Apple, enough with the stupid iPhone ‘S’ naming already

Hey Siri is just one of the major new features Cook announced last week in the new iPhones. Apple releases the iPhone on a tick-tock cycle; with the “tock” device typically being a modest refinement of the “tick” device that debuted the year prior with a new form factor and other upgrades. This is traditionally a “tock” year, but Cook bristles at this notion. “This is clearly not an off-year issue,” he argues. “This is substantial change.” — John Paczkowski, BuzzFeed, September 15, 2015

“First, we have Paczkowski — a respected and experienced Apple journalist — explaining to readers that iPhone’s major innovations arrive every other year,” Ken Segall writes for Observatory. “Would John (or anyone else) explain it this way if there were no S-year naming? He either believes that Siri, 3D Touch, Touch ID and other S-innovations were minor, or he has drawn a logical conclusion from Apple’s naming scheme.”

Segall writes, “Second, we have Tim Cook bristling at the notion of iPhone ‘off-years.’ Well … Tim would have nothing to bristle about if Apple hadn’t created this whole ‘off-year’ nonsense in the first place. The perception is a direct result of Apple’s naming system.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple, enough with the stupid iPhone ‘S’ naming already.

iPhone “S” years usher in hugely significant features, such as oleophobic displays, significant GPU improvements, world phone capability, Siri personal assistant, video stabilization, panorama photos, 64-bit processors, TD-LTE support, Touch ID, and 3D Touch, among other improvements and additions. Each year’s iPhone deserves its own number. By not doing so, Apple is shooting itself in the foot; handicapping iPhones with an “S” every other year. Why Tim Cook or Phil Schiller haven’t put an end to this stupid – yes, stupid – “S” naming is inexplicable. Why don’t you just name it “iPhone No Big Deal This Year,” Tim and Phil?

Here’s what you say onstage and in the press release when there’s no “iPhone 7s” and you jump directly from iPhone 7 to iPhone 8: “The improvements are such that the new iPhone deserves its own number.” Period. Done. Mission accomplished. It’s your naming convention, Apple, and you can correct your stupid mistake at any time.

There are plenty of numbers in the universe. Infinite, actually. Don’t worry, Apple, you won’t run out.MacDailyNews, October 4, 2011

It’s as if Apple is naming iPhone models solely for their own internal inventory purposes, just so they can keep track of which model is which, with no regard for how the iPhones are perceived by the rest of the world – the media, the customers, etc. – outside One Infinite Loop.

The “S” doesn’t stand for “Speed,” it stands for “Stupid.” Yes, we know it’s the same case design; we know the “S” version is the one you make the big margins on; we get it. Call it the “S” internally if you must, but don’t be so engineer-ish that you insist on calling it that on the box, too!

It’s not about sales figures or the model’s success (as long as “iPhone” is in the name, it will be a success), it’s about setting a tone. In this case, with the “S,” Apple sets a tone that they are just making an incremental update… Why gift the naysayers with the opportunity, Apple?MacDailyNews Take, April 5, 2013


  1. And if they incremented the model number yet kept the same casing they’d be slated for that. Maybe they should just call it the iPhone and iPhone plus but identify them by year of release like they do with Macs.

    1. New model number increments (eg, 4, 5, 6) indicate a NEW physical design (eg, form factor) …plus any other internal & software improvements that are made at the time.

      Intervening “s” model increments indicate NO CHANGE in physical design / form factor, with only internal & software improvements. This MAY calm down the design, manufacturing, and production cycle while keeping costs low, too. In my opinion, it never meant the improvements were insignificant. (Although the changes are not apparent just by looking at the device, so people have to figure it out for themselves…)

      Agree: iPhone and model year would be easier.

      1. This is exactly what it is. There are over 10000 different cases and bumper styles for iPhones. My factory guy told me back in 2008 that Apple will make their work easier with 2 year iPhone design cycle, also promising not to make too drastic changes in details. It’s much easier for the customers too “Fits 4/4S models”.

