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The New iPhone

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Many people have questioned what the next iPhone — widely expected to be released in under a month’s time — will be called? Let’s look at our options.

iPhone 5 or iPhone 6

“iPhone 5” is the name that people have most commonly assigned to the upcoming iPhone, but there are a number of problems with that guess. The first of which is that it’s not the fifth iPhone — it’s the sixth. We’ve had (in order):

  1. The original iPhone
  2. The iPhone 3G
  3. The iPhone 3GS
  4. The iPhone 4
  5. And the iPhone 4S.

Because of this, I believe that we won’t be hearing about the “iPhone 5”. It also doesn’t make sense to jump from iPhone 4 and 4S straight to iPhone 6. Instead, I believe that when Tim Cook gets on stage next month, he’s going to call the device “the new iPhone”.

But for those of us who are geeks and care about the way that this model will be described over time, there are two obvious possibilities…

The New iPhone (5th generation)

If you’ve watched Apple for any amount of time, you may have noticed that all Apple devices have a model identifier. For example, the new 15” Retina-enabled MacBook Pro has a model identifier of MacBookPro10,1. The third-generation iPad with Verizon LTE networking is iPad3,2, while the WiFi-only model is iPad3,1.

Let’s look at the aforementioned list of iPhone models again, this time with their model identifiers.

  • The original iPhone (iPhone1,1)
  • The iPhone 3G (iPhone1,2)
  • The iPhone 3GS (iPhone2,1)
  • The iPhone 4 (iPhone3,1 for AT&T, iPhone3,2 for Verizon)
  • And the iPhone 4S (iPhone4,1)

If we follow the pattern, the next iPhone will have a model identifier of iPhone5,1. This means that it will be the fifth-generation iPhone according to Apple’s own internal naming scheme.

Most recently, Apple switched the iPad from versioned naming (i.e., iPad, iPad 2) to the take-off-your-coat-and-stay-awhile style of naming (i.e., “the new iPad”), and only refers to it by its generation when it needs to explicitly differentiate between models.

Apple’s iPod lineup has always followed this naming convention. There was the original iPod with the mechanical scroll-wheel, followed by the iPod (2G) with the touch scroll-wheel. The first iPod I owned was a 15 GB iPod (3G). The first iPod to support photos was “iPod photo” (4G). The second iPod I owned was a glossy black 60 GB iPod (5G) with video. I currently own a 160 GB “iPod classic” (6G). Even the iPod touch has followed the same pattern. The current model is an iPod touch (4G).

The problem with the iPhone following this model is that there are different kinds of “Gs” floating around for phones that would only cause confusion. For example the iPhone 3G was not the third-generation iPhone — it was the iPhone with support for a third-generation wireless network.

The next iPhone is widely expected to have support for LTE wireless networking (i.e., real 4G), but it would be the fifth-generation iPhone. I can hear the confusing conversations amongst clueless teenagers now:

“My iPhone has 5G, but yours is only 4G.”

“Actually, mine is 3G and yours is 4G.”

“No, mine is called ‘5G’, so it’s better than your 4G.”

“You mean my ‘4S’?

…and so on. There is no way that Apple will begin throwing extra Gs around all willy-nilly like that.

The New iPhone (2012)

Because the Mac lineup has been around for so long, Apple doesn’t give their computers names like 3G, 3GS or 4. Just like with the new iPad, Apple simply refers to them at introductions as “the new iMac”, or “the new MacBook”.

When it comes to tech support, however, they use specific identifiers to determine the model. For example:

While the names are about as verbose as “HP Pavilion dv7t–7000 Quad Edition Entertainment Notebook PC”, or “Dell New Inspiron 17R Special Edition with Truelife”, they’re far more descriptive.

iPhones only come out with one model a year, where the only difference between devices of that model year is internal storage capacity. Following this pattern, the original was the iPhone (2007). I currently own an iPhone (2010) and am looking to replace it this fall with an iPhone (2012). They’re all iPhones. The model year only matters when you need to be more specific than that.

Of course, if I wanted to be even more specific, I would say that I wanted to get a “white iPhone (2012; 128 GB; Verizon LTE)”.

If I were a betting man, this is where I would put my money.

Whither the next iPhone?

The next iPhone is expected to be announced in less than a month. The most recent rumors I’ve read suggest that the next iPhone will be announced on September 12, and begin shipping on September 21.

The Infamous They also suggest that it will have a redesigned body with a larger screen (if this is true, I’d bet on 1024x640 or 1536x960 (16:10) instead of the more awkward 16:9), a new 8/9-pin connector, fast LTE networking, a near-field communication (NFC) sensor, larger storage options, a faster quad-core Apple A6 CPU, and more memory (duh).

In a few weeks, we’ll find out what I’m going to be shelling-out $399 for. :)

Ryan Parman

is an engineering manager with over 20 years of experience across software development, site reliability engineering, and security. He is the creator of SimplePie and AWS SDK for PHP, patented multifactor-authentication-as-a-service at WePay, defined much of the CI/CD and SRE disciplines at McGraw-Hill Education, and came up with the idea of “serverless, event-driven, responsive functions in the cloud” while at Amazon Web Services in 2010. Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than . Ambivert. Curious. Not a coffee drinker.