The Naming of Things

The reason Apple dropped model numbers with the iPad has seemed obvious to me for months: because they’re going to be selling the current “new iPad” alongside the yet to be announced iPad mini.

Think about it, if Apple kept the model number then consumers would have to choose between the iPad 3 and iPad mini. What would Apple do for the next version of the iPads? Would we have an iPad 4 and iPad mini 2? Obviously this isn’t a good naming strategy, so Apple chose to simplify everything by dropping the model number from the iPad family name.

Now that Apple has sent out invitations to the new iPhone event with clear hints that it will be called the iPhone 5, the only thing we can be pretty sure about is that Apple will not introduce an iPhone mini/nano alongside the iPhone 5. When Apple finally does drop the model number from the iPhone, expect an iPhone with a new form factor to be introduced within a year.

This entry was posted in random. Bookmark the permalink.
  • http://twitter.com/firstinflight Rob Hess

    In addition, the nature of the mobile phone world that has three (or more?) models of iPhone selling at a time, suggests that it’s helpful to have an addition degree of clarity in the product name. Which iPhone can you get for $99 on contract? However, I think that clarity would go out the window if Apple had an alternate form factor iPhone to sell (as you suggest).

  • http://blog.insightvr.com John Harrison

    You mean they actually plan out how they name things a year in advance so that the names make some sort of sense? Rather than simply throwing more letters, numbers, and nonsense words onto the name?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=135000113 Brock Smith

    Oh rob… ;)

  • Tim Coy

    Could it be that Apple are simply following the naming strategy they use for their other products?
    eg Macbook Air, Mac Pro, Mac Mini etc.

  • http://jarederondu.com Jared Erondu

    Great points!

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    What is the clear indication? Everybody says that there is a clear indication in the invitation, nobody says what it is.

  • Captain Obvious

    Uh… the big “5″ shadow, perhaps?

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    :-)))). I swear I didn’t see it. Thanks. :-)))

  • JD

    Ahhhhhahaha get outta town man

  • nuthinking

    Apple is gonna drop numbers on names because some numbers are just ugly to pronunce. It’s not a scalable strategy. Quite surprised they won’t drop it yet for the iPhone.

  • no_play

    5 > 5 years iPhone ? The new iPhone.

  • Sharon_Sharalike

    Wow! A 1960′s sitcom reference! Each day your audience grows smaller :-)

  • robm

    I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d suggest that *every* major company in that space has an idea of their intended “roadmap” for the next couple of devices.

  • http://twitter.com/leftnotracks Scott Falkner

    If Apple releases a new, smaller iPad soon it will be as finished and showroom perfect as everything else they do. Such a product would have been in the early planning stages months ago, perhaps a year ago. The New iPad only came out six months ago, so it is a certainty that this unnamed product was known within the elite circles and corner offices.

    And I like the name iPad for it. Apple has produced iBooks in two sizes, iMacs in six sizes, Macbooks in three sizes, and Macbook Airs in two sizes. None of them are named with anything that indicates size. You can buy a 13˝ MacBook Pro or a 15˝ Macbook Pro, but not a MacBook Pro Mini. This has not confused people.

    The Mini designation made sense for an iPod that was significantly different from the other model (smaller capacity, more colour options, monochrome screen). But this iPad will be a fully functional, fair-dinkum iPad equivalent to the currently available iPad 2. I just don’t see it needing a prefix that suggests it is somehow less than a full iPad.

    I’m not sure how confident I am of this, but it’s empty on the pool so I’ll put my five bucks there. But I also kinda like iPad Air, too.

  • RM

    Why wouldn’t you go that far. We have evidence that Apple were planning and prototyping the iPad at least 10 years ago. The process of doing the full development of something that actually ships is obviously something that gets planned and scheduled years ahead of time, even if some decisions get deferred up until the last minute. Look at everything Apple has done since 1997 and see how it all fits together like a giant jigsaw puzzle to produce the iPad

  • Asad Quraishi

    Makes a lot of sense.

  • Asad Quraishi

    Makes a lot of sense.

  • http://jherrman.com Jeremy Herrman

    With bonehead decisions like killing “Metro” in favor of “Windows 8-style UI”, and countless unpronounceable device names from big name companies, it’s really nice to see a naming strategy that actually makes sense.

  • CooperB

    “You can buy a 13˝ MacBook Pro or a 15˝ Macbook Pro…” So it’s up to consumers to designate the different models in their own ways (as you have done) as opposed to Apple doing it? After a year or so will we refer to “new iPad” as “not so new iPad”, “first retina iPad”, or “iPad3″? How is giving consumers the task of naming a product good marketing strategy?

  • myonlinelifenow

    Just my two cents, I think of course the 12 means Sept 12th for the invite and 5 in the shadow hints that they’ll be another press conference for the iPad Air on Oct 5th.

  • http://twitter.com/apple4ever Matthew Butch

    The naming it the 5 doesn’t make any sense- because its the 6th generation. I’d rather they just drop the numbers all together.

  • Peter Downey

    What if it’s more simple? What if the ’5′ is not referring to the nomenclature of the new iPhone but of the 5 hardware lines: Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod and AppleTV!

  • markg

    And yet OS X is still 10.8. It has kept its numerical moniker for 12 years. When will it be just xOS and iOS? The code names have become the name but is that official? Is a hardware revision less of a reason to “increment” than a software revision? And when will iOS get some sort of name?