  2. I’d rather major innovation work properly every other year. I need my phone to perform, everyday with no issues.

    Unlike Adobe that keeps screwing with me on this CC stuff with adding untested bloat to my system just to say they did something. I realize they are very different things, but the concept is sound.

    1. It will be interesting to see if special cases for the 6 line still fit the 6s (particularly Lifeproof cases), since the size has changed slightly.

      That said, I don’t mind the fact that the S naming convention helps designate external form factors. It’s clear that Apple isn’t losing sales because some people think that the S phones didn’t change enough to warrant an upgrade – they’re already selling as many as they can make.

      Much ado about nothing. It’s an incremental update, albeit a substantial one. So what?

  3. Honestly, they should start numbering them in the year they come out. This year’s model should have been the iPhone 15. Then when you go to buy a used one, you’ll know exactly how old it is. It’s called truth in advertising…

  4. Oh Ken, more of the jouranalistic buffoonery that we’ve come to expect from the like of you.

    “First, we have Paczkowski — a respected and experienced Apple journalist”
    – Oh come on talk about an oxymoron.

    Let me put on my sarcasm drip and percolate some coffee. So here you have on the one hand the brilliant, the respected, the experienced Paczkowski telling us that “Apple releases the iPhone on a tick-tock cycle” and in redundant journalistic fashion “explaining to readers that iPhone’s major innovations arrive every other year.”

    On the other hand some guy, what’s his name again… oh yeah Tim Cook who doesn’t even merit an adjective who bristles about what you say. You should thank your stars he doesn’t do something really despicable like remove your comments from the web.

    Do a few minutes research Ken, that is if you have the capacity to do so and you’ll find out that Tim Cook is the CEO, that’s Chief Executive Officer of Apple and as such he’s the one the with all the power and control.

    If you don’t like the product just don’t buy it. Keep talking though, far be it for me to stoop down to the depths of censoring someone’s freedom of speech. It’s just too hard for someone with a spine to do that.

  5. Personally, I’m happy with the S numbering system because S seems to stand for Sorted.
    The 4S is way better than the 4 and I’m hoping likewise the 6S is going to be a substantial improvement on the 6.
    2nd Gen fingerprint tech
    Screen / haptic feedback

  6. Apple doesn’t want to have a iPhone with 2 digits on its name. That is why it uses Roman numeral for the Mac OS.
    When iPhone 10 gets released, they will came out with nome other naming but not 2 digits numbers.

  7. There’s a logical reason why they use the “S” designator and keep the model number the same; the damned thing looks the same. The “S” stands for second or successor or super, etc. It basically stands for… here’s the same model, but with upgrades.

    This is no different than other products, be it cars or electronics… You can buy Audi A4 or and Audi S4. The “4” is the over all model number, and the “A” and “S” designate features.

    The only difference is that Apple doesn’t release both at the same time, they push upgraded models out a year later.

  8. Hmmm, there was no iPhone 2. It was called iPhone 3g because it went from EDGE cellular service to 3g. I’m not sure why they went to iPhone 4 after 3gs since the 3 had nothing originally to do with generations. When people received subsidized upgrades every other year, it made more sense to have “s” years as everyone would get an iPhone 5 eventually.

    Apple tried to move away from the numbering system on iPad with “The new iPad” (3rd Gen.), but they brought it back with iPad Air 2.

    People may balk at the “s” years, but journalists need to learn and write is that Apple innovates technology every year and form factor every other year.

    I used to laugh at a group of teenagers I mentored who would discuss what the new iPhone form factor would be. I told them then form factor is the same since 2007 a blank screen. You’re arguing about what the back of the device will look like. That holds true today. Sure, there have been “minor” changes: screen size and ratio, rounded square removed from the home button, sleep/wake button moved, etc. but the face of the iPhone hasn’t physically changed in 8+ years.

  9. Just my 2 cents worth: I have no problem with the ‘S’ naming convention. Doesn’t bother me a bit. I pay attention to the product…not so much the name. Can’t agree with MDN on this one.

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