: $79.99) than to buy anything that’s in the market right now.

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