What will the next iPhone be called?

Naming any Apple product — much less the iPhone, the most iconic of them all — is no easy task.

Remember all the mindless chatter when Apple risked legal entanglement with Cisco for the right to use the name “iPhone”? Gizmodo:

Cisco rightfully owns the trademark for iPhone. And Apple can’t sue them or bully them into giving it up. The tech world had taken the title for granted, assumed it to be proper, plastered it over magazine covers, and now the name is lost. Which means Apple’s iPhone, if there even is an iPhone, will have to be named something else. It’s a big deal, if you think about what that name meant.

iphonenames.png

Apple never designated the original product iPhone 1G or iPhone 2G. Introduced as a convergence device, it was simply called iPhone. The next version last year (twice as fast, at half the price) was named iPhone 3G. The “3G” part was referencing the speed upgrade from 2.5G/2.75G (EDGE) to 3G (HSPA), not its generational order. Only after the introduction of the iPhone 3G did it make sense to refer to the original as iPhone 2G, but that’s not Apple’s nomenclature.

Give us the name

Beyond simple versioning, however, product names often foretell Apple’s ambitions with a given product. Whatever value theme Apple will wrap around the next iPhone, it will likely be reflected in its name. Let’s consider some possibilities:

• iPhone 3G+   Too nerdy for Apple.

• iPhone 3G II   Apple is not Nokia.

• iPhone 3.5G   No decimals in consumer hardware names.

• iPhone 4G   Four comes after three, to be sure. But in the cellphone industry 4G specifically refers to 4G LTE, the next major evolution in wireless speed and interoperability among mobile phone carriers. Apple’s carrier AT&T has said it would begin to upgrade its 3G network to HSPA+ this year and switch to 4G LTE by mid-2011. So the timing isn’t quite right for 4G.

• iPhone Pro   Assumes minor hardware upgrades to existing iPhone at same/lower price and introduction of a higher-end model at a higher price (like MacBook vs. MacBook Pro). So if Apple is about to expand the “touch platform” horizontally (like the iPod product line), we can expect to see a new mobile “quadrant” segregated by functionality and price among products like iPhone mini, iPhone 3G, iPhone HD, iPhone Pro, iPod touch, iPod touch HD, iPhone Business, etc. Balance that against Apple’s practice of product line simplification though.

• iPhone V (Video) or iPhone M (Media)   If Apple’s acquisition of PA Semi bears early fruit and the iPhone is turned into a multimedia powerhouse with faster CPU (ARM Cortex), multi-core GPU (Imagination PowerVR), parallel graphics processing (OpenCL), Wii-mote like 3D controls, better camera and video recording/conferencing, we can expect to see a long line of third party partners demonstrating the media prowess of the new iPhone at the WWDC. Apple knows that no other smartphone is even close to the iPhone as the mobile gaming platform, but it won’t be called iPhone G (Games) since the name can’t regress from 3G to G and association with “games” won’t help Apple battle RIM and Microsoft among business users.

• iPhone U (Universal)   Apple’s decision to open up the 30-pin port to third party developers was a central part of the new iPhone OS 3.0 SDK. This makes the iPhone a ‘controller’ of a huge range of hardware in all kinds of industries from healthcare to entertainment to transportation. Indeed, the iPhone becomes the universal front-end ‘UI processor’ to the rest of the world, and the hub of a multi-billion dollar ecosystem in the making.

• iPhone X   An opaque name, but nicely ties the iPhone via Snow Leopard (Apple’s upcoming OS, a mobile version of which will also power the touch platform) to the Mac OS X desktop world for the ultimate bi-directional halo effect. The next device in 2010 might then be called iPhone X2 and the one in 2011, iPhone 4G. How would the unwashed non-Mac users pronounce it, though, as “tɛn” or “eks”?

• iPhone <#noun>   We don’t quite see Apple losing its mind with something like iPhone Storm/Instinct/Chocolate/Rumor/Propel but if there’s in fact a unifying value theme for the next device and a semi-abstract word can capture its soul and purpose, it is certainly a possibility.

• iPhone 09   Should Apple run out of naming ideas, there’s always the introduced-in-the-year standby. However, Apple does this with software (iLife 09, iWork 09) but not with hardware. Otherwise, what would it name the one capable of LTE, iPhone 4G 11?

• iPhone   The ultimate Rorschach inkblot test. A maddening knot in the world of Cupertinology is Apple’s predilection to introduce a market defining product under one name and, over time, introduce several iterations without any name augmentation. That inevitably forces customers and tech support alike to make up names to identify Apple products such as “3G iPod fat nano with video,” “C2D 24-in iMac,” “MBP 15-in late 2008″ and so on. So there’s also a chance that Apple might decide not to add a qualifier to “iPhone” until the appropriate opportunity presents itself, like when 4G LTE is ready for deployment.

