Apple has followed a very predictable naming structure for their phones for many years now. They operate on a tick-tock strategy similar to Intel’s, offering first a new design and a year later an optimised version. The new designs have new numbers – iPhone 5 – and the optimised versions have the S suffix – iPhone 5S. This year though, that’s set to change, as Apple are expected to release two new phones, both much bigger than their predecessors at 4.7 and 5.5 inches. So what will the new iPhones be called?
One option is that Apple will co-opt the ‘Air’ and ‘Pro’ branding that describes their line of MacBook laptops. Here the Air is the slim version focused on portability, while the Pro is a larger model built around performance. We saw the redesigned full-size iPad gain the Air moniker last year, in order to more easily differentiate it from the iPad Mini. A similar strategy could work here, with the presumably slimmer 4.7-inch model becoming the iPhone 6 Air and the 5.5-inch model becoming the iPhone 6 Pro. Some case manufacturers, like Melkco, have already begun to use this taxonomy when describing their upcoming iPhone 6 cases.
Another possibility is that we’ll see a single letter suffix to differentiate the two. The plastic iPhone 5 was the iPhone 5C, but as both iPhones are expected to be made from metal, a different suffix might be more appropriate. Perhaps it could be the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6l? Or the iPhone 6x? There’s no evidence one way or another, but it seems an appropriately Apple-like solution to the problem.
The final possibility I can see is that Apple will just call both models iPhone 6, and differentiate them only with their screen size. That means we’d see the iPhone 6 4.7 and the iPhone 6 5.5. This is a rather awkward naming structure, but it does allow Apple to promote the iPhone 6 as a single phone that just happens to come in two sizes. They use a similar strategy with their laptop lines (e.g. MacBook Air 11, MacBook Air 13), but the decimal points here make it a bit less convincing.
This idea could be extended by dropping the generational number entirely, so we’d have the iPhone 4.7 and iPhone 5.5. Differentiation with later models could be done through release dates like ‘MacBook Pro (Early 2011)’. Another interesting option is we just have iPhone Pro and iPhone Air, with the release identifiers attached as necessary.
Ultimately, in the absence of convincing leaks it will be difficult to predict what Apple will call their new handsets. I believe these three options above are the most likely, but none of them seem excellent enough to obviously be the right answer. We’ll just have to wait until Apple’s iPhone 6 press event to know for sure.