Apple just announced the iPhone 5, instead of the more logical iPhone 6 or 'new iPhone'. Here are 7 reasons why Apple chose the name iPhone 5.
Plenty of Apple-focused technology journalists - including this one, I'm afraid - reckoned that if there was one thing Apple wouldn't call its late 2012 smartphone, it was iPhone 5. After all, Apple seemed to have left the numbering game behind when it called the third-gen iPad 'the new iPad' earlier this year; and even if it did go for a number, this is the sixth iPhone model, not the fifth!
To make up for the subsequent egg on face when Apple revealed the iPhone 5 after all, I've put together a list of reasons why we're writing about the iPhone 5 this morning instead of the iPhone 6 or the new iPhone.
1 The whole 'new iPad' thing didn't work out so well
Maybe Apple is pulling a bit of a U-turn, after coming in for a mixture of mockery and confusion when it launched the iPad all over again (or the 'new iPad' in the short term) back in March.
If civilians go into Apple Stores and ask about iPads, and hear that there's an iPad and an iPad 2, but the iPad is more expensive and more advanced, they're likely to be baffled. And the whole thing will get worse next year if the 'new iPad' is old and the new iPad is also called 'the new iPad'. Or something.
In the press we tend to call it the third-gen iPad for convenience and clarity. If even dedicated writers devoted to your sector have to make up new names to get a handle on which product is which, you're probably being confusing.
2 Because people still buy older versions of the iPhone
Actually things are worse for the iPhone than for the iPad, because older versions of the iPhone tend to remain popular for longer. Not everyone wants or needs the latest smartphone, or even the one before that, to a greater extent than with most gadgets.
We've been listing the iPhone 4 alongside the iPhone 4S in the review pages of iPad & iPhone User since the 4S came out, since it's still very popular; as in fact is the iPhone 3GS. While the iPad 2 was still shifting cut-price units after the 'new iPad' came out, it's harder to imagine someone going into an Apple Store and asking for a 1st-gen iPad. There are some differences in budgets among tablet buyers, but the range of needs are narrower than in the mature and complex smartphone market.
In other words, when you buy an iPhone, it's important to be able to talk easily about multiple versions with reasonable ease.
3 To emphasise that this is a properly new iPhone…
The iPhone 5 has the most significant physical changes since the first iPhone, with a larger, 16:9 screen and a thinner, lighter body; not to mention a faster processor with faster graphics, a camera that's better in low light and equipped for panorama photos, and an allegedly longer-lasting battery. Surely that deserves a new version number, rather than the faint praise of 'new iPhone'?
4 …and to subtly admit that the iPhone 4S wasn't
The iPhone 4S, on the other hand, was physically virtually identical to the iPhone 4, even though it had some nice internal upgrades. Apple won't want anyone to miss the fact that this is a major reworking of its smartphone, but in choosing the number 5 instead of 6, could it be tacitly acknowledging that the 4S wasn't a full iPhone? That it was just the iPhone 4 with a new coat of paint and Siri?
If so, it's hard cheese on the 4S's excellent camera, but who knows.
5 Because now really isn't the time to be modest
Apple is doing great in a lot of ways. It's the wealthiest company in the world, and anyone who thinks people don't get excited about iPhone launches any more need only check the internet traffic data for last night. But Apple is under pressure from Samsung and other Android smartphone makers, and it's in a real fight to convince buyers to pick iPhone instead of the Galaxy S3, for example.
The S3 has achieved real brand recognition in the relatively non-tech-savvy mainstream, and many (possibly muddled) people took from the recent court case between Apple and Samsung the message that Samsung's smartphones are the same as Apple's, only cheaper.
Maybe next year Apple will give up on the numbering routine (although I'm abandoning predictions in that department), but right now Apple needs to be yelling at anyone who'll listen that it's updated the iPhone in a meaningful and worthwhile way.
6 Because everyone else was calling it the iPhone 5
Apple does make adverts, but a lot of its marketing is done for it by tech blogs, news sites and Twitter users excitedly speculating about its new releases. The term 'iPhone 5' had enormous interest and brand recognition long before last night's announcement, and it would be a shame to waste that.
Not that it hurt the artist formerly known as iPad 3 to suddenly become plain old iPad when it came out, admittedly.
7 Because Apple never does what you expect (except when it does, just to confuse you)
We should probably just stop trying to predict what Apple's going to do next, shouldn't we?