Should Apple rethink its naming conventions for the iPhone?


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?