Why it’s an iPhone 5s and not an iPhone 5S

By , Sep 10, 2013

white iPhone 5s camera

Apple has again changed the way the iPhone’s name is spelled out on paper. If you can remember, back when the first incremental upgrade to the iPhone line was released, Apple typed it out like this on paper: iPhone 3G S. Yes, there was a space between the “3G” and the “S” — Thankfully, Apple eventually caved in, or just didn’t care enough to make a big deal out of it when we refused to spell it that way. The iPhone 4S lacked the space between the number and letter, and all was well with the world.

Now, on the day of the unveiling of two new Apple devices which both sport a suffixed alphabetical character, debate ensues once again. This time, though, the argument isn’t about spaces, it’s about cases. And I’m not talking about the hideous swiss cheese cases it’s trying to push on unsuspecting iPhone 5c adopters, I’m talking about textual case — the upper and lower variety.

Apple has ditched the upper case call letters in favor of a lower case letter. That means that the iPhone 5C isn’t the iPhone 5C at all, it’s the iPhone 5c. That also means that the iPhone 5S is now the iPhone 5s. Apple’s even gone retroactive on us and replaced the iPhone 4S with the iPhone 4s (same device, different name on paper).

The question is, why? Why would Apple go through the process of confusing us bloggers, (because let’s face it, we’re probably the only ones who care about this type of stuff) and go and change it again? The answer to that question is probably a lot more straightforward than it first appears.

A conversation on Twitter between twelve south co-founder Andrew Green, and Macworld’s Dan Frakes reveals a quite possible and logical reason for the change.

The simple fact of the matter is that “iPhone 5S” could confuse people. Consumers could easily mistake it for “iPhone 55″ or “iPhone SS” (eek!), depending on the typeface used. In other words, the “S” too closely resembles a “5″ and vice versa. It’s not the controversial answer I was looking for, but it makes a lot of sense. It’s also worth mentioning that at the same size and font, which is Helvetica New Ultra Light, the S looks bigger than the 5.

So instead of just making it the iPhone 5s, and letting the remaining offerings use uppercase letters, Apple probably thought that it would be better to use the same number and letter scheme across the board. That’s why we have the iPhone 5c, and the newly christened iPhone 4s to go along with our new finger print sensing, wide aperture loving, gold toting, iPhone 5s.

And that, folks, is the likely answer to the question.

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  • Kyle Beroney

    Yeah I see no difference, to be honest. Seems to me people have lost the ability to focus their eyes..? I can clearly see that one is a “5″ and the other an “S.” I don’t know, that is just me.

    • felixtaf

      Look at the specs, you will see lots of differences…

      • nedisonn

        He’s not talking about the phone, but the name of it…

      • felixtaf

        But what you dint see that is, he edited the post and made me look like a fool!

      • Thoughts

        It’s obvious you did not even read the story

      • felixtaf

        But what you dint see that is, he edited the post and made me look like a fool!

      • Kyle Beroney

        Yeah still nothing. I personally can see the different between them even at a quick glance and from a difference. Small typography on a screen, however, is different and that is where I’d see it being an issue.

        For example, a live display device (like they have in Apple stores) usually runs a screensaver-like feature where it show all the great features of the phone and iOS (as we all know). I can see someone looking quickly at this device and going, “Whoa did that just say ‘iPhone SS?’” Another scenario is from an TV ad or an Internet ad.

        But then again, and I think i speak for a small amount of people, I don’t see any difference no matter which way I look at it because I have taken the time to distinguish the differences in the letters and everything else. Like I said, that’s just me.

    • Matt

      Kyle this off topic but I must say I LOVE YOUR M3 profile picture. BMW all the way. <3 uff BMW's are all time favorite.

      • Kyle Beroney

        Well thank you! Sexiest cars alive those M3′s! Unfortunately neither of them are mine, but I did own 1995 M3 at one point ;)

      • Matt
      • Kyle Beroney

        my dream is to own another (of course) but an e92 twin turbo v8 completely blacked out; interior, exterior, rims, everything just like this one…

      • Matt

        Wow

      • Kyle Beroney

        yeah i know. i almost died ha! XP

      • Carlos Franklin

        Sweet!!!
        That is one mean super machine!

      • Indian Food

        I own an E46 M3. It’s a wonderful car.

      • Matt

        Jealous over here :D

      • Indian Food

        Where are you from? There’s actually an Imola Red one for sale 11 miles away from me

      • Matt

        I’m in Fort Wayne Indiana.

      • Indian Food

        I’m in Chicago. If you’re super interested you could go and see it… just thought I’d let you know because you said you wanted a Red M3.

    • Guest

      Maybe partially blinded people could have mistakenly read it as the “iPhone SS. SS as in Schutzstaffel, the Nazi German party.. CONSPIRACY TO WW3? 3 in WW3 means half life 3 confirmed?!?” That’s why it’s lowercased.

