Tuesday, 16 Jul 2019

Apple’s new iPhone names are bad, so it’s hard to see where it goes from here


This year, Apple reached the end of its iPhone X (read: ten) names. Next year remains a mystery. Apple has gone through all the numbers from one through ten, skipping two and nine for its own reasons. Now, for better or worse, next year, it’ll likely need to figure out a new naming scheme.

Apple hastened its way toward a dead end last year when it decided to switch to Roman numerals rather than continuing with numbers as it had done in the past. A report from Bloomberg at the end of August indicated that the people behind the names struggled to come up with names that would work. Since this year’s iPhones didn’t really change many things beyond last year’s, they didn’t seem compelling enough to grant a whole new name. The cheapest iPhone is also bigger than the midrange option, so Apple namers had to take that into consideration, too and aim for a name that wouldn’t confuse consumers.

The final results still seem… kind of bad. For some reason, Apple went with an iPhone XS Max, instead of just going for an iPhone XS and an iPhone Max. The distinction is clear: Apple wanted to send a message that the two phones are related in some way. But to the average person, the iPhone XS Max just sounds like a pretty bad name. Why didn’t they go with iPhone XS and XL? That just makes logical sense, and since we’re used to seeing those letters represent sizes, it’s not as unfamiliar and difficult to say as XR and XS Max and XS. Try saying that five times fast.

This is the first year that Apple has added letters to a letter and wanted us to pronounce one of them as a number and the other as a letter. It’s very much like 1984 — the novel, not Apple’s infamous Super Bowl ad — where Big Brother tortures Winston Smith to believe that two plus two equals five and to clearly forget they equal four. Apple wants us to read X as “ten,” when the logical thing to do is to read it as the letter “X.” And so it’s the Ten R, the Ten S, and the Ten S Max, which sound a lot better than how you’d actually read them, as alphabet soup.

Setting aside this year’s naming horrors, Apple pretty much has a clean slate for next year. It could keep counting forever or drop numbers completely. Now that we’ve arrived at 10, where does Apple go from here? Here’s a list of possibilities and reasons behind them:

iPhone Eleven

This is clearly the logical and easy choice. And yet, if Apple goes down this path, that’s a lot of numbers. No phone company is sitting out there with a smartphone 34 or a 57. It just doesn’t feel sustainable in the long-run.

Apple Phone

Going back to a clean and simple name might actually bode well for Apple. Before the iMacs and the iPads, Apple’s naming convention was just to stick its name before everything. So while this name seems silly at first, it could very well be possible.

iPhone XX

Following the same pattern where Apple skipped 2 and 9 in its phone lineup and just headed toward the flashier numbers, what if Apple just skipped all the way to twenty?

iPhone XC

There has only been one ‘C’ branded iPhone before, and that’s the iPhone 5C in 2013, which had disappointing but not terrible sales during its run. People like cheap iPhones, and maybe Apple has really reached its max price point this time, so it’s time to walk it back with a truly budget version of the iPhone X next year. Still, it seems unlikely that Apple would have a third year of iPhone X-related names, though.

iPhone ii

Think about it. There never was an iPhone 2 and Apple started the lowercase i trend way before it was cool. What about… three lowercase i’s in a name? Insanity. The ii can be interpreted as an 11 or as a 2, in keeping with the pattern of making us read letters as numbers.

iPhone Y and iPhone Z

Why not, if we’re just finishing off the alphabet here? Pokémon taught us the last three letters of the alphabet are pretty cool together.

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

iPhone Panther

Apple could take a cue from its OS X naming schemes and start naming iPhones after large jungle cats, national parks, or deserts. The iPhone Panther has a great ring to it, but it’s just an example. If Apple goes down this route, it would have a vast database of names to pull from.

iPhone Pro and iPhone Air

Similarly, what if Apple takes a cue from how it names its Macbooks and just starts tacking on a word at the end? Simplistic, clean, and none of that XS Max nonsense.

No more names

Just list the year and the screen size, as Apple does with its latest iPads and Macbooks. The new iPhones will be called the 2019 6.8-inch iPhone and the 2019 6.5-inch iPhone, and we’ll go from there. It’s easy and saves energy spent naming and worrying about naming for other important tasks.


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