Should Apple rethink its naming conventions for the iPhone?

By , Apr 7, 2013

iphone4s

Former ad man and longtime Apple consultant Ken Segall has been very critical of his old company in recent months. And he continues that trend with a new blog post called ‘iPhone naming: when simple gets complicated.’

In the post, Segall argues that Apple screwed up the way it names its handsets—particularly on the ‘S’ models. He says that iPhones marked with an ‘S’ not only look awkward, but also send a weak message to consumers…

From Segall’s post (via Business Insider):

“First of all, it’s an awkward moniker whether you speak it or read it. The Apple designers tried their best with the product graphics, but there is an inescapable reality: 4S will never be as simple as 4.

More important, tacking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message. It says that this is our “off-year” product, with only modest improvements. If holding off on the big number change achieved some great result, I might think otherwise.”

He makes a good point. The tech press has already dubbed this year’s model the ‘iPhone 5S,’ and most of us have adjusted our expectations accordingly. At the moment, we’re not anticipating any major new features or changes.

And we think this way because we’ve been trained to do so. There was the 3G and then the 3GS, the 4 and then the 4S. It’s your standard tick-tock refresh cycle, where one model sees major changes and the next is more about refinement.

The problem is, consumers—if they haven’t already—are going to catch on to this pattern and may opt to avoid future ‘S’ models. So Segall recommends that Apple put an end to the sequence, and name its next iPhone the ‘iPhone 6.’

“The simplest path is to give each new iPhone a new number and let the improvements speak for themselves. If anyone wants to say that the 7 isn’t as big a leap as the 6, that’s their business. Attempting to calibrate “degree of innovation” in the product name seems like a needless (and self-diminishing) exercise.

I think it’s safe to say that if you’re looking for a new car, you’re looking for a 2013 model — not a 2012S.”

I don’t think you can fault Apple for its tick-tock pattern. It would be impossible for them to design, prototype, test and manufacture an all-new handset every 12 months. Heck, most flagship smartphones don’t see major year-to-year changes.

But with that said, I do agree with Segall that Apple may want to rethink its naming conventions for the iPhone. The ‘S’ model seems to carry somewhat of a negative connotation, and at some point, they’re going to run out of numbers to use.

What do you think, does Apple need to change the way it names its new iPhone models?

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  • Kurt

    “I don’t think you can fault Apple for its tick-tock pattern. It would be
    impossible for them to design, prototype, test and manufacture an
    all-new handset every 12 months. Heck, most flagship smartphones don’t
    see major year-to-year changes.”

    Your theory goes against Steve Jobs having worked on the next 4 iPhone models before he died. Also, It’s well believed Apple works on multiple iPhones per year. Right?

    • http://twitter.com/DevehJ David F

      Designing the next four phones years in advance is not the same as finalising every facet of the design, testing and meeting regulatory approval, scaling up manufacturing facilities, actually physically building the damn things, etc.

      • Kurt

        Why are you stating the obvious? Not being rude, but your point doesn’t add to the discussion. Don’t forget, they have multiple handsets each year.

      • Tom

        I’m just at a loss for words here. The quote you pulled clearly states all the parts of actually getting the phone to market, so you are aware. Then you claim it’s false because Steve Jobs worked on it. Someone replies that Steve Jobs working on it doesn’t imply that all the other parts of getting the phone to market are already done and you say it doesn’t add to the discussion? Are you kidding me?.

      • Kurt

        i never said designing, also what was the last thing i said twice. do i have to repeat it again?

      • Tom

        Same thing. Working on the phones, any part of the process doesn’t imply all the work necessary is getting done. And you didn’t repeat anything. Having phones and working on them is not the same thing. Regardless I just think lowly of people who dismiss others legitimate responses as not adding to the discussion. Yes, it is rude.

      • Kurt

        you’re an idiot. go away. I’ll say it one more time. ok troll???

        Apple works on multiple iPhones per year

        Ill make it more clear…That means, fully functional phones they test in real world situations. you know, in someones hand? Again, Stop trolling. stop writing me back.

    • Jordi Bull

      good point :)

  • sdhn97

    Did anyone else notice an iPhone 4 picture on the box with 4S on the side?

    • Kurt

      Goes well with the story. I didn’t notice that. Nice one, Cody.

      • Manuel Molina

        Sorry but, how would you or anyone know if its an iPhone 4 or 4S? They both look the same and the reason for the article and debate of this stupid S crap.

