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Former Apple consultant: Apple's iPhone naming conventions send 'weak message'

post #1 of 199
Thread Starter 
Apple is a company that prizes simplicity in nearly all things, but a former Apple adviser says the pattern the company uses to name its bestselling product is decidedly not simple and sends the wrong message about the iPhone.

iphone 4s
Apple's iPhone 4S (image via parvez mobile repairing solution)


Brand consultant Ken Segall says that Apple's naming conventions with the iPhone stray from the simplicity that typifies other aspects of the company's marketing and operations. Since the iPhone 3GS, Apple has introduced an "S" model every other year. Writing (via Business Insider) on his blog, Segall calls this habit unnecessarily complex and awkward.

"Tacking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message," Segall writes. "It says that this is our 'off-year' product, with only modest improvements."

Segall worked with Apple on branding for more than a decade, serving as a creative director at Apple's longtime ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day and later as a consultant to Apple. Working alongside Steve Jobs' creative team, Segall is credited with the creation of the iMac brand, as well as Apple's Think Different campaign.

The former Apple ad man also takes issue with Apple's apparent abandonment of the "new" naming convention it seemed to have adopted with the introduction of the third-generation iPad. The "new iPad" moniker seemed to signal a shift in naming for iOS devices, but the company never adopted it for the iPhone and appears to have dropped the practice with the fourth-generation iPad.

Segall ? who has previously noted that Samsung's ads prodding Apple and iDevice buyers seem to be having an effect ? says Apple should return to a simple numbering system with its iPhones, abandoning the "S" convention entirely.

"I think it's safe to say that if you're looking for a new car," Segall writes, "you're looking for a 2013 model ? not a 2012S. What's important is that you get the latest and greatest... If it's worthy of being a new model, it's worthy of having its own number."

Despite Segall's protestations, Apple's naming conventions don't appear to be slowing sales of the company's hit smartphone. Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously noted that each revision of the iPhone, regardless of name, has gone on to sell more than all of its predecessors combined.
post #2 of 199

The only weak message is calling your 6th device "5". That's just pre-kindergarten levels of stupidity.

 

I'm perfectly fine with the "S" monicker otherwise. 


"you're looking for a 2013 model ? not a 2012S."

 

And if he weren't a complete idiot, he'd realize that the "S" models are no more "identical to last year's but better" than any other product from any other company.

 

This is a forum troll being paid to troll and disguising it as a job. "It looks the same; it must be the same phone" is crap we delete these days.

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post #3 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple is a company that prizes simplicity in nearly all things, but a former Apple adviser says the pattern the company uses to name its bestselling product is decidedly not simple and sends the wrong message about the iPhone.

OK, Mr. Segall: how many products have you developed and produced that sold >100,000,000 units?
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Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #4 of 199
So, this guy launched a more popular product that the iPhone? Please tell us more about it.
post #5 of 199
His argument doesn't make sense. We know that the models don't use years in the designation so what if they call it a 4, 4S, 5, or 5S. They still find plenty of buyers and have difficulty keeping up with demand. The jump from a 4 to a 4S was significant. I expect the 5S to be just as significant.

Maybe Apple just lays out what they bring in the numerical releases, and the S version is mostly a software polish version. Hence the "S".
post #6 of 199
I can see why he's saying what he's saying but the history of the iPhone would show he's wrong as each iPhone has outsold all other iPhones combined since at least the iPhone 4S (not sure if that holds true for the iPhone 5 at this point).

The fact is very few of their customer base care about rushing out for the latest model. Those that do will see that the same design will comes with many significant improvements. Only a fool would claim the whole of the product hasn't changed much if the physical appearance hasn't been radically been redesigned.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #7 of 199

I think people probably make their decisions based on more than the name. Such as what the features are, what works best, whether their contract is up. The name is probably the least of it.

post #8 of 199
Names are a challenge. In this case a challenge for forum trolls and nerds obsesses with "seeming new" rather than quality. NOT a challenge in the actual market, judging by the numbers.

(How are competitor's names not as bad or worse? Samsung S3 to S4 sends some kind of "strong" message?)