  • kibbles

    it’s not a big deal. how do you refer to older generation ipods or laptops? when & why do you do this? normal consumers simply dont. techies discussing particular vintages do…and they do so by saying which generation, or which year. just like auto enthusiasts.

    a solved problem.

  • CooperB

    “normal consumers simply dont.” They don’t because they have no idea what to say until they might have to.
    “What model do you have that you need help with?”
    “The New one”
    “Which New one?”
    “The one that said New when I bought it”
    Helpful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vera-Comment/100002347335999 Vera Comment

    yeah, but they did that to stay off the infringement radar of “Metro” a big European retailer.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_AG

    sure, a big box store and an OS style don’t compete, so you could say MS just folded under ANTICIPATED pressure.. but it wasn’t a totally arbitrary decision.

  • http://twitter.com/TechManMike Michael Lee 

    Having a numerical moniker for OS X and iOS makes total sense! Otherwise how would a person know which version they’re running??? To me not having versions would bring about more confusion. It’s much easier to look at your hardware and know if it’s the newest one or not, you can’t always do the same with software.

  • Rex

    Yeah, apple doesn’t use model numbers… iPad 1,1 – ipad 2,1 – iPad 2,2 – iPad 3,1 … nope, no model designations there….

  • CooperB

    Those are internal numbers, not consumer model designations. Does my sister know she has a 3,1? No, she has a “New iPad”.

  • http://twitter.com/TechManMike Michael Lee 

    naming it the 5 makes total sense. The number 5 is a big milestone in the minds of a lot of people.

  • http://saarvi.com/ SD

    very clever…I am hoping that Apple this time churns out something completely different and more beautiful than what blogs and tech sites are showing for the past couple of months….

  • http://poseur.com/ Edwin Watkeys

    Apple—and other companies, I suppose—have shown that this is not an insurmountable problem. Money can make these sorts of problems go away, as they did when Apple resolved disputes over “iOS” and, earlier, “OS 9.” Apple doesn’t always decide to “solve” this problem, of course—for example, the threw “Rendezvous” in favor of “Bonjour” (a better name in my book) under the bus when someone came at them with a trademark issue—but when it’s important, they seem to have a way of making these problems go away. Microsoft, apparently, didn’t think trading “Metro” for “Windows 8-style UI” was a big deal. I think that speaks poorly of Microsoft’s product acumen.

  • Kalid

    Agreed in general. Though in the case of the Metro rename, it was because MSFT was going to be sued by Metro AG.

    By the way, this is a real device on Amazon:

    “Samsung Galaxy S II Epic Touch 4G Android Phone, Black (Sprint)”

  • bregalad

    So the iPhone is getting a little bit taller and a little bit thinner. From a size perspective it will change nothing. The iPhone is still king of the small smartphone market and is unlikely to ever surrender that crown.
    Nobody in the Android camp seems to care about the compact smartphone demographic. If you don’t want an iPhone you’re stuck with slow pieces of junk running Android 2.x. that generally look and feel cheap. They’re essentially feature phones that just happen to run Android.
    At the other end of the size scale nothing has changed either. Android phones reign supreme for all screen sizes over 4″ and a slight increase in the size of the iPhone isn’t going to convince any large screen user to leave Android.
    The new iPhone will sell really well and Apple will continue to rake in the lion’s share of mobile profits, but their market share will continue to fall as cheap Android phones replace “dumb” phones and aggressively priced, lightweight “phablets” grow in popularity.
    Apple has nothing for me and probably never will because they want to sell me both an iPhone and an iPad. I demand one mobile device to rule them all: the largest screen I can comfortably take and use everywhere.

  • http://facebook.com/johnhupp John Hupp

    Considering the fact that Apple went directly from iPhoto 2 to iPhoto 4 (back in 2004), I don’t think they’re too hung up on numerical consistency.

    Having the iPhone 5 running iOS 6 seems kind of weird, though.

  • http://facebook.com/johnhupp John Hupp

    I’m just wondering when they will start “synchronizing” OS X and iOS version numbers. I imagine things will start getting awkward when they hit OS X 10.10 (OS [ten] [ten-point-ten]). Or when they hit iOS 10 (iOS X? … blegh).

  • Sax

    Why do people insist on writing “iPad Mini” instead of “iPad mini”. It’s iPod mini, Mac mini and iPod nano. Not Mini and not Nano. Why not write Ipad instead of iPad as well?

  • Pingback: A vueltas con el nombre del iPhone 5 o del iPad Mini en iPhoneros.com

  • http://jherrman.com Jeremy Herrman

    You are completely right – I’ve updated the article. I can’t believe I never noticed that. As a person whose head hurts whenever I see “MAC” or hear “mac oh es ex”, I can appreciate the attention to detail. Thanks!

  • peter

    Calling it the ‘new iPad’ doesn’t seem too good either – because what’s the next one going to be called? In a few years when we look back and see a mention of the ‘new iPad’ we won’t know which one it was. In the UK we’re stuck with New College Oxford and the New Forest for the very same reason.

  • Pingback: What’s a Name, Anyway? | So It's Come To This:

  • Tom W

    Pretty good logic until you got to the story that iPhone 5 implies there will be no iPhone mini until after the iPhone-numberless. Apple could just as easily introduce iPhone mini then a few months later the (new) iPhone. Why would Apple purposely telegraph its plans by following exactly the same sequence as with iPad?

  • Manuel

    Your sister doesn’t have to know anything. Because Apple will ask for her device’s unique SERIAL NUMBER. Case closed.

  • CooperB

    Cool. So if she talking to friends and they ask what she has she can just give them the serial number. Excellent thinking.