        On a personal note, I saw the 3G and 3GS model. Their was a big change between the 2. I saw the 4 and 4S, and the 4S was worst due to its horrible battery. If this 5 and 5S business becomes the same practice then why stay with a company that clearly is not looking to push the envelop and do what they say they do and are: show invention

      • Tom

        The volume and silent switch on the 4s are lower than the ones on the 4. Also, the 4s has that black line that is on both lower sides of the 4 right above the silent switch.

      • Kurt

        4S and 4 have different location of 1 or two of the breaks in the bezel.

      • Raymond Spruance Lee

        I can’t agree with your idea there are some difference between iPhone4&iPhone4s!

    • http://twitter.com/justkevinblog justkevinblog

      Good spotting there! lol

  • http://twitter.com/myorangeisstuck wahaha

    i think its becoming a “tradition” for apple to name their phones with a S. i dont see why there would not be an iphone 5s.

  • Howard

    Originally I thought that the 3GS was so the next phone would have the same number as the generation, iPhone 4 being the 4th iPhone. Then they just screwed it all up with the 4S, and the 5 being the 6th iPhone, it just makes no sense! They should use generations like with all their other products now.

    • MarcPhilippeB

      Nobody remembers the generation but everybody the name. And btw who cares which generation it is, it’s just a 4 or a 4S, or a 5. That tells you much more, actually.

    • http://twitter.com/x_rus_x Vitaliy Anonymous

      Well, then the 2G iPhone (1st gen) and 3G (2nd gen) doesn’t make sense either. That means Apple screwed up on the first two iPhones.

  • http://twitter.com/Nirvana19971504 Nirvana

    I think we don’t need to reconsider the tradition! The name, the design and features are just perfectly fine!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pez.granite Pez Tickles

    Unless they change the outer body shape/design of the next phone they should keep with the “S” Name to save confusing people. Personally it doesn’t bother me what they call them as long as they have a couple of nice new features.

  • http://twitter.com/Nirvana19971504 Nirvana

    Apple is smart not to name the 4S as 4GS. Other smartphone manufacturers must have made a big mistake despite the fulfilled hardwares!

  • RarestName

    iPhone Apollo

    iPhone Europa

    iPhone 550

    iPhone Cooper

    iPhone Next

    iPhone Pop

    iPhone 3G Skyrocket

    iPhone Captivate Glide

    iPhone Exhibit 4G

    iPhone 3G Lite

    iPhone Grand

    iPhone U

    iPhone 551

    iPhone K

    iPhone Ace

    iPhone Fit

    iPhone SL

    iPhone Gio

    iPhone Mini

    iPhone Prevail

    iPhone Pro

    iPhone Neo

    iPhone Z

    iPhone Plus

    iPhone R

    iPhone W

    iPhone M

    iPhone Y

    iPhone Precedent

    iPhone XCover

    iPhone Stratosphere

    iPhone Nexus

    iPhone Y Pro Duos

    iPhone Ace Plus

    iPhone Ace 2

    iPhone Mini 2

    iPhone Bean

    iPhone Pocket

    iPhone Advance

    iPhone Appeal

    iPhone Ch@t

    iPhone Stellar

    iPhone Duos

    iPhone Victory 4G LTE

    iPhone Reverb

    iPhone Rush

    iPhone Express

    iPhone Rugby Pro

    iPhone Fame

    • ryanq

      IPhone nexus for me please

    • sadaN

      good job!
      who’s got the naming fucked up now?
      brilliant way to put RarestName

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonodobasic Feđa Jebivetar

      Thanks for proving how one side does not fit all. We’re humans, and not a bunch of damn robots!

    • http://www.facebook.com/riza.sps Riza Sps

      Oh boy

    • http://twitter.com/MCaudebec Maxim∑

      Those are names of a lot of Samsung phones :) I got the joke

    • tstsr6

      WOW you have a lot of time on your hands!

    • notewar

      Where is iPhone Galaxy?

  • http://twitter.com/notoriousTEG tim

    I’m holding out for that iPhone 21S, running iOS 37

    • Loder

      Eventually, thats what it will come to….

    • MarcPhilippeB

      Look at firefox

      • http://twitter.com/x_rus_x Vitaliy Anonymous

        Look at Google Chrome. It started the whole process first.

    • Manuel Molina

      That’s if Apple is still making iPhones with the way things are going.

      • felixtaf

        With the way what things are going, bro… You either ignorant or an Apple hater…. Quarter by quarter, they sell more devices than b4. Am sure thats not goin to stop anytime soon….

