), every iteration of the iPhone is a big deal. Unlike
) launches, which are down to almost a weekly affair, Cupertino
prefers to keep its smartphone updates on a yearly basis. And while
Apple's annual soiree never fails to generate fevered excitement
and leagues of speculation, this year's iPhone release is
its most important since the very first 2007
There's no question that Android and its many partners have become
much more than a thorn in the side of the iPhone maker, with
) eye-popping sales and reach leading the pack. Along with
(KRX:066570) Nexus 4 and the
(TPE:2498), the Galaxy S line and Android as a whole has pushed the
envelope as to what consumers expect in a post-iPhone world and has
challenged -- and surpassed, in many areas -- Apple in terms of
style, features, and build quality. And even as they struggle to
stay in the game,
) Phones have shown a willingness to innovate and try something
new, which in turn has made the iPhone and its long familiar grid
of icons appear staid and stodgy in comparison.
So naturally, when the iPhone is no longer the number-one choice
for a hefty portion of consumers, the pressure is on to deliver a
device that will blow away its rivals. And as a former Apple
executive puts it,
this is no time for an iPhone 5S
Ken Segall, Apple's former marketing guru -- he famously put the
"i" in iMac and had the company "Thinking Different" -- knows a
thing or two about stoking a consumer's curiosity. Recently, he
railed against the company's decision to introduce the off-year "S"
names to its annual iPhone updates.
"[T]acking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak
message. It says that this is our 'off-year' product, with only
modest improvements," Segall writes. "If holding off on the big
number change achieved some great result, I might think otherwise.
But look what happened with iPhone 5."
Segall explains that despite the bigger screen, LTE support with
(VZ), better camera, and faster speeds, the iPhone 5 was still
viewed as a middling update to the iPhone 4S -- all because of the
seemingly "half update."
"[P]ersonally," Segall laments, "I wish Apple never created a 4S."
Indeed, in keeping a previous year's wholly arbitrary number, Apple
has suggested that it has upgraded the iPhone with a very light
touch -- at a time when manufacturers are scrambling to introduce
as many new whiz-bang features as possible into their increasingly
hi-tech smartphones. Segall argues that the 4S could've easily been
the iPhone 5, and no one would've thought anything of it. Why Apple
would ever hint at modest updates is a mystery, but the iPhone
numbering structure might not be an issue for much longer.
Take a look at Apple's other leading device: the iPad. Upon the
release of its third-generation iPad, the company dropped its
numbering structure altogether. Instead, it was dubbed "The New
iPad." And when the fourth incarnation was released later that
year, it was the "iPad with Retina Display."
No number. No qualifying letter. Just iPad.
The simplified name placed the tablet into the same league as
Apple's MacBook and iMac line. Customers don't need a number after
Apple's laptop or desktop computers, and given the many options in
display and peripherals, a number scheme would be largely moot.
This might hint at a new iPhone without any numbers after its name,
especially if rumors of new low-cost iPhones come to fruition.
Traveling six miles north of Cupertino to Android HQ, there's no
hard and fast rule on numbering devices. Samsung may keep adding
Roman numerals to its flagship Galaxy S line, but a
full list of its other smartphones
shows that, uh, yeah, numbers aren't going to help. But Apple, with
its single line of smartphones, can deviate from a numbering
structure without it getting overwhelming or confusing.
It's unlikely the iPhone's number scheme will carry it all the way
to iPhone 12 or iPhone 19. At some point, Apple has to drop the
numerical system and just say, "This is the New iPhone." And from
the looks of the iPad, it could very well happen soon.
But when it does happen, analysts and consumers will be able to
judge a new iPhone by the content of its features and not by the
letters in its name.
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Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville
Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry.