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The Next iPhone Is a Naming Catastrophe Waiting to Happen

As I look forward to the likely September launch of the next iPhone, Ican’t help but wonder how the heck Apple is going to name its newlineup. Make no mistake, the naming scheme for the iPhone is duefor a change. Last year, the shakeup was two form factors thatintroduced the plastic body of the iPhone 5c with the clear flagshipiPhone 5s model.

With the next iPhone, the top-of-line iPhone model won’t be clear toconsumers at all. As it turned out, last year’s sales showed thatthe majority of Apple’s consumers made a beeline for Apple’sbest iPhone at the time, the iPhone 5s.

It’s rumored Apple will break from tradition by introducingthe next iPhone in two new screen sizes — 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches.

Once you tilt your head at the numbers here and imagine two newiPhones, how will Apple name them? In Appleland, smaller always costsless, while bigger always costs more. That’s intuitive enough forconsumers — but with the new iPhone, will bigger actually be better?

I can’t imagine that Apple would call the lower-priced option aniPhone 6c (never mind that the rumored photos don’t appear to includeplastic).

I can’t help but explore how all this might shake out. It’s just too muchfun for an Apple enthusiast to ignore.

Looming Disaster?

Any way I look at it, the next iPhone has to generate a namingdiversion. The iPhone 5s was a refinement of the iPhone 5. Sousing an iPhone “6s” moniker to describe the bigger 5.5-inch iPhonewould be odd, since there’s no iPhone 6 to refine — yet.

Let’s take a cue from the iPad Air and the iPad mini.

The iPad Air is the largest iPad, with the very latest A7 processor.Nice. It’s big but light. The smaller version is the iPad mini, and itreally is a mini iPad Air. The processor is the same — and get this,the pixels on the screen have the same number and ratio, too.

What’sastounding is that Apple created two radically differently sizeddevices with nearly the same processing power and features, includingthe cameras. All the same. Amazing feat of engineering.

I expect that Apple would also do this with two models of the next iPhone, but would Apple ever call the smaller of two iPhones the iPhone mini?No way. I can’t see it. Especially since the smaller 4.7-inch modelwill be the unit the vast majority of Apple consumers will choose. So”mini” connected to a flagship iPhone? No way.

Apple could call the bigger 5.5-inch iPhone the iPhone Air,to make it seem like the bigger iPad Air… Uh, no, that becomescounterintuitive to consumers — the bigger iPhone is the “Air” model? How is it lighter than the other iPhone? The iPad Air only madesense because it was an evolutionary shift from the heavier iPad thatcame before it.

Because the “mini” is acceptable on the littleiPad, the iPad Air and iPad mini naming scheme will fly forever justfine. If anyone is going to buy an iPhone mini, it better be freakingtiny for them to like it.

It just doesn’t work with two important new iPhones introduced at the same time.

What About the MacBook Pro Naming Scheme?

Why not add a “Pro” to the bigger-is-better 5.5-inch iPhone 6? Itcould be the “iPhone 6 Pro.” That also doesn’t work, because itimplies that you have to have a behemoth phablet in order to get thevery best Apple smartphone. Apple would not be that dumb.

That leaves the key description for the iPhone 6 models to rely onsize. The MacBook Pro 13 has a screen that is actually 13.3 incheswhile the MacBook Pro 15 has a screen that is 15.4 inches. Applerounds down. Furthermore, the 15-inch MacBook Pro also has a fasterprocessor, more memory, and better storage options. It’s the more”Pro” of the two sizes.

This has worked out well enough for a powerhouse laptop, but will ittransfer to a smartphone? At worldwide scale of iPhone chatter andmindshare? I have a hard time believing that Apple will jam a betterprocessor into a bigger model in this situation.

As for naming, how does “iPhone 6 4.7” roll off your tongue?

Apple has made consumer tech history by giving products namespeople can easily understand and say. It doesn’t name its productswith esoteric model numbers. Ever. Magic Mouse. iPod touch. iPod nano.Apple TV.

Apple has to come up with a simple solution that will make intuitivesense to most consumers. Brand and product recognition are key toApple. My best guess is that Apple will keep it simple. The 4.7-incherwill simply be the “iPhone 6.” It will be the lead model. Thevariants, like the 5.5-incher, will get another letter. Which letter?I have no idea.

Meanwhile, that would allow Apple to continue to offer an iPhone 6c if itwanted to continue its entry-level line.

With such a frenzy of scrutiny around the world on Apple products –heck, the various rumor photos seem pretty real — I’m starting towonder if the new iPhone name might be the last secret tofall as we march toward September. I hope it’s a pleasant surprise.

Chris Maxcer

TechNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com. You can also connect with him on Google+.

1 Comment

  • I don’t think there’s a problem Chris.

    Apple calls the iMac just that – the iMac – no matter whether it has a 21.5" or a 27" screen or an i5 or i7 CPU.

    They just add on 21.5" or 27" as needed. Notice Apple calls the smaller model 21.5" – no rounding up or down there.

    There is no such thing as the Macbook pro 13 or 15. They are in fact called the 13 inch Macbook pro or the 15 inch MacBook Pro.

    Likewise there is just the MacBook Air available in both 11inch and 13 inch models.

    So, both iPhone models could be the iPhone 6 with the screen size appended when needed to distinguish the different sizes.

    The big question is – will there still be a 4" version of the iPhone 6? My wife certainly hopes so!

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