Apple’s new iPhone is imminent.
The smaller, 4–inch screen iPhone SE has been mooted for almost a year, first as the iPhone 6C, then as the iPhone 5SE.
And while there are plenty of rumours flying about what to expect, what the phone may mean for the future of smartphones is just as interesting.
The way we see it, this is a smartphone that simply has to succeed for Apple.
Here are five reasons why.
1 Stop the sales slump
The iPhone has been the defining piece of tech of the 21st century. But nine years after it launched, sales are set to decline for the first time.
That’s not just idle conjecture, but from Apple’s own official projections, revealed in January.
While sales of the iPhone hit a record 74.7 million in the three months to December, that figure was unchanged from the year before. Thus ending a period marked by years of wildly burgeonging growth for the tech giant.
Apple needs a new device now to stop this slide becoming big news, especially when sales tend to drop significantly in the summer months.
2 Hit back at improving competition
Samsung, LG and Huawei have all released, or are set to release, new devices that look every inch as good as an iPhone.
In recent years Apple had it all its own way. Samsung was struggling and the rest were perenially playing catch-up. But now Apple has got a fight on its hands.
The iPhone SE may not be a flagship, but Apple needs to get back in the headlines and explain to would-be buyers why its devices are better than those of its rivals.
3 Prove that consumers still want smaller devices
The release of a new four–inch take on the iPhone is no surprise.
Apple may have boosted the screen size of its handsets in 2014, but it never stopped selling smaller phones.
Some figures suggest as many as a third of all iPhones sold are the smaller variants.
Offering this size device makes Apple unique and although it won’t provide a full sales break down, it should be clear by summer whether the iPhone SE has boosted sales and in turn proved that consumers still want smartphones they can easily use in one hand.
4 Take attention away from iPad and Apple Watch struggles
Apple is heavily reliant on the iPhone. The device is its cash cow and while that worries some investors, Apple itself doesn’t seem unduly troubled.
In fact, it’s likely to use the iPhone SE to mask difficulties in other areas.
Its iPad range, set for an update later this month, has been in decline for almost two years.
Consumers just don’t need to update them.
Likewise, its year–old Apple Watch has failed to catch on with the mainstream.
A bit of success with the iPhone SE, however short-term, should distract from these struggles elsewhere in the business.
5 Break out of the annual update cycle
Apple has been wedded to the one major update a year cycle for smartphones ever since 2007. And since 2010, its iPhone update has always come in autumn.
Having two launches for its brand - one in spring for the SE range and one in autumn for it'd flagship updates, will bring it in line with Samsung, LG and others, who have long used this tactic.
Apple is perhaps seeing that it can no longer rely on its brand alone.
By launching the iPhone SE now, it’s playing the others at their own game. It just has to hope that it can succeed.
Update: The iPhone SE is now available - find deals here. or read our review if you need convincing.