A thought on Apple's naming policy

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
A thought on Apple's naming policy
There has been some confusion over the naming of the new iPhone, and of course we all remember the confusion over the change in naming convention with the new iPad, but we have a thought about how Apple names its products, and how that may look in the future. As you might expect, there has been chatter recently about what the new iPhone will be named. 

The most commonly used name in referencing the device has been the iPhone 5, which makes sense only because the numbers 3 and 4 have been used in previous iPhones, but really makes no sense if you go any deeper than that. The first iPhone with a 3 in the name was the 3G, which was actually the 2nd generation iPhone. The 3Gs was the 3rd generation. The iPhone 4 has been the only one to use the number to directly reference the generation of hardware, as it was the 4th generation iPhone. The 5th generation iPhone was then the iPhone 4S. This means that there is little reason why we could expect the new iPhone to be called the iPhone 5, unless it was in reference to the fact that it is being released 5 years after the first iPhone, which is an odd, but plausible, reason to name a device. Or, the 5 could reference the new 5th row of app icons on the iPhone homescreen, but that's nowhere close to being good a reason to name a device a certain way. And, of course, we're not even close to 5G mobile networks, so Apple would be out of luck making a connection there. 

The next theory was that Apple would call the device the iPhone 6 in reference to the generation of hardware, but that idea has its own troubles, because casual users could easily be confused if Apple is selling the iPhone 6 next to the iPhone 4 and 4S, simply because the numbers aren't sequential. It's a small point, but one that seems like something Apple would want to avoid, even if this isn't the Apple run by the OCD Steve Jobs. 

Then there is the idea that Apple would go the same route that it has with the iPad and remove the numbering system completely, and just call it the new iPhone. The latest leak seems to support this theory, and to an extent, the idea works with the conventional naming practices that Apple has used over the years. 

Apple has almost never used any indicator with names to differentiate between products from one year to the next. While we may use other indicators to make references easier, like saying the 5th gen iPod, or 2011 MacBook Pro, Apple just calls the products the same thing every year. There every year there is a new MacBook Pro, and every year it is called the MacBook Pro. 

Of course, the trouble with translating this to Apple's mobile products is that unlike all of Apple's other products, the iPhone and iPad sell next to older generations of hardware. The new MacBook never sells against the last gen MacBook in Apple Stores, neither does the new iMac or iPod. That's not the case with the iPhone and iPad. The way Apple has set up the pricing structure, it looks like there will be two generations of iPad on the market - the new iPad at $499 and the last generation iPad at $399. This could lead to a relatively easy transition next year, when there will be a new iPad, and this year's new iPad will have to change its name. It's unlikely that Apple would call it the iPad Classic, but it will get some new name that can be passed along from year to year, like the iPad Lite, or iPad Silver (with the new iPad being Gold), or some other catchy name. 

The more troubling area for Apple would be the iPhones. If it does come to pass that this year's iPhone is called the new iPhone, that will mean a bit more work for Apple come next year. Next year, it would have another new iPhone, and it could use the same naming convention as the iPad and call this year's iPhone the iPhone Lite or iPhone Silver or whatever. The trouble comes with the fact that Apple sells three models of iPhone at the same time - the current generation starting at $199, the last generation at $99, and the iPhone from two generations back for free on contract. 

Apple could completely rebrand the iPhone 4S next year to be the iPhone Budget, or iPhone Zero, or iPhone Bronze, but that would kill all of the marketing and name recognition it has built up for the iPhone 4S over the course of two years. But, maybe Apple doesn't really care too much about that. Apple doesn't always sell the older iPhones in its Apple Stores. Sometimes an Apple Store will have stock of older iPhones, but more often it will only be the newest generation of hardware, and Apple will leave the older versions to the website and carrier stores. This means that there is less confusion in Apple Stores because of fewer products being displayed side-by-side. On the website, Apple gives the vast majority of the screen space to the new model, just as carriers give the most shelf space to the newest model. In general, if a customer really wants an older version of the iPhone, they have to directly ask for it or know beforehand that's what they want. 

What gets a little tricky for the naming scheme is if Apple officially keeps the word "new" in the moniker, which it has so far with the iPad. It is almost 6 months after the release of the 3rd generation iPad, and while technically it is still the "newest" iPad, it's hard to say that it is really "new". Of course, Apple has never really cared about semantics like that, as we've seen over the years with Apple's stretching of the definition of the word "magic". In the end, Apple looks to be striving towards name consistency. It doesn't want customers to need to know anything before walking into an Apple Store, except to say, "I want the new iPhone." And, that's what they'll get. 

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42 Comments

1. serious9010

Posts: 254; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

[Insert a hateful fandroid comment here]

8. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

[Insert another fandroid comment that expresses nothing but how much I totally agree with the previous fandroid's comment] [Multiply this by 20]

26. serious9010

Posts: 254; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

you must be 12

28. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

You must be so clever by resorting to the age-old internet stand-by defense of "accusing someone else of being a younger age because you don't agree with what they say." Incidentally, for whatever reason it seems that the typically agreed-upon age is 12. Comeback aside, I would like you to please explain why you made this emotionally-crushing remark at my expense (because I'm really, really devastated by it...) Your original comment (gratz on being first, btw) was meant, as I took it, to ridicule the countless fandroids on PhoneArena who blindly attack anything that has to do with Apple. My response was one of agreement with your sentiment, in that several fandroids usually flock to the defense of the initial fandroid's remark, and they usually don't provide any original thought of their own. If I misunderstood your original comment, I apologize, and if you misunderstood my response, I apologize for not being as articulate as I would like to think that I am. (tl;dr)

35. BDW2008

Posts: 25; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

That is funny lmao

40. ambrown

Posts: 33; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

[Insert Apple fanboy comment defending Apple and dissing on Android as a "copier" of everything Apple here]

2. mukrenol

Posts: 92; Member since: Sep 03, 2011

They would just call it the ' new iphone'

31. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

iPhone 4SX (for xtra long)

3. FranksGT

Posts: 167; Member since: Aug 29, 2012

Idk why there is so much hype and a new, news post every 5 minutes about iphone. Its the same design but longer. Even cars change their styling yearly. I have never seen such outdated hardware in my life until I was introduced to Apple. I though samsung was bad for making phones look the same. At least theirs are somewhat appealing.

