What the iPhone SE Means for iOS App Development


For two years, new iPhones had 4-inch screens. Before that, Apple had stubbornly kept the smartphone’s display at 3.5 inches. The iPhone 5, along with the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, bumped that up half an inch. After that, with the iPhone 6, the new screen size was 4.7 inches, with a Plus model at 5.5 inches.

Now, a new 4-inch model has been introduced: the iPhone SE. It’s essentially the body and display of an iPhone 5 with the internal hardware of an iPhone 6s.

Comparison of iPhone 5 and iPhone SE dimensions

2012’s iPhone 5 (left) and 2016’s iPhone SE (right) share the same dimensions. 

When it comes to app development, the iPhone SE makes a lot of things easier – and offers additional opportunities.

The Screen Remains the Same

The 4-inch size isn’t the only similarity between the screens of iPhone 5 and SE. In fact, just about everything is identical – the 800:1 contrast ratio (as opposed to 1300:1 or 1400:1 in the iPhone 6 range), the 1136×640 resolution, the 326 pixels per inch. The only difference is a minuscule improvement in the color gamut on the SE.

Bottom line? Apps should look exactly the same on iPhone SE as they did on iPhone 5. There’s no nudging, padding, or squishing required. If you’re making a new app optimized for iPhone SE, it’s automatically backward compatible with iPhone 5 – at least when it comes to display resolution.

Of course, if your existing app relies on the latest hardware, it never ran on iPhone 5. It will run on iPhone SE, however, with only a small tweak for display resolution necessary.

Smaller Hands, Bigger Economies

Apple's iPhone offerings for Spring 2016

There are two main markets for the iPhone SE: existing customers who still have or miss their more diminutive iPhone 5/5s/5c; and the developing world. Starting at $399, it’s more affordable than larger models while matching the speed, camera, and other features of iPhone 6s.

Pre-orders of the SE reportedly reached 3.4 million units in China. Apple enjoys mindshare dominance and market share near-parity with Android in the United States, but Android holds a considerable lead worldwide. A new international audience gives any iOS mobile app more potential customers.

At the same time, US consumers who haven’t yet become smartphone users might jump on board at the $399 price point. Even though Android handsets exist at and below that price, the Apple brand name might encourage new subscribers.

Have questions about app development for iPhone, Android, or any other platform? Comment below, email us, or call 603.881.9200.