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1 Thing Apple Inc. Shouldn't Mess Up on the 4-inch iPhone

By Ashraf Eassa - Feb 17, 2016 at 9:30AM

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It's something that potential customers will immediately notice.

Apple (AAPL 1.24%) is expected to roll out its next generation 4-inch iPhone, which 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman claims will be called the iPhone 5se, on March 15, with the device apparently becoming available shortly thereafter on March 18.

Quite a lot is known about this new phone, but there are still some unknowns. The one that I'd like to focus on here is the display. Although we know the size of the display and its likely resolution, it's not clear whether the new phone has a fundamentally new/better display relative to the one found in the iPhone 5s.

I certainly hope that Apple choses to outfit the device with an enhanced display. Here's why.

It might be a cheap iPhone, but it's not a cheap phone
The new iPhone 5se is expected to start at $450 for the model with 16 gigabytes of flash storage, with 64 GB version coming in at $550. These are, by all means, still premium-priced phones and the competition at these price points is rather fierce.

I believe that in order for the device to truly do what it needs to -- offer a compelling upgrade for current iPhone 5/5c/5s owners and to deliver a high-quality entry level phone -- it needs to have a display befitting a premium device. The panel found on the iPhone 5s (first introduced with the iPhone 5), which will soon be four years old, is not befitting a "new" device here in 2016.

Apple can't go high resolution, but it can bring iPhone 6/6 Plus goodness to them
I don't expect a boost in display resolution in going from the iPhone 5s to the 5se; a resolution increase would mean that this "budget" iPhone would have a sharper display than the company's current flagship. Though not unprecedented (the iPad mini has had a sharper display than the iPad Air since the mini 2), it doesn't seem likely.

What I do expect, though, is for Apple to at least give this display the kinds of enhancements that it brought to the table with the iPhone 6/6 Plus. These enhancements included better color accuracy, improved contrast ratio, and improved viewing angles.

If Apple wants to get really fancy, it could actually "test drive" some of the new display technology that it plans to deliver with the iPhone 7/7 Plus, but that would create the awkward dilemma of the iPhone 5se potentially being better than the iPhone 6s/6s Plus in some way.

At any rate, the next step in the evolution of the 4-inch iPhone will be to introduce the same 3D Touch functionality present in the iPhone 6s/6s Plus. If Apple doesn't introduce a new 4-inch panel in the iPhone 5se, then I wouldn't expect it until the 4-inch phone that comes after the 5se's successor since integrating 3D Touch will be tough enough.

We'll know soon enough
During these rough times for Apple, the company will need to pull out all of the stops in order to get customers to spend their hard-earned cash on new devices. A new display won't be enough to get people to let go of those older 4-inch iPhones, but without one, the new 4-inch iPhone might not bring enough to the table for iPhone 5/5c/5s users to even notice that there's a new 4-inch device worth upgrading to. 

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