Article: How Not to Get to iPhone 42

by on February 13, 2012

With the rumor mill in full swing for the next iPad, which will inevitably lead to speculation about the next iPhone, I’ve started to think about how Apple is going to name its devices. Although this isn’t exactly something that will determine the fate of the product line or drive customers away, it’s one area where the iOS experience could use some work. I’ve mused on this topic before, for software at least.

Right now, Apple sells the third-generation iPhone, the 3GS, along with the fourth-generation iPhone, the 4, and the fifth-generation iPhone, the 4S. If the company were to release another, the naming convention would be thrown off. iPhone 5 would be technically wrong, while some wouldn’t like calling it the iPhone 6. As 4G LTE chipsets are improving in the area of power usage, we could see a 4G LTE iPhone, which would then give the possibility of an iPhone 4G (contrary to what many knockoff case makers suggested back in 2010).

Does it really matter? Shouldn’t Apple just call it “iPhone” and be done with it?

Well, that would be the easiest—most computers in Apple’s lineup are differentiated by generation by the time of year they were released. Why not just have “iPhone” and then tack on the year (since releases are yearly)? While this makes the most sense there is a bit of a problem.

Ever since Apple continued to sell the iPhone 3G alongside the 3GS back in 2009, they opened up the iPhone to those who wanted a cheap up-front purchase and created further trouble for the competition. These new models are slightly different than their predecessors in capacity—both the 3GS and 4 were sold as 16/32GB models, not 8GB. In that regard, these could be considered “new” models. Besides that, how many people who are unfamiliar with Apple would be keen on buying an iPhone (2009)?

While tech writers everywhere can debate what is the best system, it could get interesting when the next iPad is released. If Apple calls it something like the “iPad 2S”, they’re getting off the naming convention they’ve established. If they call it the “iPad 3”, some may expect more than just the rumored speed bump, new silicon, and better display (think of all the people who complained whined when the 4S looked exactly like the 4.)

I think Apple could move to just calling the devices by their names and referring to the release year for service/repair/accessory purposes. The argument could be brought up that people would have a hard time buying cases and device-specific accessories, but the same process has held true for the iPod models over the years. Either way, I’m all for simplification, especially when trying to answer the question of, “What iPhone should I get?” when I’m asked by non-technical friends, relatives, and colleagues.

No matter what Apple calls their next round of iOS devices, they’ll be better than the current ones and probably sell a lot. Isn’t that what really matters anyway?

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