The only thing really wrong with Apple’s iPhone is its name

By SteveJack

Apple really only botched one thing with the iPhone – its name.

Oh sure, you can argue that the top model’s 8GB of storage is too small, but with 6 months to go that spec (and others) can and probably will change; Apple isn’t even taking pre-orders on the device, yet. So things can change. One thing’s for sure, Apple has frozen a nice chunk of the smartphone market, not to mention some of the iPod market, too.

Back to the naming issue: Apple’s “iPhone” isn’t really a phone at all. It’s really a small touchscreen Mac OS X computer, a Mac nano tablet, if you will. Here’s how misnamed the iPhone is: Some people are complaining that Jobs didn’t spend enough time on the Mac in his keynote! Folks, iPhone is not only a Mac, it’s the most radical new Mac in years! What’s to stop Apple from making a 12-inch model (and larger, and smaller) one of these days (use the headset for the phone, please) and calling it a Mac tablet?

It has an iPod built in, yes, so it can be used solely as a “true video widescreen iPod,” if that’s what you want. And even using it just like that, the price is about right. It also has a smartphone built in, too; except this smartphone’s UI actually makes sense and is usable. Even if you just use it as a smartphone, the price is right, too.

But, the main thing about the “iPhone” is that it’s really a pocket Mac. It has email, SMS, full-featured Web browsing, and much more. But, beyond that, it is a platform that’s just sitting there waiting for Apple to sell software for it. Just imagine games with the large multi-touch display and the built-in accelerometer!

Imagine all of the other software possibilities, too. Given Apple’s history with the iPod (closed to third-party developers), today I’d have to guess that they’ll keep the iPhone under tight control, too. Maybe that will change in the future, maybe not. Still, Apple could do a lot with the platform all by themselves. What about ringtones sold via Apple’s iTunes Store? With Wi-Fi onboard these things could beam data between each other like crazy. The possibilities are endless.

No matter how you look at it, for all that it can do even now, the device is very well priced and should fly off the shelves regardless of its name.

Maybe Apple named it iPhone because of all of the free publicity and buzz that name has already garnered. Maybe they want this trojan horse to slip into the market first under the guise of being the best smartphone available and they’ll exploit its capabilities as a full-fledged platform later. Perhaps it’s easier to explain and sell as a phone first. It probably would have been even easier to just have called it iPod (6G) and listed “iPhone” as a new iPod feature – that’s how they sold video, right?

I also have to wonder what will happen to Safari’s market share after the iPhone starts shipping. All of those iPhones hitting sites with their Safari browsers are going to have an impact if they’re counted properly. What about Mac OS X market share? Each iPhone is technically a Mac, right? If so, Apple will at least double their Mac shipments in the first year alone. Let’s hope IDC and Gartner count them all!

So, yeah, it can be a phone, even the very best smartphone, but it’s so much more and holds so much promise that the name “iPhone” hardly does it justice.

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

Related articles:
Is Apple building ‘The Device?’ [revisited] – January 09, 2007
Analyst Bajarin: Apple’s iPhone and Apple TV are industry game changers – January 09, 2007
Time: ‘iPhone could crush cell phone market pitilessly beneath the weight of its own superiority’ – January 09, 2007
Analyst: Apple iPhone should be given its own category – ‘brilliantphone’ – January 09, 2007
Cingular to use Synchronoss Technologies’ platform for Apple iPhone – January 09, 2007
iPhone photos from Apple’s Macworld Expo booth – January 09, 2007
Enderle: Apple’s iPhone is going to do very well – January 09, 2007
Apple debuts iPhone: touchscreen mobile phone + widescreen iPod + Internet communicator – January 09, 2007

The Register’s Ray: Apple ‘iPhone’ will fail – December 26, 2006
Analyst: Apple iPhone economics aren’t that compelling – December 08, 2006
CNET editor Kanellos: ‘Apple iPhone will largely fail’ – December 07, 2006
Palm CEO laughs off Apple ‘iPhone’ threat – November 20, 2006


  1. Someday, somehow any audio on the phone will be usable as ringtones. If Apple won’t do it someone will make a hack. I was hoping Steve would say “Uses any song in your iTunes library for ringtones, just set the start and end time in the preview.” But nope… guess Cingular had other ideas.

  2. They didn’t get it wrong. If they’re willing to dump “Computer” from the company’s name, iPhone isn’t written in stone either. What they are doing is riding a popular tide of interest– the name serves a purpose to make it approachable and desirable to those outside the Land of Über-Geek.

    iPhone works now– it’s purposeful. If it becomes popular, the next big evolution will likely be named for what it is: Cojones.

  3. And the iPhone multi-touch UI foreshadows what could be done on a laptop, or dare I say it, tablet, Mac. Looking forward to those great Macs coming over the next few months (that’s what Jobs said in the keynote!)

    I still think it’s the right name for mainstream users, since they will first think of it as a phone, and that’s the mainstream market that Apple needs to sell into at this time.

  4. The reason they want to call it iPhone is because they do not want people to think that they are switching from a PC to Mac when they buy this. They would have loved to call this “Mac nano”, but they did not do that for a reason.

    This is all about marketing! Just wait for a few more years.. iPhone will change to “Mac *somthing*”. Just like what happend to iBook.

  5. I think Apple may have learned from the AAC naming debacle (which should have been called MP4) and is naming this thing so the masses can instantly relate to it. I’m personally not thrilled with it either, but I do think it will mean more to the masses to call it iPhone rather than Mac nano or something else that would actually be more fitting. Just as the PowerBook became the MacBook Pro fairly quickly, a later name change could be made once millions have been sold and people “get” what it really is.

  6. Just like the iPod, they want to have a focused marketing focus. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

    The “iPhone” name may not do justice for what it really is, but it gets the attention of those searching for a modern (or in this case, cutting edge) mobile phone.

  7. IT GUY (two comments up)…has it right. The name iPhone has everything to do with the public’s perception of the device. Apple uses calculated precision with everything it does, including the names of it’s products. Just like how they’ve been working on the iPhone for 2 1/2 years +. They don’t rush to the market like Zune (an oxymoron: rushing to the market after the fact, etc) they set the bar so high for themselves and in this case have outdone all of our expections and maybe their’s, while their competition buries themselves with mediocrity.

  8. I don’t know. To me it’s about as much of a Mac as a Motorola Q is a Windows PC. The Motorola Q also does e-mail, web surfing (though not as good), and can install programs that possibly could one day equal the functionality of the iPhone. I consider it a Smart(er)phone, but certainly not a Mac in the traditional sense.

    Hell, even Steve Jobs acknowledged that it isn’t a Mac, so they’re changing the name from Apple Computers to Apple.

  9. I have to agree with this.

    iPhone is wrong for two reasons:

    1) It is a CISCO trademark, so why not just use another name?

    2) This is the more relevant reason, as noted by SteveJack it isn’t just a phone, or iPod etc it is a mobile communications device.

    I would have gone for iMobile (though that name has probably already been used).

    It sums up the device perfectly. It is your mobile phone, mobile music, mobile e-mail, mobile computer etc.

    my 2 cents,


  10. It is a great name and possibly the only right name. It is understated and has style. This device is all about entertainment, lifestyle and cool, just like iLife, iPod, iTunes and iMac.

    What do we want? The PortaMac, MacLet, or the Mhone? Seriously.
    Now if it only came in white.

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