  • coejam

    No more iPhone 5S or iPhone 6.
    Just *The New iPhone*

    • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

      I agree. It would finally fit with their entire product line if they just get rid of the numbers.

      • Tom

        The problem is that they sell models from multiple generations at a time. Hell, I’m pretty sure the only reason they call it the new iPad or iPad with retina display as opposed to just iPad is because they don’t want consumers getting it confused with the iPad 2 and think it’s the newer model.

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        People do get confused since iPad 3 = The new iPad & iPad 4 = The new iPad with retina display (although technically speaking the new iPad – iPad 3 – has a retina display screen)…

  • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

    He has a damn good point, although, for me it’s the other way round, I avoided the i5 and waiting for the i5S since I knew there would be issues with the i5. Personally, I think they should start using model names, the MacBook Air would just sound stupid being called the MacBook 15 and that’s what’s going to happen with the iPhone unless they start making changes to how they name their products

    • http://twitter.com/PhilBeez86 U Kn0w What 1t 1s

      Thank u! I was going to write what u said but didn’t want to repeat the post. I totally agree with u though. I don’t think consumers skip the S model, consumers know the 5 was apples practice run and 5s will be the finished product lol. That’s how the iPhone 4-4s was. So many problems always with the first models and the S models are always flawless.

      • http://www.facebook.com/BabyHov Jesse Clemonts

        The 4s is far from flawless. The battery alone causes more than enough problems.

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Zero problems with my 4S (other than its processor of course). The battery works fine although I am usually always near power and the many jailbreak tweaks that I have installed don’t exactly help its battery life either…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000254498753 Mark Seah

    dun think this is a big issue….look at HTC naming convention….tell me which handset is the latest just based on the name if u r a first time buyer n hv nt read any reviews

    • Kurt

      “…if you are a first time buyer and haven’t read any reviews” haha

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        If I haven’t read any reviews then it would probably be the HTC First

  • http://twitter.com/jwyoungy Jamie Young

    Apple has no choice but to release the slight improvement models because they can’t see where to go next. They are still using the OS they came out with in 2007. Lets see if they have something new on the OS side this time. Siri is two generations old now so without another major add on I can see the 5S being the first iphone not to sell better than the last.

    • http://www.facebook.com/spencer.beacon Spencer Beacon

      iOS is a big issue. Apple are damned if they do and damned if they don’t change it this year. It’s true to say that it’s an ageing OS however, it’s so easy and intuitive to use. A complete redesign to give it a more modern feel could be a huge problem because users are so familiar with it. Get it wrong and Apple could be in a similar situation to Nokia when they switched from their two hot keys to drive menus to the advent of Sabian, it drove people away from their handsets in the masses.

  • Joonyaboy

    I think they’re doing just fine

  • ryanq

    IPhone 3g (s)peed
    IPhone 4 (s)iri
    IPhone 5 (f)ingerprint?

    • http://www.facebook.com/franckamayou Franck Kamayou

      iPhone 5S

    • http://twitter.com/Tkf530 Tristan

      iPhone 5(s)ecurity/secure/safe/safeguard/safekeeping/safeness/safety measure/salvation/shield/surveillance/doubling down on secrecy.

    • Kurt

      iPhone5 (s)ame

      • http://twitter.com/MCaudebec Maxim∑

        Galaxy (S)ame 4

      • leart za jmi

        Always againts idevices, your cool

      • Kurt

        I’ve had I devices since 2007. Been jail breaking since iPhone OS 1.1.1 iPhone has changed much at all. I’ll still buy iPads but not iPhones. They aren’t the best phones anymore.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.horbach1 David Horbach

      I think iPhone 4s stands dor iPhone 4 (for) Steve

      • http://twitter.com/x_rus_x Vitaliy Anonymous

        Not really. Then does a 3Gs stands for Steve too? and if the 5S comes out too, will it stand for Steve? Doesn’t make sense.
        Then S on the iPhone just a naming of the phone because of the minor physical appearance revision.

  • iancarld

    S thing let’s s know that we get better camera

  • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

    There’s something wrong about apple being honest…? If they keep the same design and only improve the internals, what’s wrong adding a “S” stating that fact? At least people appreciates that honesty!

    If the phones have the same look, let them have the same main version! It makes all the sense. If the outside gets a re-design, then it makes sense call it by a new name version! Jesus… people try everything to bash apple. Even the most pathetic things are now “valid arguments”.

    Just imagine, both iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S (with the same look) having different names like “iPhone 4 and iPhone 5″…. that would be, indeed, a stupid move by Apple!

