iPhone Naming Pattern Sends Wrong Message, Brand Consultant Says


Apple’s iPhone naming pattern isn’t up to the company’s standards for simplicity and clear message delivery and it confuses consumers – or so says Ken Segall, a creative director who has a long history with Apple and NeXT.

From his perspective – and you can agree or disagree with him – the naming conventions of the iPhone, Apple’s best selling product, works to some extent but comes with certain complications in terms of clarity.

The reason: When the new model is launched, two previous models are still sold on the market, so there has to be some distinguishing element. To achieve that Apple has used the numbering system.

However, what confuses the consumer – according to Ken Segall – is adding an S to the existing model. “Tacking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message. It says it this is our ‘off-year’ product, with only modest improvements.”

“The press has already dubbed this year’s model “iPhone 5S.” Most experts see a narrative in which Apple only produces a major upgrade every other year, and in between we get the “S” model. This is the model that delivers only incremental improvements.”

“Whether that’s Apple’s intended message is unknown. But personally, I wish Apple never created a ‘4S.'”

To address this issue, “Apple should give each new iPhone a new number,” he says “and let the improvements speak for themselves,” because he just can’t understand the “S” message. Instead, the difference is obvious between 5 and 6.

What do you think? Did the “S” send the “off-year product” message to you when you bought an S (3GS, 4S) device?


  • Dave

    I think the naming of the iPad is a bigger issue, “the new iPad” what’s with that….

  • Nick

    Besides, they’ll have to keep coming up with S names in their new products. The first S was for Spotlight and the second was for Siri.

  • gtasscarlo

    Apple can say iPhone5S or iPhone 5 faster or whatever. People will still have cash in hand ready to buy the newest.

  • K3

    speed then siri..5 will be sexy

  • K3

    that is more of an odd naming system.

  • Just take my money!

  • Scott

    Yup. I’m with you on the iPad thing.

  • gerry

    Only if the customer can tell which one is the newest model and which is the oldest, is all that matters.

  • gtasscarlo

    Apple will also accept pre-authorized withdraws. If you own an Apple product, you can give the option of withdraws just for fun.

  • zdawg

    personally the shouldnt market the upgrade ones (the s) as a whole new phone. they should just say oh we have made improvements and stuff. but i agree the ipad naming has effed them over.

  • Bernie

    The iPhone 4S is the still the best iPhone to date IMO. The most stable and I don’t have to rebuy all new charging accessories! So the “S” worked in that case! Lol

  • Wow! What a study! Who cares about the ‘S’? When I had my 4 (which I loved) I would have killed for Siri on the new 4S and would’t have felt getting a cheaper one because of the S thing…..

  • mackman6151

    He’s right in what he’s saying but he’s wrong in the sense that since apple keeps 2 other models on the shelf when a product is launched, it’s unreasonable to revamp a design every year (as much as we’d love that). So to have a product with same design but different internals would majorly confuse the customer. With the S naming you know it’s part of the iPhone 4 model generation scheme just a newer upgraded one.