      • Kyle Beroney

        Indeed. And if you’re a gear head, they might think SS means super sport or super special too

  • chumawumba

    Hey iDB you need to change the iPhone on the bottom of your page to a 5s

    • JayDee917

      You mean 5s.

      • Question

        Lol he edited his comment and made u look dumb

  • Guest

    iPhone 5s is last year’s iPhone but renamed!

    • Tarek

      LOL…..I guess you did not look at the specs for the 5s

      • AR

        LoL tru !

    • Cesar D

      LOL you should know that the 5s is 40 times faster and with iOS 7 is 40 times different.

      • Hwang Lee

        40 times faster than the ORIGINAL iPhone.

      • Cesar D

        Sir Hwang i didn’t specified. I am very pleased to you for correcting me.

      • Hwang Lee

        Haha, it does make a difference though.

      • Juan Herrera

        i heard 3 times faster than the 5 though

    • Andrew

      n00b

  • Alex

    What a thought provoking article! We need more articles like this. *sarcasm* We should have an article about why iDB is spelled with a lowercase “i”.

    • http://www.iDownloadBlog.com Sebastien

      I guess these downvotes prove the intelligence of your comment

      • Alex

        They don’t prove or disprove the intelligence of my comment. They prove that 2 to 1, people don’t agree with my comment.

  • Prasoon Singh

    I can see the difference betweent the 5 and the S just fine.

  • Yujin

    All S models are meant to be upgrades. Nothing really ground breaking… This helps apple sell and sell and keep users upgrading year after year. .

    • Kyle Beroney

      And that is why I don’t like Apple. However, I keep my 4S for jailbreaking purposes. Although, I have nothing against Android, and in fact I love it like I love iPhone.

    • Brúnó Nagy

      fingerprint sensing is kinda groundbraking

  • cpotter1122

    It could be how apple is giving all NEW purchases of iOS devices. The free pages, keynote, ect. apps. if it is a 4s (4S Rev. A) or a 5s and 5c it will be a free app but if it is any other device it will still be a $9.99 app (which could explain why they still are not free apps)

    • dedegarrido

      they are going to make it free when iOS 7 is available ”

      iPhoto, iMovie, Keynote, Pages, and Numbers are free on the
      App Store for qualifying iOS 7 compatible devices activated after
      September 1, 2013. See http://www.apple(dot)com/ios/whats-new/ for iOS 7 compatible devices. Downloading apps requires an Apple ID.”

  • http://theeyesofmarch.wordpress.com/ Timothy

    On the other hand, pluralizing it will become that much more difficult… iPhone 5ses? iPhone 5s’s (shudder)? Bleh.

    • http://theleak.us/ Timothy

      iPhones 5s?

  • Sebastian Rivera

    Damn who cares its JUST a LETTER if your really going to make a big deal about then don’t get the phone it’s that easy jeez!

  • Max

    Honestly it looks like you were to lazy to capitalize the ‘S’ in every article. (Yes I read this article)
    Also how are you going to tell when some one is describing more than one iPhone 5? I associate iPhone 5s to more than one iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S as the newest phone by Apple.
    I can’t be the only one that thinks this..

    • http://www.iDownloadBlog.com Sebastien

      One iPhone 5
      Two iPhone 5 (pronounced “fives”)

      One iPhone 5s
      Two iPhone 5s

      • RyanF1

        One iPhone Five. Two iPhones Five.

        One iPhone Five Es. Two iPhones Five Es.

      • Alex

        “Two iPhone 5 (pronounced “fives”)” is incorrect. As Thoughts below states, it would be “Two iPhone 5′s” still. See “Exception:” below.

        The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes.

        Examples:
        She consulted with three M.D.s.
        BUT
        She went to three M.D.s’ offices.
        The apostrophe is needed here to show plural possessive.
        She learned her ABCs.
        the 1990s not the 1990′s
        the ’90s or the mid-’70s not the ’90′s or the mid-’70′s
        She learned her times tables for 6s and 7s.

        Exception:
        Use apostrophes with capital letters and numbers when the meaning would be unclear otherwise.

        Examples:
        Please dot your i’s.
        You don’t mean is.
        Ted couldn’t distinguish between his 6′s and 0′s.
        You need to use the apostrophe to indicate the plural of zero or it will look like the word Os. To be consistent within a sentence, you would also use the apostrophe to indicate the plural of 6′s.

    • Thoughts

      5′s = 2 or more iPhone 5….
      5s’s = 2 or more iPhone 5s….

      • Kurt

        ‘ is used for possessive. Correct way is two iPhone 5ses. But no one likes the look of that

      • RyanF1

        Correct way is two iPhones 5s. But nobody knows their English anymore these days.

      • Kurt

        Two iPhone 5s would be for last years model. No need to pluralize each word in a name.For this years model it should be two iPhone 5ses. (bus, buses)

      • Alex

        This is an acceptable form for the use of pluralization. The way Thoughts wrote is also acceptable. Please see my comment on the use of an apostrophe.

      • RyanF1

        Notice that I spelled out “two iPhones 5s”, meaning I was speaking, er, writing, about the correct form as it is enunciated.

