Interest in older iPhones declines

Speculation claims Apple may terminate support for older iPhones when iOS 13 is introduced, but that simply reflects consumer sentiment.

Interest in older iPhones declines
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Recent speculation claims Apple may terminate support for some older iPhone models— including the popular iPhone SE — when it introduces iOS 13.

We won’t know if this is true until WWDC, but it simply reflects consumer sentiment.

People are moving on

The smartphone industry is declining as consumers try to get more use out of their mobile devices.

Manufacturers (including Apple) have responded by focusing on developing cutting-edge high-end devices that consumers are willing to purchase at higher cost.

This has led consumers to try to use their existing devices longer than they had been, and this is one reason why the velocity of device upgrades has slowed down. People are still buying phones, just not as often.

What do people who are trying to extract more use out of older devices need? They want information that will help them get the best from the system they possess, which should leave traces online.

Recent SEMRush data suggests this is what has been happening — but it suggests consumer interest is now moving on from the older model devices in favor or more recent editions.

semrush study SEMRush

You can see this in the pattern of searches. Interest in the iPhone 5S has shrunk since last year. However, it remains pretty strong for iPhone 6 devices, which appear to have been the most sought for term across older iPhones (the iPhone 5s, iPhone SE, iPhone 6/Plus) since August 2016.

Apple’s biggest-selling device, the iPhone 6 series smartphones, remain popular in part because you can get them relatively cheaply on the second-user markets.

This makes them popular with young people who want Apple’s iOS experience but don’t feel comfortable carrying thousand-dollar computers when they go out for a night on the town.

The trends also suggest something else:

Apple’s Achille’s Heel

Four-inch smartphones are popular. They still are popular.

Just look at the huge spike in interest when Apple first introduced the iPhone SE — while the stats provided don’t include a more recent device as a reference object, they do show that interest in that model was really, really big.

They also show that people are still searching for information about it.

A quick check shows that most of the search results around the product reflect continued interest in the device, as people seem to be asking questions such as:

  • “Is the iPhone SE still available?”
  • “Why was the iPhone SE discontinued?”
  • “What is the iPhone SE equivalent to?”

The results show device availability at various retail stores, a report that tries to describe the experience of using one of these in 2019, and multiple reports pertaining to the current speculation that iOS 13 may ditch support for the popular device – meaning Apple will no longer offer or support a 4-inch smartphone.

Why no 4-inch device?

So, is Apple wrong to abandon the device?

I think so – I feel the company has rather lost itself inside a vision of larger devices that ignores the needs of many who may just need a really good device that fits inside a small bag or pocket. 

However, on the broader point – if Apple should terminate iOS support for some older devices, I think the data proves that interest in those older devices (including the SE) is dwindling — though it seems clear there’s still a strong market for them.

Apple’s current iPhone range includes the slightly lower-priced iPhone XR models, and these will likely replace many of the existing iPhone 6 devices in the coming months.

That's good if you like larger smartphones, but the rumor mill currently claims Apple has no answer for customers who really want a small iPhone. And even if the company doesn’t end support for the SE when iOS 13 is introduced in 2019, it is probable it will do with iOS 14 — which would make 2020 a good moment to dust off those iPhone SE2 rumors.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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