What’s in a name? If you’re Apple, I’m not sure it really matters—the newest iPhone will always be The Newest iPhone no matter what the moniker happens to be.
Nevertheless, a staggering amount of research and corporate reasoning goes into naming products as ubiquitous as the iPhone. Even when Apple throws us a curveball by skipping a numerical generation and switching to roman numerals—like it did last year when it announced the iPhone 8 alongside the iPhone X—you’d better believe a whole lot of time and money went into naming them.
And it’s that very same curveball that makes this year’s iPhone release such a mystery.
For several years leading up to last fall’s release of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, the pattern seemed to be that even-numbered years belonged to new numerical distinctions (like 2016’s iPhone 7 and 2014’s iPhone 6) and odd-numbered years coincided with upgraded versions of the devices that preceded them (like 2015’s iPhone 6s).
At the time of their release, the off-year models tagged with a lowercase “s” were technically the newest and most powerful iPhones you could buy, but they were very much spiritual successors to their immediate predecessors rather than big, bold releases that called for a whole new number.
That’s why, in addition to the souped-up, special edition iPhone we all heard about ahead of time (which turned out to be the iPhone X), those of us who follow these things expected Apple to release an “iPhone 7s” last fall.
Alas, it was not meant to be. That would-be iPhone 7s turned out to be the iPhone 8, and the $1,000 iPhone X—pronounced “ten”—was the crown jewel of Apple’s 2017 iPhone catalog.
So here we are, almost a year later, and the future of the iPhone has never been hazier. Because Apple broke from the pattern it mostly adhered to for the better part of a decade, it’s unclear whether it’ll stick to the new trajectory and release an “iPhone 9” or fall back into the old pattern and follow up last year’s iPhone 8 with an “iPhone 8s.”
And then there’s the iPhone X. By all accounts, Apple is working on a follow-up to its ultra-premium 2017 release, and perhaps even a more affordable “lite” version of the iPhone X.
Will these be the “iPhone X 2” and the “iPhone X Lite” respectively? I honestly can’t see a company like Apple—one that revels in simplicity—coining a product name as clunky to pronounce as “iPhone Ten Two,” but I suppose anything’s possible.
I also don’t see Apple folding the iPhone X’s specialty hardware and design language into a product tagged with the number nine, because doing so would suggest that its capabilities have moved backwards in time.
The names of the forthcoming iPhones are anyone’s guess, but if you’re still itching for some juicy iPhone gossip, head over to our iPhone rumor round-up.