        You all can argue about written apostrophes and other nonsense as they pertain to pluralization. As I said, nobody knows their English anymore these days :P

      • RyanF1

        And “last year’s model” pluralized is still “two iPhones five” spoken and “two iPhones 5″ written.
        Why would you pluralize the “5″ when clearly there are multiples of the “iPhone” being talked about? Their “model numbers” are beside the point in that context.

      • Alex

        It is a correct way, but Thoughts does in fact know his English as many others do too. Please see my comment above on the use of the apostrophe.

      • Alex

        An apostrophe has many uses, one of which being possession.

  • Supacon

    Now you’re not sure if you’re referring to two iPhone 5s or an iPhone 5s. It is obvious that 5S looks too much like 55, which won’t be released for a hundred years… But pluralizing that in English is a bitch. iPhone 5ses?

    • onebyone_

      what about if they’ll called iPhone 5[s] ?

    • RyanF1

      No it is not a bitch. The proper plural form is “iPhones 5s”. You pluralize the “phone”, not its “designation suffix”.

      Like “Attorneys General”, “Inspectors General”, or “Officers-in-charge”, NOT “Attorney Generals”, “Inspector Generals”, or “Officer-in-charges”.

      Please tell me English isn’t your first language, ’cause it’s not mine and even I know those differences.

      • Supacon

        That’s rather condescending.

        Yes, I’m aware that in English, phrases with postpositive adjectives are often pluralized by adding an ‘s’ to the initial noun, but in colloquial English this rarely happens. In practice it sounds pretentious and inelegant (IMO), and probably this is likely why this is not used so commonly except in formal written English.

        I’m sure you are aware that most native English speakers seem to have a problem understanding the concept that an apostrophe is generally to be used for indicating possession and consequently they routinely abuse it to indicate plurality.

        This *can* be considered acceptable in certain contexts for the use of abbreviations (M.D.’s, CD’s, TV’s). The New York Times uses such apostrophes to preserve intelligibility in the context of them using all-caps headlines. If the ‘s’ is lower case, then it’s obvious that ‘CDs’ refers to more than one CD, and not a CDS.

        With Apple’s ‘s’ naming convention, particularly now that the ‘s’ is lower case, this becomes even more awkward. Proper names ending in ‘s’ sounds are usually pluralized by adding an ‘es’, although the Chicago Manual of Style endorses the oft-frowned upon approach of adding an apostrophe-s (‘s). (Some also use an apostrophe after the noun’s own ‘s’, although I’m not aware of what guidelines encourage this, and I personally don’t like it.)

        In practice I suspect it will most commonly be pluralized in the wild as ‘iPhone 5s’s’ or ‘iPhone 5ses’ both of which are somewhat awkward, but probably less so than ‘iPhones 5s’.

        TLDR; It’s a bitch. Plus, if someone really thinks that ‘iPhones 5′, ‘MacBooks Air’, or ‘iPods Touch’ doesn’t sound goofy, he or she is probably odd.

      • RyanF1

        If you know the difference then don’t feign ignorance and claim the proper form is a bitch. Leave the ignorami to their own devices. They don’t need the otherwise-informed adding to their lot. And I didn’t even touch on the issue of the abused apostrophe s. That’s someone else’s fight and awareness campaign on FaceBook.

  • jkl

    another reason could be they {apple} didn’t want to have any more similarities with the [galaxy] S5 nomenclature than they had to, since it could be confusing, both to sheep and others alike.

  • GambitGamer

    With the lower case ‘s’, it looks like they forgot to add the apostrophe. I would think “Get your iPhone 5s here!” would look like “Get your iPhone 5′s here!” if people just glanced at it…

    • RyanF1

      No they wouldn’t. Why would anyone think there was something being said in the Possessive Form for an iPhone 5?

      “iPhone 5′s cases”? “iPhone 5′s contracts”? “iPhone 5′s users”?

      • GambitGamer

        Like I said above, “Get your iPhone 5s here!” might look confusing. Or something similar.

      • RyanF1

        Which proves that Apple was right in the first place when the “3GS” was originally the “3G s”. The “s” was always meant to be separated by a space to prevent that confusion.
        And there’s a difference between saying an announcement and writing it out on a sign. “Get your iPhone 5s here” is fine for a sign, supposing there’s an effective date on the sign (as it should) and it follows the new font. In that case “5s” is clearly the new model, not multiples of the old model.

  • s0me

    an entire article for this crap?

    • Carlos Franklin

      Totally agree, what a waste of time!

  • Yunsar

    Isn’t it Helvetica Neue?

  • Jay Kay

    Wow what an important post, thanks for saving our lives.

  • Yen-Ting Chen

    Well, from iPhone 5S to iPhone 55 it’s 99 generation(years) of time, not many people can see both iphones…lol

  • vadovado

    But… What the S means?

  • richrich

    *FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS*

  • Beck Hoefling

    And with a lower case it can be mistaken as plural.
    iPhone 5s