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iPhone Naming Rumors, 2018 Edition

Jeremy Horwitz, writing at VentureBeat:

Following last week’s apparent confirmation of the “iPhone Xs” name for the 5.8-inch sequel to Apple’s iPhone X, multiple reports are claiming that Apple has picked an unusual name for its 6.5-inch model: “iPhone Xs Max.” Published almost simultaneously, the claims from 9to5Mac and BGR are somewhat hard to take seriously, but presented for your consideration.

None of these names make sense to me if we’re supposed to pronounce the X as “ten”, but I said the same thing last year.

One reason I can see not using “Plus”: the previous “Plus” iPhone always had more to offer than sheer display size. They had better cameras than their non-Plus siblings, offering features like optical image stabilization and, later on, dual lenses. They also had higher resolutions displays with more pixels per inch. They were “plus” in more ways than size. This year, it looks as though the only difference between the two OLED models is size.

My guess was that Apple would just call both models “iPhone XS”, in the same way that they don’t give a different name to the larger iPad Pro or MacBook Pro. But if they are going to give the bigger one a separate name, I suppose “Max” is fine.

Additionally, the name “iPhone Xr” has been circulating as the supposed title of the 6.1-inch budget iPhone model, which will sit below the iPhone Xs but above the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus in Apple’s lineup. Like the “Max” name, this one is hard to swallow given that “Xr” hasn’t been used in an Apple product before, and apart from coming earlier in the alphabet than “Xs,” doesn’t have an obvious meaning. Like the Xs Max, the Xr name should be taken with at least a grain of salt for the time being.

This seems nutty to me, because it doesn’t sound like a product that should cost $200 less than the “XS”. This one also isn’t sourced — both 9to5Mac and BGR claim multiple sources gave them the “XS Max” name.1 This “XR” name is just floating about. To me the very obvious choice would be to call the 6.1-inch LCD model the “iPhone 9”, but the one tidbit I have heard is that the name of this model is “surprising”. “iPhone 9” would not be surprising at all; “iPhone XR” would be.

My original guess, before any of these rumors began dropping last week, was that Apple would call the 6.1-inch LCD model “iPhone” and both of the OLED models “iPhone Pro” — again, just like the naming scheme for iPads and MacBooks. And then next year they’d just have the new iPhone and iPhones Pro. One problem with that idea is that the new 5.8-inch OLED iPhone — the one widely expected to be called the iPhone XS — looks just like last year’s iPhone X. The gold model will look different of course, but the form factor is purportedly unchanged. If Apple ever does use the name “iPhone Pro”, it would make way more sense to start using that name with a significant form factor change. (Maybe when they get rid of the notch?)

The other problem I can see with a simple iPhone/iPhone Pro naming scheme is that the iPhone is an annual product. There have been new models every single year, and starting with the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple has been consistent right down to the week. I would wager a large sum of money today that next year’s new iPhones will be announced at an event on Tuesday, 10 September 2019. There is something about iPads and MacBooks that makes it seem OK to just keep using the exact same names (and identifying specific models, when necessary, with the year) that wouldn’t seem right with iPhones.


  1. There’s also this tweet from Mark Gurman, in which he says Seth Weintraub’s guess of “iPhone 9, iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max” is “close” and subsequently suggests the one that was wrong was “iPhone 9”. ↩︎