What’s In a Name?

As most of you probably know, Apple held a press event this past Wednesday, and they introduced the new AppleTV and the new iPad. Note, that’s note the AppleTV 3 or iPad 3 as some had expected, but just the new iPad.

So what does this mean for the next iPhone? Will we see an iPhone 5, iPhone 4G LTE or just the “new” iPhone? It may not sound important, but it kinda is. 

The Spark

The day of the iPad event, I went around to most of my local Apple news sites to see what their thoughts were on the new release. That’s when I stumbled upon this post from John Gruber, the man behind Daring Fireball:

Jonas Lekevicius on Apple’s decision to call the new iPad just “iPad”, and refer to it in marketing as “the new iPad”:

And here’s a prediction: the next iPhone will simply be “The new iPhone”.

I like that prediction.

I’m not sure I agree about the “like” part.

Currently, there are two models of iPad available: the iPad 2, and the “new” iPad. If your average consumer walked into the store and told a sales representative from Apple that they wanted to buy a new iPad, which model should they get directed to? Will the iPad 2 even be on display or will it all be the “new” model? And imagine the chaos with retailers who aren’t trained by Apple. Think your local Best Buy is going to have employees properly trained on the subject?

This seems silly after all, because it’s a pretty obvious difference between the two devices once they’re in your hands (so I’ve been told). But that doesn’t mean that Joe Consumer is going to figure it out right away. It’s confusing.

The iPhone Part

Which brings us to the iPhone. Using Apple’s current platform naming strategy, we can make a few educated guesses. The next iPhone could be named the iPhone 5, iPhone LTE, iPhone 6 (if you want to get technical) or even the iPhone 4S LTE. But to go along this newest naming convention, the new iPhone could just be called the “new” iPhone, just like the iPad.

Hey look, it's a new iPad and old iPhone.

Hey look, it's a new iPad and old iPhone.

There are currently three models of iPhones being sold at retailers nationwide: the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS. Again, if Apple keeps three models in the lineup come the next generation’s release, then we could see the iPhone 4 as the low-end model, iPhone 4S as the next one up and finally, the “new” iPhone as the last one. Again, confusing.

Not quite as confusing as the iPad admittedly, because the iPhone has some pretty big visual distinctions between models (and you could guess that’s what we’ll see with the next iPhone), but there’s still an issue. And it just gets worse as time goes on.

The Evolution of Names

Imagine how it’ll be just one year from now with the iPad. If Apple keeps their two-product structure intact, you’ll have a “new” iPad selling for $399, and then what — the “new, new” iPad? The “really new” iPad? The “new” iPad S?

Now transfer this same info to the iPhone with three products in the lineup, and you’ve got an even bigger problem, particularly two years from now when there could potentially be three devices all considered to be the “new” iPhone. That’s not a good scenario.

Why It’s Not a Problem

You could make the argument that this is all a big deal about nothing. We have no idea what Apple is going to name the next iPhone, or even if they’ll slap the “new” moniker on the title at all. Even if they do, they could probably get out of it by saying, “That’s the iPhone, this is the ‘new’ iPhone.” Then it kind of makes sense, it’s just that oldest generation model that would be hanging out there in the ether with some kind of distinction such as “old” or “elderly” in front of it. There’s also no rule here saying that the iPhone doesn’t get the “new” title now, and then come the following year we see some kind of new naming platform in the process.

And Yet It Still Is

I get why Apple is doing this, and it is consistent with the rest of their product lineup. I’ve never heard anyone say they have a MacBook 3 or iPod 2, and even the iPod touch lineup is all the same name, even with different versions. It makes sense in regards to streamlining their product lines.

Would you like the new, old or oldest iPhone?

Would you like the new, old or oldest iPhone?

The difference between the iPad and iPhone and everything else however, is that the iPad and iPhone now have multiple generations of product available for sale at the same time. Without any kind of numerical or alphabetical designation, who’s going to know what is what? Does that make any kind of sense at all?


I don’t think that the naming convention found in the iPad will transfer over to the iPhone, simply because there are too many generations available simultaneously for the lamen to be able to easily differentiate, particularly when two models tend to look very similar.

But it is an interesting question to ask. Ultimately, we won’t know the answer until later this year when the new iPhone comes out. Maybe we’ll get used to the “new” thing, maybe we won’t. I guess only time can really give us the answer. Well, that or Tim Cook.