    • Loder

      It’s not the name itself that piss people off, it’s the minor changes themselves(which are the reasons for the names)

  • http://www.facebook.com/franckamayou Franck Kamayou

    Well, I think that if the phones looks exactly the same, and one is a minor improvement over the other, then it makes sense to add the ‘S’ connotation to it. And there is a reason why Apple doesn’t produce brand new phones every year.
    1- They want to produce a decent phone
    2- They have to follow the 2 year contract imposed by carriers in order to optimize their sales.
    3- It would be crazy for somebody to want to change phones every year. So they balance it out so that, when the new phone comes out, you don’t feel so behind and at the same time, the owner of the new phone feels like he has a better phone.

    • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

      Clap Clap Clap!

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonodobasic Feđa Jebivetar

      You do realize not everyone’s contracts expire that exact same year when Apple introduces a new design and major improvements?

      • Tom

        So? There’s nothing wrong with having your contract end on the S phones. Actually, some prefer it that way.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leonodobasic Feđa Jebivetar

        I agree and I also prefer it that way. I was just replying to his points…

    • http://www.facebook.com/franckamayou Franck Kamayou

      That’s why they keep the same phone around for about 2 years, so by then, everybody would have upgraded.

    • MarcPhilippeB

      Exactly. Someone who gets it.

  • Yeliwdarb@hotmail.com

    Who cares? They could call it the iPhone Turd and if it was as good as I know it will be, I’d upgrade. Some people just need to see their name in the news. It’s all about them and their ego.

    • YNN08

      That’s true …

  • http://twitter.com/lgasparjnr laszlo gaspar

    i wonder if they will name it the new iphone like they did with the ipad

    • Kurt

      I think they will for iphone 6. That will be the 8th gen. and the number is getting high and people will catch on slowly that the iphone has been basically the same for 8 years. So I expect this next phone to be the iphone 5same and then maybe they will go to the new iphone

  • Herman

    Yes I agree.I think Apple must come up with a new name that wil blow us away with there new version of Iphone

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    The S is not the problem the probkem is they need to ad 25% more chnge to the s models

  • YNN08

    Segall is totally wrong as apple just named 4S for reason of Siri and its not convention in anyway. S came just with iphone 4 and we don’t find any history or series of iphone launched with S. Apple is free to choose any name and Segall should not try to be smarter by prediction some thing which is known to everyone..,,

    • http://twitter.com/x_rus_x Vitaliy Anonymous

      S did not stand for Siri, nor for Steve. It is an Apple naming scheme just to mean that it is a minor revision of a previous phone. If the S stood for Siri, then what does 3G(S) stands for? Definitely not Siri.

      • YNN08

        Ok sir that’s your view…but S is not an Apple’s convention and it did not appear in any of the subsequent products…

      • WatchTheThrone

        Actually Tim Cook in an interview confirmed the S in 4S did indeed stand for “Siri”. And the S in 3GS stood for “Speed” as it was much much faster than the 3G

  • http://www.facebook.com/SpideyRules Scott Curry

    It makes perfect sense if you think of it like their OS releases. The next OS isn’t always the next number up. It’s 6.x.x (or whatever applies at the time) because its not a full overhaul, but minor improvements. The next overhaul gets the next number (7 in this case).

    • Loder

      Nah, because they never do full overhauls. Even the next number updates have minor features

      • http://www.facebook.com/SpideyRules Scott Curry

        I’m curious. Which do you believe they don’t do major overhauls on? iOS where they don’t include new features like Passbook until a full version iOS release, or the phones, where they’ve redesigned every single ‘single digit’ version number?

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    S modesl is how they make extreme profits by letting factories crack out the same device for an extra year after the parts price has dropped

    • Kurt

      Probably right. They probably make more money off the S models than the previous year. Except for 3Gs and 3G. Since 3G was the same phone except for a different backing than the 2G and the one obvious thing not needing to be mentioned

    • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

      Only the outside look the same but the schematics inside are totally different, so I don’t think that your argument is 100% true.

  • seyss

    they will call it “iPhone Global” or something thanks to the Qualcomm’s RF360 chip that allows one cellphone to work on ALL 2G/EDGE/3G(GSM & CDMA)/4G/LTE frequencies

  • JoblessGuy2

    I know that there’s gonna be people claiming that the iPhone naming convention is good as it is, what with all the bajillion suffixes most Android ones out there have, but with time, it is bound to get stupid. I honestly cannot picture an iPhone 6 now the way I did the 5 back when the 4 was out. Even 5S sounds a bit stupid to me.

