Apple was expected to announce the follow up to the at an event in March, which didn't take place because of the pandemic. (Instead, on March 18 the company announced .) This led to uncertainty about the future of the iPhone 9. However, I'm still excited about the possibility of the phone, especially if Apple can keep it truly small., also known as the , have percolated to a boil.
In 2016, the original iPhone SE (based on the body of the iPhone 5/5S) was a huge success due in part to its $399 starting price. It was largely considered Apple's first "budget" iPhone. Small phone lovers flocked to it because of its petite size and then mourned when. By today's phone standards, the SE is absolutely tiny.
If the reaction to an iPhone 11 Pro (the smallest phone in Apple's current generation). But when compared to the iPhone SE, the 8 is large.was any indication, people still want a small iPhone. Rumors indicate that the iPhone 9 will likely have a body around the size of the iPhone 8, which is smaller than the
Because of that, I'm worried the iPhone 9 might not be small enough. For me, a small phone has to be easy to pocket and use one-handed. I also hope, like many others, that the iPhone 9 will keep some of the modern features seen in current iPhones, but with a low price. And yet, if I had to sacrifice one thing on this wishlist (small, cheap and current), I'd be willing to forgo the potential wallet-friendly price for a truly pocket-friendly design with premium fixings.
The iPhone 9 needs to fit into a woman's pants pocket
Fellow CNET editor Vanessa Hand Orellana and I are fans of small phones and agree that one of the areas modern smartphones leave behind is portability, specifically the issue of fitting into a woman's pants pockets.
She says that the iPhone SE was the optimal size to fit into a woman's pocket and when a pocket wasn't available, like during workouts, it fitted comfortably into a sports bra.
"I'm certainly not going to do that with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra," says Hand Orellana.
The iPhone SE was also easy to hold. Current models of the iPhone are often seen with a PopSocket attached to the back to make gripping the beautiful glass behemoths easier. In fact, there are times when a PopSocket prevented me from dropping my old iPhone 6S Plus while I was performing an acrobat-like software maneuver one-handed. I have large hands but I appreciate a smaller phone like the SE because I was confident I wasn't going to drop it. I never needed a PopSocket on the SE.
Foldable phones like the Motorola Razr and Galaxy Z Flip attempt to be more pocketable by letting a phone the size of the Galaxy S20 Ultra fold into a size that's actually smaller than the iPhone SE. But when I use a Motorola Razr or Galaxy Z Flip in their open position one-handed, I'm still unable to tap buttons or swipe through menus that are at the top of the phone.
At this point Apple hasn't officially dipped its toe into the foldable phone waters. And even if it did take this approach there was one more thing the iPhone SE was naturally great at: one-handed use. You didn't need any software tricks or fancy foldable screens to reach things.
iPhone SE 2 needs more than just Reachability mode
The iPhone SE has the same body as the iPhone 5 and 5S and those phones were built to be used one-handed. With their 4-inch displays, your thumb could reach pretty much every part of the screen easily, and that's what I want in the iPhone 9.
When it launched the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014, Apple employed a new feature called Reachability as a workaround for reaching the top of the new larger screens. To use Reachability, you double-tapped the home button which lowered the top part of what was on the screen to the middle. It made it easy to reach things one-handed. But the downside was you had to toggle the mode on and off, which added extra steps to anything you want to do on your phone one-handed.
With the launch of the iPhone X, Apple said goodbye to the home button. This time, you triggered Reachability by swiping down on the onscreen home bar. At best it worked intermittently but I'll give Apple credit that it's got better over time because of software updates and on my end getting used to the precision needed to trigger the mode on the first try.
Reachability is a software bandaid to get around the fact that iPhones are not easy to use one-handed, but something more drastic should be done.
iOS 14 needs a one-handed overhaul
All the focus on iPhone 9 hardware and Reachability leaves out another part of the puzzle: iOS. There are a number of software and interface improvements Apple could bring to iOS 14 that would make even an iPhone 11 Pro Max easier to use one-handed.
For starters, Apple should look at the most current version of Samsung's OneUI. It's far from perfect and the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Z Flip aren't exactly ideal one-handed phones either, but OneUI is well thought out in terms of the ways people can reach and interact with onscreen elements and there's still a lot you can do one-handed on these Samsung handsets.
Like all Android phones, you can move the apps wherever you want so you can reach them better. On the iPhone, the home screen pulls apps as far away from the bottom as possible.
In OneUI, for example, arrows that would be at the top of the screen for Samsung's search feature are moved to the bottom where you can easily reach them. Imagine being in the Mail app on an iPhone, reading a message and having the forward-backward messages arrows at the bottom instead of the top. Or imagine the Inboxes for different accounts occupying the middle or bottom of the screen instead of the top.
The worst offenders are iOS apps where you have to go back-and-forth between an element on the very top of the screen to one on the bottom. In Messages, you have to tap the top right corner to start a new message, then move to the bottom of the screen to type on the keyboard. These are little things that add up and become super irritating.
To be clear, I'm not prescribing any major software changes and I don't want iOS to end up like that ridiculous $82,000 car Homer Simpson designed. I just want to acknowledge that there's some attention needed to improve one-handed use. If such an iOS revamp happened for the iPhone 9, with its rumored iPhone 8 body, I imagine there are a number of small phone fans who'd be willing to familiarize themselves with new updates. But hey, Apple could just go for it and make a tiny iPhone SE-sized model instead.