The name makes the product?

It would be easier to decipher what the next iPhone version will contain if we could get a glimpse of just the name of the device instead of spec lists and blurry pictures soon to inundate us. The name will tell all. We already know, however, what it won’t be called: “Apple MyPhone P3G-2 Millennium Live Edition 2009,” pre-hyped with a cheesy YouTube video.

What’s your prediction?

44 thoughts on “What will the next iPhone be called?

  1. Cool, that was a great article. You make some really great points.

    I personally think Apple is going too far with the secrecy about their new products. Case in point, the next generation iPhone. One gets lost in a bar by a drunk employee, and the person who finds it tries to return it. Apple won’t take it because they don’t believe him, so he sells it to Jason Chen, and they’ve got their panties in a twist about it and are charging him with a felony. I personally find it ridiculous.

    Anyway, I’ve written about it on my site. Check it out at http://4thgeniphone.com. Thanks for the read!

    • > the person who finds it tries to return it.
      > Apple won’t take it because they don’t
      > believe him

      For the sake of accuracy, the person who found the phone did not try to return it, and Apple did not refuse to take it, they in fact ended up at his front door asking for it back and were refused.

  2. Mac’s in fashion innovation will rapidly blow up after the first pumped up launch during it’s launch. The lack of keyboard and Mac’s potential to fix hardware will definitly to make the product a success story in the futuire.

  3. Steve Job’s revolutionary iPad will soon blow up after the first pumped up launch during it’s launch. The lack of keyboard and Mac’s potential to fix hardware will definitly to make the product a huge product in the futuire.

  4. Alot of bloggers aren’t very pleased with the new iPad.There was just too much hype over it and alot people got turned off.Quite frankly, I actually see lots of the awesome potential of this device. Third-party soft for doing music, games, newsprints and magazine and FFS books, tons of awesome stuff, but they just didn’t really sell it right (aside from the books). It smells kind of unfinished

  5. Definetly, the article is certainly a notable contribution about the ipad. Although I dot concur with some minor points in general Im fully on your way. Im looking forward to your forthcoming stories. Just saying thanks for your Fabulous work and writing is an important thing nowadays. Lets see what Steve Jobs might present in the next step. I will at once come back to stay privy of any updates, and let us both realize what the ipad will do.

  6. my guessing is the new iphone should upgrade its speed in performing tasks.. so i give it a new ‘iphone 3G S’ stands for 3G speed…

    just my opinion.. don’t take it seriously!

  7. On possibility not one your list is “iPhone 3G”. Yes I know it’s the name of the current one – but it makes sense for them to keep the name the same for the moment until they release a 4G one in the years to come.

    It’ll be the NEW (maybe even the ALL NEW) “iPhone 3G”.

  8. I just got a Nokia 5800. Features, we got ‘em! Features out the wazoo! Usability … the most important feature of the iPhone is that it *doesn’t* make you want to smash it to bits with a toffee hammer when you try to use it.

    But it does do the wifi network thing :-)

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  10. Okay, so now it’s a week later and I’m thinking the tablet is pretty much out the window and “iPhone video” is the likeliest moniker for the new device.

    It fits with the convention of “iPod video” and identifying a device by it’s major singular new feature (which they have done a few times).

    If the second device is a “dumbed-down” third world phone as most are pushing this week, then there is an advertising problem in that you couldn’t call it “iPhone cheap” or “iPhone 3rd world” so they will have to lie a bit. I would guess that they will pick the old dodge of giving it a cryptic number or code name so as to purposely *not* mention the impoverished or fascist masses.

    Something like “iPhone 3G max”, iPhone 3G plus”, or perhaps “iPhone turbo”, (“plus” and “max” being words almost always reserved for products that actually *lack* things over their predecessors, and “turbo” being the almost universal name for something that is actually quite slow. )

    • BTW, AT&T has said this week that they’ll allow video over cell network only when 4G gets here (that’d be in 2011). So either iPhone video is strictly WiFi or it won’t be introduced at all.

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  12. I disagree that iPhone 3G+ is Too nerdy for Apple.

    Jobs was part of the team that made the wildly successful Apple ][+, and left during the years of meaningless Centra, Quadra and Performa.

    I suspect Apple will stick with some name that follows function, and enhances other successful brands at Apple.

    If the iPhone gets any thinner, then iPhone nano. Greater linkages with Snow Leopard, maybe iPhone X, although it could be confused with iPhone sex and excite the feature-fetishists.

    If the CPU and GPU work much closer, then maybe iPhone 3G+ after all, where the G+ denotes parallel processing.

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  14. I think you are perfectly right about the value theme. No abstract stuff though. My bet is on “iPhone video” – assuming they add video calls or iChat video conferencing.
    Apple uses differentiators which tell the consumer the single greatest new feature of the hardware product. Mac mini is a small Mac. iPod touch is a touchscreen iPod. iPod photo used to be the iPod with a color screen. iPhone 3G is an iPhone with new 3G capabilities etc.

