As you've probably noticed in recent days, iPhone rumor season has hit fever pitch.
The conventional wisdom is that there will be three iPhones this year instead of the traditional two. The "iPhone 7S" and "iPhone 7S Plus" would be the traditional "S phone" upgrades we get in odd-numbered years, keeping the same basic design we've seen since the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014, while adding some new under-the-hood hardware improvements -- the requisite faster CPU and better cameras, along with (possibly) something like inductive wireless charging.
The third iPhone would be a top-of-the-line model. And thanks to that recent HomePod firmware leak, we appear to know a lot more about it than ever before: An all-new, almost no-bezel design would fit a Plus-size OLED screen into a standard iPhone-sized body. Supposedly, it even drops the Touch ID home button in place of facial recognition.
But what we don't know is the name. It's apparently referred to as "D22," and may have been nicknamed "Ferrari" (further reflecting its status in the lineup as the lustworthy sports car you want, but may not be able to afford).
So, what will that high-end iPhone be called? There's zero definitive information, so we can only guess. To that end, here are the top candidates that have been making the rounds on the Internet for the past few months.
This is the default name that most have been using for the high-end iPhone. And because it's the No. 1 "new iPhone" term on Google Trends, it's become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: As more publishers seek to cash in on the search engine optimization (SEO) value of "iPhone 8," more stories about "iPhone 8" flood your feeds. (Yes, this is one of those stories.)
Will Apple actually go with this name? Apple pundit John Gruber suggests that 3 new iPhones could get some form of the "iPhone 8" moniker if the lower-end S models offer a surprise design overhaul, too.
This nomenclature would bring the iPhone line into a degree of symmetry with Apple's laptop and iPad lines. MacBook, MacBook Pro. iPad, iPad Pro. iPhone, iPhone Pro. OK, iPhone would be a bit messier. After all, if Apple follows its normal tradition, the existing iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will remain on sale with $100 knocked off the price. The iPhone SE, which was refreshed in March, would presumably remain as the entry-level iPhone. And the "iPhone 7S" and "7S Plus" would be in the line, too. (Or some of those models could stay, or none of them; Apple could totally shake things up.)
But "iPhone Pro" would be the first-ever use of that name -- a nice nod to its "newness" -- and the Pro designation as "king of the hill" would line up with everyone's general understanding of Apple's product lines. The only problem is that it somehow sounds "unfun" -- like a phone that's destined for you to toil away on work-related tasks.
iPhone X (or iPhone 10)
The iPhone numbering scheme got derailed almost immediately. The second iPhone was called the iPhone 3G, the fifth iPhone was the iPhone 4S, and so on. There have been at least two iPhones released every year since 2013, and Wikipedia counts at least 15 different models to date. But since 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the iPhone's debut, it would be a great opportunity to reset the clock, as it were -- similar to how Microsoft jumped from Windows 8 straight to Windows 10.
The problem with the Roman numeral, though, is that everyone will inevitably mispronounce it as "iPhone Ex," as they did with the OS X operating system.
iPhone Edition (or iPhone Anniversary Edition)
When the Apple Watch first launched, the line included a gold model that started for a cool $10,000. The so-called Apple Watch Edition still exists, but now in a ceramic body that starts at a somewhat less stratospheric $1,249. With all signs pointing to the high-end iPhone starting at prices near $1,000 and going up from there, the analogy to the luxury watch lines up nicely. Still, "iPhone Edition" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
Alternately, teeing off the iPhone X/10 idea above, some think Apple might go with something like "iPhone Anniversary Edition." The problem with that, as many have already suggested, is that Apple rarely invokes nostalgia (giant pricey coffee table books notwithstanding). The company wants to keep consumers focused on its view of an ever-better future, not have them pining for some sort of idealized past.
Apple could opt for stripping things back down to ultimate simplicity. It did this in 2015 with its newest, sexiest laptop losing the Air name and just going with "MacBook." Likewise, the iPad Air 2 was replaced by "iPad."
Two problems here. Just "iPhone" sounds more like a baseline model, which doesn't help distinguish it from a line that would likely retain one if not two "Plus" 5.5-inch models -- even though they would be stepdowns to this king of the hill model. Meanwhile, "iPhone" has, as we say in the business, terrible SEO. The default search terms would immediately become something like "new iPhone," "iPhone 2017" or "OLED iPhone." That's the opposite of good branding.
Steve Jobs was all about the iNames -- iMac, iCloud, iTunes, iPhone and iPad. But starting with Jobs' own introduction of the Apple TV and continuing into the Tim Cook era, it's been more about "Apple [insert generic product name here]." With Apple Music, Apple Pay and Apple Watch being the buzzwords of the day, would the company ever hit the ultimate reset button and walk away from the iPhone name?
My guess? Not in a million years. Throwing away one of the most valuable brand names in history just doesn't sound like a smart idea.
The wait will be over soon
For my money, "iPhone Pro" sounds like the best bet, but somehow still not quite right. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple pulls something totally unexpected but familiar out of the ether, not unlike the "HomePod" name. (We generally called that product the "Siri Speaker" in the rumor phase.)
And if you dislike the eventual name, just remember to take a beat. Believe it or not, the name "iPad" was originally mocked and derided, as was the moniker for the Nintendo Wii. Both of them went on to become smashing successes.
The good news -- regardless of the eventual name -- is that the wait should soon be over. Expect Tim Cook to be on stage in just a few weeks, proudly holding the new iPhone ______ high above his head.