I like Apple's names: they are very clear. All iPhones are big advances, but a new number means a new casing. Just a letter? The advances are internal.
post #9 of 199

"Brand consultant."

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #10 of 199
Some great insight from a marketing guy. The "S" feels weird, it feels like a variant of the mainstream product. The public has been trained for decades that these monikers an improved variant, not a totally new product. Honda Accord LX, EX, EX-L are all trims of the same vehicles, with different equipment. Imagine Honda comes up with a new Accord LX for the odd years, and Accord EX for the even ones. Doesn't convey a very strong message.

On the iPad topic, dropping the version number was about the most confusing thing Apple ever did. Instead of calling it a simple "iPad 4" they call it "iPad, fourth generation". In daily usage, people will call it the iPad 4 anyway, but then the "new iPad" is only the iPad 3. If only Apple had sticked the same simple principle for the GUI.
post #11 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

The only weak message is calling your 6th device "5". That's just pre-kindergarten levels of stupidity.

 

 

Oh good god, you're not still going on about that are you! It makes perfect sense to pretty much everyone other than you.

post #12 of 199
Why is everyone dumping on this guy ?

His argument is that adding an S to the model number makes buyers PERCEIVE that no improvements have been made, not that the phones haven't improved. And I think he could well be correct: if the new model appears very similar to last year's, simply suffixing the name with an "S" is just going to reinforce the impression that it is a stopgap until the next round numbers model comes out, no matter what improvements have been made to the hardware.
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Macs. Then: IIc. IIsi. IIfx. Color Classic. LCII. LCIII. Beige G3 266. G4 450. Now: i7 iMac. 24-inch iMac 2.8GHz. MBP 2GHz. G5 2GHz. iPad 32GB wifi
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post #13 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

Names are a challenge. In this case a challenge for forum trolls and nerds obsesses with "seeming new" rather than quality. NOT a challenge in the actual market, judging by the numbers.

(How are competitor's names not as bad or worse? Samsung S3 to S4 sends some kind of "strong" message?)

I like Apple's names: they are very clear. All iPhones are big advances, but a new number means a new casing. Just a letter? The advances are internal.

I've never been a big fan of Apple's names. I can't stand the whole 'i' nomenclature and they have been inconsistence with their iPhone model brandings. The 6G iPhone with the 4Gcase design was released with iOS 6.0, the Apple A6 SoC, but was called the iPhone 5. Then you the 3G being the 2G iPhone in the 2G case with iOS 2.0 so the 3G refers to the baseband processor. The 4G iPhone was the 3G case design did come with the Apple A4 SoC and iOS 4.0 so they dropped the baseband as the branding and did go back to using the release model for the generation, they just didn't carry it through. It's more consistent and less confusing then other vendors who like to add words that would appeal to 10yos but it's not what I'd call sound marketing names.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #14 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackthemac View Post

Why is everyone dumping on this guy ?

His argument is that adding an S to the model number makes buyers PERCEIVE that no improvements have been made, not that the phones haven't improved. And I think he could well be correct: if the new model appears very similar to last year's, simply suffixing the name with an "S" is just going to reinforce the impression that it is a stopgap until the next round numbers model comes out, no matter what improvements have been made to the hardware.

I don't think that is accurate. I think being the same case design gives that impression to the plebs more than the letter 'S' could ever do.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

Reply

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

Reply
post #15 of 199
To who? Tell me that. Weak message? Weak my a**!
Apple is doing , and what a lot of us already know and that is they are going slow as to not screw up the iPhone brand.
post #16 of 199
Quote: "Tacking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message," Segall writes. "It says that this is our 'off-year' product, with only modest improvements."

How silly! It's about what I'd expect from a 'brand consultant' focused on image and illusions. It's shallow, ill-informed people talking about the views of equally shallow, ill-informed people.

I've got both a iPhone 3G and a 3GS. The former was left behind in the later versions of iOS The latter runs most of the features of iOS 6. That little "S" made a big difference, and that hardly indicates 'modest improvements.'

In practice, for iPhones the big digit change is often a change in styling that isn't matched by that many improved internals (i.e. an external band antenna with problems rather than a more reliable internal one). It's the "S" model that gets internal enhancements and a longer useful life.

