Ok. Just so that we’re 100% crystal clear on this — Apple can call the next iPhone… pretty much anything they want. iPhone 12s. iPhone 13. Sure. iPhone… 20. iPhone 20… 21. Why not? iPhone bakers dozen. Nope. Hard nope. iPhone Extreme. Ok. Fine. iPhone… Mother of Dragons. Come at me.
So the only real question here is… what will they call it?
How Apple Names iPhones
Now, you know all those videos, the ones where the voice-over says “before I give you the information you actually clicked for, Ima have to pad this out with a bunch of useless background fill first?” And I usually just yell… Not Today, Satan!?
Well, in this case… yeah… actually…today. Because, before I can get into iPhone 12s vs. iPhone 13… I do have to provide just a little bit of background.
See, the original iPhone was just… the iPhone. But it didn’t have 3G and that turned out to be one of the big limiters Apple wanted to fix with the follow up. So much so, they actually put it in the name of the follow up.
This was back when Macs, even iPods didn’t have numbers. They had descriptors, like MacBook Pro and iPod Video. Look, everyone, now the iPod has video.
So, iPhone 3G… Look, everyone, now the iPhone has 3G.
Then it came time to name the third iPhone, and Apple chose not to do what they’d been doing with Macs and iPods, not just stick the year in parens behind it or add the gen number on tech support docs, but to stick another letter on it. iPhone 3GS… In… I dunno, wink, wink, nudge, nudge homage to the Apple IIGs. 3G for the radio, S for speed. Which… was a lot of weird marketing work, but stay with me, because it’s only going to get weirder.
The next iPhone got lost in a bar, became this… whole thing, Steve Jobs made a joke about it, but Apple also decided to switch up the naming. Remember, this was 2010. If they’d stuck to radio names, we’d have only gotten the iPhone 4G in 2012 and the iPhone 5G in… well… 2020.
So, even though there was never a Mac 4, never an iPod 4, it was a major update, and… the 4th new iPhone. So they called it the iPhone 4.
The next version fixed the antenna, improved the camera and chipset, but not much else. So, Apple decided to add the S again. This time just for Siri.
And, that pattern continued. New design, give it a new number. New internals, just give it an S. iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s.
It continued… until the next iPhone, which didn’t get a new design or an extra new letter. So, either Apple was fresh out — just fresh out of letters — or they still wanted to push it as an all-new iPhone, and so gave it that next number. That lucky number… 7.
But the pattern break didn’t stop there. Because after that, Apple had the next iPhone ready to go, like… they always do.. but, that year, 2017, they also had the next, next iPhone ready to go as well. The one that was getting the redesign.
Now, Apple could have abandoned the numbers — they abandoned them on the iPad after the iPad 2… and then again after the iPad Air 2… but they obviously didn’t want to. And we’ll get to how exactly that all plays out for this year in a hot minute.
And sure, they could have gone with iPhone 7s… but that special next, next iPhone wasn’t going to be ready just quite on time, so they really, really wanted to push the regular next iPhone in the meantime. And they figured they could best do that by again going with the full on new number. So, iPhone 8 it was.
And for the next, next one. Well, iPhone 9 it wasn’t. Because Apple skipped that number entirely. Much like Microsoft skipped it for Windows. Now, some have conspiritized that in both cases it’s because of nine meaning NO in German, but that’s… about as likely as Nine Nine meaning best comedy of the decade in Brooklyn.
I mean, 4 is the same sound as the character for death in major Chinese dialects, and that didn’t stop Apple back in the day…
But, it would be the 10th anniversary iPhone, so Apple went with… 10. iPhone 10.
But, wrote it X. Because if there’s one thing Apple’s famous for, well… it’s relentlessly mainstreaming computing technology. But if there’s a second thing.. it’s utterly confusing people about just how exactly the X character should be pronounced. Mac OS TEN, but Xcode. iPhone TEN, but the A12 EX processor. Trillion dollar company. Can’t even buy some consistency…
Also S, because just when you thought it was out, Apple pulled it back in… Sorta. See, the fancy modern iPhone TEN was replaced with the iPhone XS. Which is, yeah, pronounced like tennis, not like excess. But the regular old iPhone 8 wasn’t replaced with a regular new iPhone 8s… or even a late, unlamented iPhone 9. No. It was replaced with a slightly less fancy, almost as modern iPhone XR. Where the EX was 10 but the R was… I dunno. Race cars. I give up. Learned Apple nomenclature helplessness.
And I wasn’t alone. The market didn’t appreciate it… like at all.. either. So, Apple didn’t even try to go to the iPhone TEN-EYE. They reverted back to decimals. Hard. And they didn’t just revert — they also reset.
So, the iPhone XR was replaced with the iPhone 11 and the iPhone XS with the iPhone TEN 2. Kidding. With the iPhone 11 Pro, which once again lent on the same kind of marketing descriptors Apple had been using with the Mac and, by then,the iPad as well. Because, when you come down to it, it’s all marketing. That’s the only thing any of this ever is. Just marketing. Just all the way down.
But they didn’t reset fully. Not fully. Because just this last year we didn’t get an iPhone 11s. No, we got another redesign, and another new number. iPhone 12.
And that brings us to now, today, and the next next iPhone. Again. And debates around whether Apple’s going to call it — going to position it — as the iPhone 13 or quote-unquote just the iPhone 12s.
And I say debates plural, because some people believe Apple will honor the superstition and just never name any iPhone 13. Like many buildings just don’t have 13th floors.
Others, that Apple will once again want to use the S to properly set expectations for a phone with the same design but better internals, including a better version of a new radio technology and the introduction of a new biometric fingerprint identity scanner. Just like they did almost a decade ago with the iPhone… 5s.
And I’ve got a whole video explaining how and why Touch ID is coming back, link in the description.
So, iPhone 12s. Or, rather, iPhone 12s, iPhone 12s mini, iPhone 12s Pro, and iPhone 12s Pro Max… which is actually getting more cumbersome than iPhone mother of dragons… I’m just saying.