In the time I’ve been following Apple, there hasn’t been a product as confusing in its naming sequence as the iPad. With iPhone, the naming has been relatively simple. At its beginning – following success with iPod and iTunes – iPhone was really the only name that would work for an Apple-branded smartphone. It made sense. It made so much sense that it had to go through an expensive lawsuit with Cisco who’d previously trademarked the name. Lower case “i” followed by a monosyllabic word describing what to expect is Apple’s ‘way’.
iPhone’s second generation gained 3G support and became iPhone 3G. A year later, and so began the “S” updates. 3GS was a slightly faster version of the 3G. S = Speed. After that, the iPhone switched to a sequential naming system. 4th generation became iPhone 4, we got an ‘S’ version in 2011. The only really confusion for us came in 2012. Some were convinced that because it was the 6th generation model that it would be iPhone 6. I’m pretty sure I was one of them. But, sequential numbers continued and most likely will continue for a while longer. All in all, it’s been pretty simple. Much simpler than the task handed to the folks who name Samsung or Nokia devices that’s for sure.
With iPad, it’s been confusing since the start. First of all, so many were convinced it would be ‘iSlate’. When Steve Jobs officially announced it would be ‘iPad’, it sparked a huge number of jokes centered on feminine hygiene products. I have to admit, I wasn’t convinced it was a great name, but it stuck and has since become iconic. iPad 2, made complete sense. It was the second model.
It was the next year it became clear that perhaps Apple wasn’t entirely convinced on a naming system. It departed from its iPhone-esque sequential naming system and went with a non-specific “New iPad”. I liked it at the time. From a consumer point of view, going in to a store and asking about “the new iPad” made so much sense and meant they didn’t have to get confused about numbers and letters. (On that note: You’d be surprised how many people refer to the iPhone 3GS as the “iPhone 3″.) But then, what would Apple do with the 4th generation? You can’t keep calling something the “new iPad” every year when differences between them could be huge. To that note, it was almost like it was being pulled in to the Mac method of naming. So many times you’d see “new MacBook” when an update was released.
What we call iPad 4 was officially known as “iPad with Retina”. Another tip of the hat to MacBook naming which had recently been blessed with Retina displays themselves. Now we had MacBook with Retina and iPad with Retina. We also got iPad mini, and we all know the only other Apple product with “mini” in the moniker is another Mac product.
So then we get to 2014 and I’m a little more confused than I’d normally be. Apple’s kept up with its MacBook style naming, but once again, change the 9.7″ iPad’s name. Apple’s latest iPad is slimmer, lighter but more powerful than any previous iPad. Dubbed “iPad Air” it certainly fits in with the MacBook branding pattern. Does it signal the arrival of a Pro model in the future? Who knows. It could, but I’m not convinced. I think I’ve just come to the conclusion that Apple doesn’t name products with the future in mind.
Since 2010 we’ve had:
- iPad 2
- New iPad
- iPad with Retina
- iPad Air
There is no sequence or order to any of it. On the mini side, we have iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina. Both of this year’s products leave me with the same question I had last year in March when Apple announced the “new iPad”. What does that mean for next year’s iPads? Will it be “new iPad mini with Retina” or “iPad mini with Retina 2″, or maybe “iPad mini Air” or “iPad mini 3″. Same goes for iPad Air. Could it even mash together iPhone ‘S’ naming and MacBook naming? “iPad Air ‘s’” perhaps?
With the iPad, it’s clear Apple either doesn’t care or hasn’t got an inkling as to what name is next. With MacBook, different names differentiate specific features. We know what to expect from a Mac mini, or MacBook Pro when compared to the iMac or MacBook Air. All the different names have survived generations of devices, even when hardware design has changed. The same is true of the iPod lineup. They’ve always had strong names. We always know what an iPod touch is, regardless of generation. But, there was very little difference between the “new iPad” and “iPad with Retina”and it got a new name. iPad keeps on getting new names.
Does it matter? Probably not. As long as Apple keeps on working on the new devices, it can name them anything it wants. Yesterday’s announcements just got me thinking about the whole naming thing and that perhaps it doesn’t matter as much as we might think it does. If Apple ends up releasing a bigger iPhone, will we see a similar trend with our smartphones?
One thing we can say for sure is that it’s pretty much impossible to guess what’s next based solely on this generation’s name. If you think iPad Air means we’ll see a Pro, it’s worth noting that iPad Air could be changed to something else by 12 months time, or in 24 months time when we’ll undoubtedly see an even thinner and lighter 9.7″ tablet.
What do you think? Should Apple have decided to stick with a numerical sequence, or was it right to switch to the Mac way of branding? Will we see an iPad Pro? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me: @TiP_Cam.