The tech media and iPhone users alike anticipated an iPhone 5 in 2011. But now that the 4S has been injected into the iPhone’s legacy, questions remains about whether the 2012 iPhone will be iPhone 5 or iPhone 6.
Speculating and prognosticating about the iPhone has quickly become a pastime in the tech blogosphere, with websites like DigiTimes leaking just enough bits of information throughout the course of the year to fuel a wide range of rumors about the next iPhone’s features and release date. 2011 marked a fever pitch of rumors that ubiquitously became known as the “iPhone 5 rumor mill,” with the “iPhone 5″ as the working title for what everyone expected the next iPhone to be named.
All of the stars seemed to be aligning: the 2011 iPhone was to be the fifth generation iPhone, with the A5 chip, iOS 5, and presumably a new form factor, validating the name “iPhone 5.” What we got instead was the incongruous “iPhone 4S,” named after the re-use of the iPhone 4 chassis and the added processing power accounting for the “S” in its name for “speed” — just as Apple had done with the iPhone 3GS.
Sticklers now have to get past the fact that the iPhone 4S has iOS 5, the A5 chip, and the designation of being the fifth generation iPhone. Apple was well aware of all these fives — and purposely turned their backs on the “iPhone 5″ name. And for good reason: the iPhone 4S, while indeed a groundbreaking device, isn’t necessarily deserving of the “iPhone 5″ moniker.
But from a naming standpoint, where do we go from here? How is the tech media going to brand the next iPhone? What name will it be given — “iPhone 5″ or “iPhone 6?” It is a conundrum, and there are no definitive answers on how to predict which one Apple will use in 2012 — or if they’ll use either or them.
Usually, when humans are presented with a pattern or series — even if it’s just a segment of that pattern — they can manage to put together the rest of the puzzle. Apple’s taxonomy for the iPhone, however, has proven so complex and hard to track that it makes guessing the name of the next iPhone more of an uneducated guess than an educated one. While an infinite number of theories abound, it would seem that the culprit in this naming nightmare is the skipping of “iPhone 2″ with the second generation iPhone: because Apple chose to jump on the chance to brand their second iPhone with the “3G” network, the naming process has forever been in flux.
Those who believe the 2012 iPhone will be the iPhone 6 will tell you that, because it will be the sixth generation iPhone, and very well may include the A6 chip and perhaps [though unlikely] iOS 6, Apple will skip over “iPhone 5″ just as they did with “iPhone 2,” in order to get back on track with naming the iPhone after its generation, just as they did with the iPhone 4.
Logic prevails in this theory, and it is hard to argue. But there are some salient points to consider: back when Apple skipped “iPhone 2″ for “iPhone 3G,” the device wasn’t as high-profile as it is today, and the skip in numbers might come to confuse the public at large. Also, back when Apple jumped from iPhone 1 to iPhone 3G, they did it to capitalize on branding with the 3G technology. Even if the 2012 iPhone turns out to be 4G, if it features a form factor redesign, it is unlikely that Apple would call it the “iPhone 4G” or “4Gs” — that would turn out to be one too many 4s. But what Apple’s number jumping in the past tells us is that they have never done it just to get back on track with the correct generation.
As a result, they might be just as happy to call it “iPhone 5,” even if it is the sixth generation iPhone.
And that’s what those who believe that Apple will use “iPhone 5″ fr the next iPhone will tell you: just as there was a 3G and 3G, followed by a 4, there will now be a 4 and 4S followed by a 5 — it’s the new pattern that Apple is trying to establish; they will sandwich refreshed models between overhauls. Just as they disregarded the fifth generation designation of the iPhone 4S, they’ll be happy to disregard the sixth generation designation of the 2012 iPhone and simply call it “iPhone 5.” After all, there is still a great deal of pent-up energy and desire for the iPhone 5, and Apple deciding to skip over it may cause a compounded sense of bewilderment.
So what’s the answer?
In the end, the tech media is going to have to work out what they will want to refer to the 2012 iPhone as. They could do what I’ve been doing in this article — just call it the “2012 iPhone,” but let’s face it: it doesn’t have the sexiness that “iPhone 5″ or “iPhone 6” has. At this juncture, my belief is that the tech media is bound to keep using “iPhone 5,” if for no other reason than they have a great deal invested in that keyword — it still remains highly searched on Google.
It will most likely work itself out in the weeks and months to come.
By Michael Nace