11. serious9010

Posts: 254; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

You were never introduced to apple. They don't know you dude.

12. Jobes

Posts: 364; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

To be honest.. a person can be introduced to a product.. or line of products. I know how hard your trying to make the guy feel stupid but he is pretty spot on. Not trying to troll or be an ass but seriously you went out of your way to make the comment you did.

13. ithinkimjoe

Posts: 25; Member since: Jan 19, 2012

cars designs don't change yearly. the manufacture made add a feature over one year, but the design doesn't change unless there is some horrible public backlash. they on average go through a midcycle refresh at 2.5/3 years. then a complete redesign in about 5.

24. dmckay12

Posts: 243; Member since: Feb 25, 2012

They change slightly every year. There are minor differences that can show the age of a car. Be it mascara around headlights, extra taillights, reshaped panels. The Mustangs from 2005 to now look very similar, but every year's model is different. But for bigger structural not superficial changes you are right.

14. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

theyve never been a company that tries to win the spec race. not with any of their products (sometimes a graphic processor here or a high screen resolution there, but not across the board) they are a company that sells image, ease of use, build quality and customer support. question any of those things that you want, but consumer after consumer loves their products. i for one have had two android devices in a row and despite great specs, i am completely fed up with some components of the device and having to take my device to the carrier to get any "support"

36. BDW2008

Posts: 25; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

how about this i don't think it really matters the millions of iPhone fans including myself are going to buy the next iPhone anyway. I don't care what it looks like what the name of it is does not matter to me just like when i brought the 4S after owning the 4 I'm going to buy the 5

4. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

Why bothered to write this article? It's very... pointless...

18. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Some people are interested in this stuff. A better question is: if you think it's pointless, why would you 1) click the link, 2) read even just a little, and 3) comment on the article?

20. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

I thought it was interesting at first... then realized it was common knowledge for people like us (who comes to this site often). Also, I think it's a bit of number playing here. 5 and 5G would never has any relationship whatsoever. Think about it, we are just building up a nice 4G network for most of the major carriers, and we wouldn't see 5G for another 3 yrs or so ( just a guess). By then, Apple would have come out with iPhone 5S, 6, 6S, and even 7 (just pure guessing how they would name their devices) Beside, I need something to stay awake at work haha Looking at data and numbers all day gets to me... >"

42. zibbyzib2000

Posts: 221; Member since: Nov 18, 2010

I would say your comment is very pointless but then you just went all out at the end......................... haha

5. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Why not take a page out of the auto-industry's book and designate them by year? If the consumer knows nothing else about the iPhone, they'll at least know that the "iPhone 2010" is older and cheaper than the current model.

7. andro.

Posts: 1999; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

IPhone 2010 and iPhone 2011 for instance look the exact same,it would highlight the lack of change by apple too much,the use of an s instead on the name makes a better mental image by the name that perhaps something has been changed.

16. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

i agree. mike even points out that this is what the distributers do with mac books and the like. im guessing this is how the ipad and iphone will be treated from here on out.

6. AppleConspiracy

Posts: 637; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Good article. I myself have presumed "the new iPhone" name. In fact is very similar to a concept I have provided a couple of months ago:http://img820.imageshack.us/img820/2556/iphoneacco nceptsimilari.jpg The number 5 in invitation is still confusing though. Maybe it was meant to play with the public expectations. Smart move Apple in every case.

15. 305Bucko

Posts: 506; Member since: Aug 07, 2011

5 = years maybe?

17. AppleConspiracy

Posts: 637; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

It's far too stretched. There were 5 iPhones in 5 years, however this is 6th iPhone and 6th year so I doubt they would put number 5 to make a confusion. If its' not about phone name, then it's about 5th row of app icons, rather than about the years. Michael has a good point about problems awaiting "new iProducts" nomenclature in the future - so I still think it will be simply and intuitively be iPhone 5. If they omitted iPhone 2, then they could just as well regard 6th generation as iPhone 5... the perception in the masses is the most important motif - and they mostly expect iPhone 5. Hmm.. maybe this one will be iPhone 2 - because it's the first one radically different in format :-D

9. xtian1103

Posts: 364; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

the number might mean it's been 5 years since they unveiled the first iphone(2007)

10. structureman116

Posts: 142; Member since: Sep 14, 2010

Who cares?

19. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Some people are interested in this stuff. A better question is: if you don't care, why would you 1) click the link, 2) read even just a little, and 3) comment on the article?

21. 305Bucko

Posts: 506; Member since: Aug 07, 2011

lol idk whats more ironic: caring enough to post a comment that says "Who cares?", or the people that made their way down the comments and gave him thumbs up. Its like dedicating a song to your ex-girlfriend telling her just how "over her" you are, and how you've totally "move on"

22. Aeires unregistered

Suddenly the Epic 4G Touch name doesn't sound so bad. Okay, maybe it still does. They could call it the iPhone 2012, but won't. January and on, who wants to buy a phone with last years date on it? They should have just tacked on a sequential number and left the alphabet alone.

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