The case for an iPhone 6

What sounds better when you’re buying a new car: a “2013 model” or a “2012 S” model? Nomenclature is a powerful thing, and it can extend its control to determining how people buy products. At least, that’s what a former Apple consultant believes, according to an AppleInsider post.

Apple is noted for its simplicity, its clean design philosophy, and, most importantly, the clarity of its product naming. You don’t hear of the “Apple iMac G5600-913” (or something ridiculous like that). It’s simply “iMac”.

When it comes to their flagship product, however, the Cupertino giant has had an interesting take. Yes, the names of the various iPhones are still elegant, and they do denote the revision cycle: single number for a “major release” (e.g. iPhone 4, iPhone 5), and an added “S” (no one knows what it exactly means) for “revisions” – such as the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S.

However, as with all things tech, the pace of development and competition moves rapidly. Apple’s biggest rival, Samsung, has already announced its next major device: the Galaxy S4. It’s packed with features, and poses a serious threat to iPhone. Now, psychologically, if Apple were to announce an iPhone “5S” this July at WWDC, most would draw the conclusion that the company is finally slowing down on the innovation train. Already, iOS is accused of its dated aesthetic. It hasn’t changed much since 2008; most visuals remain the same. The next iPhone itself isn’t expected to bring a dramatic new design, like its predecessor the iPhone 4 did. But if they were to name it an “iPhone 6”… that would be a major thing. It would denote a major leap up from last year’s 5, and, like the car analogy earlier, it would just “sound” like a newer, more enticing product. Something that would do wonders for Apple’s reputation.

The consultant, Ken Segall, argues that Apple’s naming pattern for the iPhone is sending out a negative message about the product and the company itself. It’s psychologically important for us, living in a consumerist culture, to get the latest and greatest. That’s just a fact. We can’t escape it.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Realistically speaking, and from a plethora of rumours, part leaks and analyst reports, along with obvious precedent, there’s no expectation for Apple to do anything drastic to the next iPhone. That’s expected to happen next year (2014), with the “iPhone 6” – which would follow this year’s expected “iPhone 5S.” What is expected, is a major revision of iOS. Apple’s design guru, Sir Jonathan Ive, is now heading the software design team, and rumours are that he’s already slashing the existing skeuomorphic tendencies and working towards a cleaner, minimal aesthetic.

Whilst its great to speculate and hope for an iPhone called the “iPhone 6” to land this year, we must remeber that Apple’s naming culture hasn’t really hurt iPhone sales:

Despite Segall’s protestations, Apple’s naming conventions don’t appear to be slowing sales of the company’s hit smartphone. Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously noted that each revision of the iPhone, regardless of name, has gone on to sell more than all of its predecessors combined (from the AppleInsider post)

Whether the next iPhone will be the iPhone 6, or the iPhone 5S, one thing’s certain: before the year’s end, the software that powers the smartphone that shook the world, iOS, will certainly look and feel different. And bottom line: that experience, above all, is what counts on an Apple mobile device.

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