Cars are similar. It's not wise to buy a car during the first year of a model change. It's better to wait a year or two for the problems to get ironed out and more substantial improvements added.
post #17 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

Oh good god, you're not still going on about that are you! It makes perfect sense to pretty much everyone other than you.

 

Don't encourage him, or we'll get 10 pages of this crap. 

 

Tallest Ski, the phone has been out for 6 months, has been a massive success, and clearly you're the only person on the planet that has an issue with the name, so with all due respect it's high time you got the hell over it. It's just embarassing for you at this point. Don't you see how ridiculous you look? It's like you're gonna hold this childish, petty grudge forever over something so irrelevant. 

 

And regarding Ken Seagall's comments, wow, what timely insight, considering the 3GS came out in 2009, and both that and the 4S outsold all previous phones combined. He could have commented then, instead of waiting 4 years. Clearly noone shares his belief, nor gives a shit what 'marketing message' the phone brings, as they buy the crap out of S models. Apple has been pretty consistent in having the S designate only internal changes in the past 4 years, with full number increases designating redesigns. Although it's impossible to maintain full consistency, compared to other companies and their naming methodologies, this is by far the most consistent and intuitive scheme. If you put all iPhone names in a list, ANYONE could place them in chronological order based only on the name. Try that with any other phone. The S also serves to temper expectations for those looking for physical changes, and gives more weight when Apple decides to up the model #. 


Edited by Slurpy - 4/6/13 at 1:15pm
post #18 of 199
Well, the "S" models ARE linked to their previous models. They're the same form factor with new internals. It'd be hard to give it a new name when it looks exactly the same.
post #19 of 199
I wonder how many of you were around that remember the naming convention Apple used for some of its products during the early 1990s (Power Macintosh 4xxx, 5xxx, 6xxx, 7xxx, 8xxx and 9xxx series). If you really want to talk about something confusing, we can discuss how and why this naming convention was used.

I haven't even mentioned the even more confusing naming scheme used for the PowerBooks (beginning with the PowerBook 100 in 1991 through the PowerBook 3400 in 1997). How, for example, can you rationally explain the increase in model numbers, introducing more powerful and better machines, but at the same time, explain that the PowerBook 3400 superseded the PowerBook 5300, also including the option for an internal CD-ROM Drive, something that was not an option for the 5300? And before I forget, while we are on the topic of confusing naming conventions .. I still remember my PowerBook 1400 (which came after the 5300 also), which itself was available in at least 6 different and separate configurations (117, 133 and 166 MHz.; and with a C (active matrix) or CS (passive matrix) display).
Edited by Digital_Guy - 4/6/13 at 1:20pm
post #20 of 199
The author says that Apple has been tacking on an "S"... "every other model"...

iPhone
iPhone 3G
iPhone 3GS
iPhone 4
iPhone 4S
iPhone 5

Unless I'm mistaken, they've only done this twice, so why the overblown reaction? Nobody knows what the next version will be called, but I think the "S" models are perfectly acceptable iterations of the existing model. Maybe a different monikor is needed, but not a full increment of the model number for every reason.
post #21 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


OK, Mr. Segall: how many products have you developed and produced that sold >100,000,000 units?


iMac's advertisement. Next question?

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Social Capitalist, dreamer and wise enough to know I'm never going to grow up anyway... so not trying anymore.

 

http://m.ign.com/articles/2014/07/16/7-high-school-girls-are-kickstarting-their-awa...

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post #22 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolfactor View Post

Nobody knows what the next version will be called, but I think the "S" models are perfectly acceptable iterations of the existing model. Maybe a different monikor is needed, but not a full increment of the model number for every reason.

