There is always a lot of buzz about Apple’s next iPhone – virtually all year long, but especially as we approach September, when Apple traditionally unveils the Cupertino-based company’s latest phone-offerings. However, there seems to be some confusion with Apple’s smartphone nomenclature, and while it is actually quite simple it can be hard to wrap your head around. We are going to fix that, though, and also explain exactly why this year’s iPhone will not be called the iPhone 7.
First of all, a brief history of the iPhone line-up is in place. The original iPhone was not simply called the iPhone 1, or even the iPhone when released – it was actually called the iPhone 2G, as it only featured cellular capabilities on the 2G (Edge) network. While this was not complicated in its own right, the difficulties started when Apple released their next phone. Simple marketing techniques prevented Apple from following the iPhone 2G with a phone called the ”iPhone 2”, and Apple similarly wanted to showcase the fact that this phone featured 3G capabilities. This led Apple to name their next phone the iPhone 3G. This was still relatively simple though – the iPhone 2G was followed by the iPhone 3G.
However, as you all know, Apple couldn’t really continue this trend by naming the next iPhone the iPhone 4G, as the 4G LTE network wouldn’t be ready for wide adoption until several years later. Also, Apple decided not to revamp their design when the successor to the iPhone 3G was set to be launched. Instead, they – more or less – used the iPhone 3G casing, and focused mainly on internal upgrades. To showcase that the design of their new phone was the about the same as on the iPhone 3G, but the phone was still significantly faster and internally reworked, Apple named the device the iPhone 3GS – basically meaning the iPhone 3G Speed.
Next, when Apple introduced a phone featuring a new design, they also bumped up the number from 3 (as in the iPhone 3G and 3GS) to 4, with the iPhone 4. The next phone after this featured the same casing (again, more or less) as the iPhone 4, and was therefore named the iPhone 4S, as the internal changes made it an ”iPhone 4 Speed”. Are you getting it? So after this, when they changed the design of their phone again, introducing a larger screen, they bumped up the number of the phone from 4 (as in the iPhone 4 and 4S) to – you guessed it – 5, with the iPhone 5. The next flagship phone after this featured the same overall design as the iPhone 5, and was consequently named the iPhone 5S (or actually the iPhone ”5s”, as Apple changed to a lowercase ”s” for unknown reasons). This all seems pretty easy though, right? Apple launches their phone, say the iPhone X (X being an unknown number), which is followed next year by a phone that looks more or less the same, called the iPhone XS. Next year, Apple releases a phone with a new design, and bumps up the number, so the device is called the iPhone X+1 (X+1 being the next number after the unknown X number of the previous phone), and the year after that, they launch a phone with the same design as the iPhone X+1, and the phone is called the iPhone X+1S. Next year, it’s time for the iPhone X+2, then the X+2S, and so on.
In 2013, though, Apple introduced a mid-segment device, to be sold at a lower price so that Apple could avoid selling old outdated iPhones to cover the mid-segment of the market. This meant Apple didn’t have to rely on supporting as old hardware with new updates, which in turn allowed new updates to be more powerful in the future (we’re going to be seeing the first results of this with iOS 9). This mid-segment device did not feature the same design as the iPhone 5s, which it launched alongside, but was undoubtedly part of the ”5”-series – so it was named the ”iPhone 5c”. When the iPhone 6 launched in 2014, there was no iPhone 6c launched alongside this generation – because the mid-segment device (the iPhone Xc, if you will) is only updated every other year, since there isn’t as big a demand for mid-segment devices.
This is why, this year we will first of all see the successor to the iPhone 6. This will naturally retain almost the same design as its predecessor, as we’ve seen happening every other year with Apple’s flagship devices, and therefore this will be called the iPhone 6s. Last year, Apple launched the iPhone 6 in two screen variations – the 4.7” iPhone 6, and (featuring a plus-sized screen) the 5.5” iPhone Plus. Apple keeps their flagship casings around for the next year, as we’ve learned, so Apple will be launching the 4.7” iPhone 6s and the 5.5” iPhone 6s Plus this year. There will be NO iPhone 7 in 2015, as the number 7 is being saved for the next time Apple updates the design of the iPhone, which will be in 2016. This also means there will be NO removed home-button, all-front screen, or Touch-ID integrated into the screen on the iPhone this year.
On the other hand though, we might see an iPhone 6c launch this year, and this does not necessarily have to be a plastic phone like last time. The idea of the ”c”-line is rather to present a cheap alternative to the iPhone, where new technologies can be incorporated if needed, as opposed to selling old iPhones, where you can not make hardware revisions in the same way. This is not necessarily the case though, since the iPhone 5s – still being on sale, and would be the one to be replaced by an iPhone 6c this year – is still an extremely capable phone still with a lot of untapped power, from the 64-bit A7-chip and its Touch ID home-button. It is not obvious that this phone actually needs to be updated – although Apple would arguably like their mid-segment device to feature NFC, which means support for Apple Pay. Again though, keeping the NFC-less iPhone 5s around could prompt its user to buy an Apple Watch, which is NFC-capable and can make Apple Pay purchases together with an iPhone 5s. In the end, only time will tell – but you don’t have to wait to be able to stop calling the next iPhone the iPhone 7, and making yourself look uninformed when the 2015 announcement of the iPhone 6s comes.