Good News: Apple Has Ruined Its Numbered iPhone Naming Convention

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I'm not a fan of numbered iPhones. The naming convention wore out its welcome a long time ago; Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) just somehow hasn't realized it yet. Using numbers is simply unsustainable and completely arbitrary at this point. Case in point: The company just unveiled the iPhone 8, one of its 11th-generation iPhones. Sure, the iPhone X (pronounced "iPhone 10") leads the 11th-generation lineup, but it still only gets worse over time. The X simply marks the 10th year after the original launch, not the generation.

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There's an opinion that means a lot more than mine, though: Apple's former ad man Ken Segall. Segall, a career marketing professional that is credited with naming the original iMac, is also a critic of numbered iPhones. Earlier this year, he argued that this year was "The Great iPhone Naming Opportunity of 2017." Celebrating the decade milestone would have been the perfect chance to reset iPhone branding, setting it on a more sustainable path for years to come. Too bad Apple squandered it. The silver lining is that Apple just ruined numbered iPhones.

There can never be an iPhone 9

For starters, here's a comprehensive history of iPhone names:

Year

Generation

Name(s)

2007

1st

iPhone

2008

2nd

iPhone 3G

2009

3rd

iPhone 3GS

2010

4th

iPhone 4

2011

5th

iPhone 4s

2012

6th

iPhone 5

2013

7th

iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c

2014

8th

iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus

2015

9th

iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus

2016

10th

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone SE

2017

11th

iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X

By going with 8 and 10 (but stylized with X) this year, Apple has effectively precluded the possibility of ever using "iPhone 9." If we fast-forward to 2018, Apple can't really release an iPhone 9 after releasing the iPhone X in 2017, which could be perceived as regression. If you recall, Microsoft even skipped 9 as well, jumping from Windows 8 to Windows 10 in 2015, but Windows is less of a diversified product family and all of the Windows variants fall under the Windows 10 umbrella.

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From a product standpoint, this is the fourth cycle that Apple has now recycled the same overall industrial design that debuted with the iPhone 6 in 2014, albeit this year it has been tweaked with a glass back for wireless charging. If Apple redesigns the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus next year, using "8s" doesn't make sense either, as "s" cycles used to denote incremental updates within the same form factor. Maybe "iPhone Xs" is on the table for the 2018 flagship, but that looks terrible too, and would Apple really go with "iPhone 9" and "iPhone 11" for its 12th-generation smartphones?

Numbered iPhones are now an utter mess from a marketing perspective. Hopefully, 2018 will be when Apple pulls the trigger and kills off the convention and goes with something more sustainable.

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Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.