Why the iPhone 5 name makes sense

Please stop complaining about the iPhone 5 name. There is no reason for Apple to drop the number and call it “the new iPhone” at all. Consumers want to be able to differentiate between models. Especially when multiple models are being sold simultaneously.

There’s this stupid graphic floating around the internet showing the iPhone generations all lined up next to each other, numbers 1-5, with the iPhone 4S being number 5. It’s stupid and dumb and I hate it. Let me explain why this is the proper name for the phone.

When Apple launched the first iPhone, there was only one. It didn’t need a number. It was just the iPhone. When the next model came out, it was a lot like the first, but had 3G. This was the big differentiating factor, so calling it the iPhone 3G made perfect sense. The 3GS was essentially the same as the 3G model, but it was faster and had a few other upgrades. Obviously it couldn’t be called the “3G” again, because that was already used, so they added the “S” for “speed” to the end.

When the next iPhone came out, it was the fourth iteration to be released. It also followed up a phone that had a “3” in the name, so the name “iPhone 4” made sense. On paper it looked good to follow a 3 with a 4, and because it was literally the fourth iPhone, the name made perfect sense.

Next, Apple came out with a fifth-generation iPhone. Because this was a faster, more powerful version of the iPhone 4 with the addition of Siri, it made sense to call it the iPhone 4S. The “S” could stand for “Siri” or “speed” or a number of other things.

Now, Apple is ready to release the sixth-generation iPhone. But what should they call it? Should they follow a name with a “4” with a “6”? No, that would confuse consumers.

What does make sense? How about following up a name with a “4” with a “5”? What about realizing that the naming scheme changed when the iPhone 4 came out. Before, iPhones were named for features, like 3G. With the 4, the name lined up with the fourth major revision. The iPhone 4S was not a major revision. It was the iPhone 4.5. Now, this doesn’t apply to the iPhone 3GS. Apple wasn’t using the “major revision” naming scheme then. They were using the “feature-based” naming scheme.

So in short, consumers don’t follow generation numbers, and now neither does Apple. Starting with the iPhone 4, the names represent major revisions. The 4S was a “four and a half” stopgap while the iPhone 5 was in development. The iPhone 5 is the major revision following the iPhone 4, and thus gets the next sequential number. This logic does not apply to older phones that were named after their features, rather than their major revision number, such as the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS.

By realizing the numbering logic has changed, we can finally understand why the iPhone announced on September 12th will be the iPhone 5.