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May 18, 2016

Mobile phones have been showcasing increasingly bigger, wider screens over the years, but Apple reversed course in March with the launch of the iPhone SE, which the company touts as "the most powerful phone with a four-inch display." It's smaller than its iPhone 6 siblings—the 6s and 6s Plus have screens measuring 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively. The SE's compact size will be among its selling points for certain customers. But will the phone spur big changes for those in mobile advertising who are used to creating for larger screens?
The SE does not present marketers with a new phenomenon. The handset has the same four-inch screen as the iPhone 5, 5s, and 5c, which are far from obsolete. Those models currently have a 30 percent share of the iPhone market, according to Localytics. Similarly, Wired notes that Apple said it sold 30 million four-inch iPhones in 2015.

What's more, the SE is likely more of a niche item than a trendsetter in terms of size. The SE's small form won't appeal to everyone—Mobile Marketer notes that Strategy Analytics predicts the SE will account for only 10 percent of Apple's worldwide smartphone sales in 2016. MacRumors says Apple's next models, which will presumably debut in the fall and be named iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, will have a greater resemblance in size to their iPhone 6 kin than to the SE. Many Android competitors are staying bigger, too. The new HTC 10 has a 5.2-inch display, and the Samsung Galaxy S7's display is 5.1 inches, with the S7 Edge coming in at 5.5.

Given the variance of screen sizes on the market, it's increasingly important for marketers to create content that is versatile enough to work across multiple devices. Since the SE has the same four-inch display as the models in the iPhone 5 family, its size is already part of conversations marketers have about mobile advertising.

For instance, the creative agency B-Reel recently tested how a text-based video in production would look on devices that range from the iPhone 5 up to a large tablet. "If we're seeing, 'That actually isn't going to be engaging at that smaller size,' then we address accordingly and holistically," says Jed Grossman, managing creative director of B-Reel. "Obviously we're not going to output materials for every single device size, so it's sort of finding the optimal ratio."

It's also wise to consider how elements like product shots and big chunks of text will display on smaller screens. Ari Brandt, CEO of MediaBrix, tells Adweek that marketers should focus on developing "mobile-first advertising and brand experiences" in order to ensure that their content is optimized for smaller mobile screens.

In addition, there are user-experience factors to think through, like how viewers with compact phones can engage with interactive videos and call-to-action buttons in banners and pop-ups. How an app renders content on a small screen is also important. Simple, clean designs and messaging will aid in readability, which is much more critical on a smaller screen. Joshua Keller, CEO of Union Square Media, notes in Adweek that smaller screen sizes also make it harder for users to fill out online forms, which can negatively impact conversion rates. Using forms that are as easy to understand as possible will help simplify this process for users, as will design strategies like using top-aligned labels, removing nonessential fields, and setting sensible defaults, notes UX Booth.

Ultimately, the smaller-sized iPhone SE does not have to represent a huge problem for your mobile advertising strategy. In fact, finding some creative ways to solve problems for small screens just might improve your ads that display on larger screens, too.

≥≥ Need a Shortcut?
1. The new iPhone SE, which is smaller than its iPhone 6 siblings, has the same four-inch screen size as the iPhone 5 models.
2. Testing your mobile ads across devices of different sizes can help you find the optimal ratio for your ads.
3. Keep clarity and simplicity in mind for interactive forms on smaller screens.
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