  15. Actually, the “iPhone Snow” moniker sounds pretty good – you could still charge the suits and secret agents extra for “black ice”, etc. Heh heh. But Apple doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel here. The natural names for the next 2 models are calling out from exactly two decades ago: iPhone Plus, and iPhone SE!

  16. illusionado : “iPhone Snow”

    So it’ll come only in white?
    Or with leopard-like marks, comparable to one of the early iMacs (Dalmatian)?

  17. I’m thinking as long as it’s using the 3G network, it’ll be the iPhone 3G. people will call it “iPhone 3G 2009″ or “iPhone 3G v2″ or “iPhone 3G Video” (assuming it does video…) but it’s name will just be “iPhone 3G” until 4G is widely available and an iPhone comes out that can use it.

    At that point, i don’t know if they’ll stick with the #G thing or not, maybe just dropping it to “iPhone” again by then.

    I’m assuming they’ll never call it the “iPhone 4.0″ or anything like that, because the #.# scheme will be reserved for software.

    iPhone V, iPhone G, iPhone Pro all sound like impossibilities, but iPhone HD i could definitely see, especially if it has dramatically improved video capabilities (for video and for games).

    An iPhone HD, with optional 30pin-to-HDMI cable, could be pretty darn exciting, though that might be a few years out.

  18. Richard Stacpoole: “assumption that there will be only one new iPhone this year”

    I’m not making that assumption at all, as explained in the “iPhone Pro” section above.

    Remember Apple’s mobile platform is called the “touch platform” not the “iPhone platform.” So I’m well open to all sorts of devices/form factors. But that still leaves us with the problem of naming the next version of the iPhone part of that platform. :-)

  19. You have made the assumption that there will be only one new iPhone this year. What if there are 2? I think Apple needs to expand the range this year, I myself am looking for the iPhone Pro with a bigger screen and better video|still camera.

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  21. Well you left out the obvious “iPhone 3.0″ but I’ll go with “iPhone” as my prediction. I wouldn’t bet money on any of the options at this stage however, as there is too much we don’t know.

    Given the assumption (based on the firmware ID discoveries), that the iPhone and iPod lines are going to split into two products each, “iPhone pro” makes some kind of sense for the model with the better features, but I think this unlikely because it leaves a “regular” iPhone looking like crap. Also, what could a “regular” iPhone be other than the current 3G model, in which case, why *two* new products?

    This makes it seem likely to me that the coming new product differentiation is in the physical size or form factor and not just features. The second product would be a tablet form, or a nano form, or (heaven forfend), a “netbook” form.

    So two products:

    – “iPhone” & “iBook” (or “iPad”)
    OR
    – “iPhone” & “iPhone nano”

  22. MacPhone ….. meh

    I’m still very much the believer that “i” very much stands for “interim” until strategies are completed and technology and manufacturing costs catch up with Apple’s imagination.

    iPhone
    iPhone 3G
    iPhone Multicore (assuming multiple cores … could be dualcore, quadcore naming, less syllables sound better)

    One thing I often wonder (okay, not that often) is when will tech advances lead to Apple being forced to break compatibility with my iPhone 3G … or having to read the spec on an app to ensure it is compatible. I guess it’s no worse than what games consoles users have to put up with every few years or so.

  23. iPhone3 for my money.

    Apple won’t name a piece of hardware based on its software (iPhone CP or iPhone U) since the iPhone 3.0 software will be able to run on both the iPhone and iPhone 3G. There will be more differentiation based solely on the hardware.

    iPhone V is the best guess in the article, although, that could get confusing due to the fact that V is 5 in Roman numerals, and this isn’t the 5th version of the iPhone. They’ve already set the precedent for using Roman Numerals as Roman numerals with OS X.

  24. “iPhone”

    Don’t look at Apple as a mobile phone manufacturer, they are in the mobile devices business. There won’t be an iPhone line-up, there already is a line-up of mobile Apple devices (called iPod’s :-)

    My impression is that Apple is contributing to the irrelevance of traditional telecom companies. A nice little feature of the new SDK is automatic connection to subscription Wifi networks, so from now on every time you are at a hotspot you’ll be online without the hassle of filling in a password. With the new push notification you will get buttons and sounds from all of your IM and social web applications. Via social web you can see whether the person you want to speak has an on-line connection too. If so, you can use Skype or another VOIP application to get a voice connection. No AT&T, no T-Mobile needed for that.
    Currently Apples Airport offers guest access, all for the same purpose.

    As to future development my expectation would rather be that the lower end iPod’s get app-store and wireless capabilities. Apple is opening up Bluetooth in the new SDK. This might result in some very interesting applications that can work on an iPod nano as well.

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