    If I could have my way, iOS devices would be named the same way Macs are: simply as “iPhone”. Then, just like Macs, they would be differentiated by naming each model as . So this year’s model would be the called simply the iPhone, but would be technically called the fall 2013 iPhone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TreypsvitagamerBello Taofeek Trey Bello

    Lol did anyone notice that it is an iphone 4 sitting on top of the box

    • Kurt

      yes, @sdhn97:disqus mentioned it 4 hours ago :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1533908901 Karan Nagpal

    can anyone imagine what an awesome iphone apple can make by using all its awesome patents to make the next iphone
    just imagine what it would be like ;)
    though it obviously wont happen :p

  • http://www.facebook.com/fmbar00 Fabio Rodrigues

    so samsung is going to have a new thing to copy from “the Next big S thing is here, we are just waiting for the next Big letter to copy from” :P

  • RyanFoley

    I’ve always figured it like this (especially choosing 5 vs. 4S): the contract is 2 years, so you either always getting the next-gen, reworked phone, or you get the evolved,Reworked phone. People going from 4S to 5S will likely have the same experience of those going from 4 to 5.

  • http://twitter.com/FoxMcElroy Fox McElroy

    I want an iPhone Success (iPhone 6S).

  • Michael

    They should consider doing Roman numerals iPhone VI iPhone X iPhone XI

  • http://twitter.com/burlow burlow

    i know a couple people waiting for the S model, as they prefer to wait a year for apple to work out any kinks – think anntenagate, etc.

  • Kurt

    Haha. You should be a defective

    • Hyr3m

      Maybe I’m not so defective as a detective but I think it’s better that way :P

      • Kurt

        haha…oops! I wrote it from my iPhone so I blame it on my bad spelling and the bad autocorrect not knowing what I meant ;)

      • Hyr3m

        I know… just messing with you :P

      • Kurt

        I know yo!

      • Kurt

        What’s your take on Sandy hook?

      • Hyr3m

        I’m still wondering about that one (and also about Boston)…
        I saw some very disturbingly bad acting performances from supposed relatives of alleged victims… A dad (or was it uncle?) laughing his ass off then 3 seconds later stands in front of a mic and starts putting himself in the “sad” mood-set (takes him about 15 seconds) then gives a very sad testimony (not so convincing btw)…

        Also two other parents are apparently actors from Florida.

        Didn’t look into it that much tho… but it definitely looks dodgy as hell…

        But now I’m more interested in how they’re depicting the two Boston friendless brothers.

      • Kurt

        The Sandy Hook deal is such a clear case of fraud. The more videos I watch the more I believe it was a hoax. There is no evidence. Out right lies. The nurse lied about looking into his eyes. Then admitted in another vid she only saw his feet as she hid under the desk. She clearly lied about the amount of bullets. The car that is supposed to be the shooters mother was a convicted criminal. There is no proof he was even there. Just show us one frame from the surveillance cameras. No blood, no bodies, no bullet holes, no evacuation of 600 kids. There was a fema and homeland security drill just down the road that same day. A drill about children in disasters. Practicing for a school shooting. Interesting.

      • Hyr3m

        Jeez… I’ll have to look into that ^^ What disturbs me the most is that almost nobody knows those things and everybody else is going to call you crazy for even thinking that it could have been fake. When people are ruled by their emotions and the media broadcasts emotional triggers rather than factual information, we’re fudged…

        I can’t wait to see what people find out about the two boston guys too.

      • Kurt

        I have so many questions about this Boston bombing. 1)when will we seeing proof they did it? Show me the video if them dropping off there bags. 2) when will we see dash cam video of the car chase where they are throwing bombs? And physical evidence. 3) who is the naked guy? 4) where is the video of the 19 year old getting out of the boat. I saw video up to right before that. The a still image of him getting out of the boat. He looked healthy. Then next still image he is handcuffed being worked on in the throat area.

      • Hyr3m

        Very good points!

        It also seems to me that the bag they show next to the mailbox looks nothing like the bags the two guys had…

        I saw pictures of a victim (leg half blown off) that looks identical to a soldier who lost both his legs during a tour (Irak I suppose) long before the bombing…

        Is it just me or does that second guy have a face that says he could have an Israeli passport?

  • http://twitter.com/ScottyG__ Scott G

    The next one should be called the iPhone S5 to mix it up a bit and piss Samsung off too.