Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Opinion: Thoughts on iPhone Nomenclature

In the beginning there was the iPhone. And it was "insanely great". Then, a year later, there was the iPhone 3G. The "3G" stood for "third generation," referring not to iPhone itself as it was only the second generation of Apple's handset, but to the latest data network being used by the iPhone's cellular carrier, AT&T. The next iPhone, the third generation from Apple, was dubbed the "3GS", with the "S" standing for "speed", an indication from Apple that this generation of iPhone was equipped with, among other improvements, a faster processor than its predecessor, the iPhone 3G. What, then, was Apple to call its fourth-generation iPhone? It was faster, yet, than the 3GS, using Apple's new custom-designed A4 processor. Would they call it the "3GSS" for "Super Speed"?

No, Apple decided, as is its nature, to simplify its nomenclature for the iPhone by basing the name on the fact that it was the fourth-generation of iPhone. Thus, it was called the iPhone 4. Here, then, is a list of the four generations of iPhone along with their respective names:

  1. iPhone
  2. iPhone 3G
  3. iPhone 3GS
  4. iPhone 4
By naming the fourth-generation of iPhone the iPhone 4 Apple confirmed that the 3GS, despite having the same name as its predecessor, with the addition of one letter, was in fact the third generation of iPhone and not a revision of the second generation, a generation 2.5, if you will.

There have been a variety of rumors about the as-yet-unreleased next iPhone, some claiming only small revisions compared to current iPhone 4 and some claiming more significant changes. Rumors claiming the next iPhone will only have minor hardware revisions tend to refer to it as the "iPhone 4S", borrowing from the nomenclature used when the 3GS was released after the 3G. Rumors claiming more significant changes, however, tend to refer to the "iPhone 5", continuing Apple's current philosophy of including the generation in the name. Then there have been a few rumors claiming both an iPhone 4S and an iPhone 5 will be announced side-by-side, the 4S truly being a minor revision to the current iPhone 4 hardware and the 5 being a more significant revision of both internal and external hardware specs and design.

Here's my opinion. If there is an iPhone 4S it will only happen if the last rumor described above is true and Apple announces both a 4S and a 5. If, however, Apple only announces one new iPhone I do not believe they will revert and call it the iPhone 4S. To me, this just doesn't make sense after switching to the current nomenclature with the iPhone 4. I think, rather, that if there is only one new iPhone announced it will be called the iPhone 5, regardless of how minor an update it is over the iPhone 4. Again, though, this is just my opinion based on my own analysis of the iPhone's history. As with all unannounced products from Apple, speculation is just that, speculation, until an actual public announcement is made.