Naming The 2016 iPhone


With Apple’s current schedule, we’d be in line to get a major upgrade this fall to the iPhone 7, with last year’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus being the in-between “S” year models. But on a three-year cycle major hardware upgrades will come every third year opposed to the every other year schedule Apple is currently on. Word has it that Apple could make that change starting with this year’s iPhone, meaning this fall’s iPhone could be a lesser upgrade and that a full-fledged iPhone 7 with notable hardware changes won’t arrive until 2017. But where does that leave Apple’s naming scheme for the device?

Everyone loves to debate product naming, including me. At least for iPhone, the branding has been easy to guess for many years thanks to the cyclical tick-tock cadence of major chassis design revamp followed by an ‘S’ series incremental component update.

This year, as all rumours are indicating, the cycle is changing. This year’s flagship iPhone looks almost the same as an iPhone 6s, which is itself a derivative of the iPhone 6 from 2014. Add into the equation the fact next year’s iPhone is rumoured to be a major ‘all glass’ design revamp, and it’s hard to say that the new 2016 iPhone will be called the iPhone 7.

It doesn’t feel like it lives up to the stature that the 7 nomenclature implies. It also puts the 2017 iPhone in a sticky situation for names: iPhone 7s doesn’t seem appropriate for a year when the device heads in a completely new direction design-wise. Apple could leapfrog and jump to straight to 8 but that feels weird given the generational history.

Names like ‘Extreme’ or ‘Air’ don’t really mesh with my sensibilities either. ‘Air’ sounds like a design change (iPad Air was significantly thinner and lighter than its predecessor) and ‘Extreme’ sounds corny. ‘Pro’ is the best suffix that has been suggested: would it be iPhone 6 Pro or iPhone 6s Pro? That’s a lot of syllables even for the 4.7 inch model, the 5.5 inch size would be awkward to speak and write: ‘iPhone 6s Plus Pro’.

Right now, I’d still bet on iPhone 7. It is the most obvious choice, even if it doesn’t quite fit the bill. In my mind, next year, Apple would move away from numbers at the logical design breakpoint, skipping the ‘7s’ conundrum and moving to something like ‘iPhone Air’ as the flagship branding.