I personally think 5S is a bad marketing choice, but not for the reasons he's stated, although I'm sure he'll take credit for the change if they go a different route. Look at the number '5' and the letter 'S'; they are too similar looking, IMO.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

Reply

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

Reply
post #23 of 199
Yes, but when moving from the iPhone 16 to the iPhone 17, is this a big change or a little change?
post #24 of 199
It doesn't matter what the next iPhone will be called. People are still going to buy it. If Apple calls it a 6, critics will complain it looks like the 5 but is faster.
post #25 of 199
First of all, the automotive analogy is a poor choice to support his thesis. Today, in 2013, one can purchase a 2014 automobile. Secondly, the assumption that people make their purchasing decisions entirely on the basis of the current name of the product is insulting to consumers everywhere. As long as the label differentiates one model from another, consumers will attach all sorts of personally relevant data to that label. What;s the difference between iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5? See: http://www.apple.com/iphone/compare-iphones/ Which of these differences is meaningful to you? I'll bet you know that already.
post #26 of 199
The "S" stands for "Special" as in "Special Edition" -- mostly it is internal tweaks such as processor bump and camera optics, etc...

The major revision such as 4 brought Retina Display and 5 brought a complete new form-factor design with a longer display and another major processor jump. 5 also brough Lightning interface connector to the iPhone.

Likely the 5s, if it is indeed called that, will bring a processor revision and maybe some camera updates, possible battery revision, etc. My guess is the 5s will look identical to the 5 as the 4s looked identical to the 4...only internal upgrades.
post #27 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

The only weak message is calling your 6th device "5". That's just pre-kindergarten levels of stupidity.

I'm perfectly fine with the "S" monicker otherwise. 

And if he weren't a complete idiot, he'd realize that the "S" models are no more "identical to last year's but better" than any other product from any other company.

This is a forum troll being paid to troll and disguising it as a job. "It looks the same; it must be the same phone" is crap we delete these days.

I wish I could see the time stamp that shows you posting 3 seconds after the article headline went live.

"iPhone Naming Convention?".....BAM! Tallest is slways there, like death and taxes, to remind all that the naming convention is flawed.
post #28 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoffdino View Post

On the iPad topic, dropping the version number was about the most confusing thing Apple ever did. Instead of calling it a simple "iPad 4" they call it "iPad, fourth generation". In daily usage, people will call it the iPad 4 anyway, but then the "new iPad" is only the iPad 3. If only Apple had sticked the same simple principle for the GUI.

 

actually they market the 4th gen ipad as "Ipad with Retina Display" 

 

Its reference as 4th gen in support documents though.

post #29 of 199
iPhone names?

Who cares!

Now, iPad names...

There's something I'd like to see fixed.
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post #30 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by lightknight View Post


iMac's advertisement. Next question?

Really? He sold 100,000,000 iMac advertisements? I wonder how I missed them.
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Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
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post #31 of 199
I have read a lot of ad folks bashing on Apple, but this may be the first time I believe there might actually be something to the criticism.

While simply keeping to the same name and just adding a number, you maintain something of a certain iconic nature to the device. So long as only one version remained on sale, no problems emerged; every generation of iMac has just been "iMac" with perhaps the exception of the early "iMac DV." Confusion arises when several generations of a device remain on sale, as is the case with both the current and two previous generations of iPhone in stores.

Fortunately, we have the history of the iPod to examine similar circumstances. The flagship iPod was just the "iPod" until it received some major new feature, such as the "iPod video," and ultimately became the "iPod classic." Now, we have the Shuffle, iPod nano, and iPod touch.

The iPhone has avoided this problem for the past four years with its convenient S additions. The S in 3GS supposedly stood for speed, while the S in the 4S stood for Siri. There is much speculation that the next iPhone will incorporate many new security features (though I really hope that will not be the sole basis for calling it the iPhone 5S). The reputed less expensive iPhone in the works may adopt the same naming scheme as with the current iPods and iPad mini and garner its own surname ("iPhone mini?").
post #32 of 199
Somebody please forward this article to Tim.

Thanks.
post #33 of 199
As a 4S owner, I understood when I bought it that it would be a "better" version of the 4 - which it was.

I also took it to mean - based on the name - that accessories meant for the 4 would work with the 4S as well.

So it's as much an ecosystem designator to me as anything else.

Primary=iPhone, Secondary=4/4S
post #34 of 199
Yes, Apple has really messed up ... as sales of millions upon millions of devices prove. Few people care about this.
post #35 of 199
I'd tend to agree. But if I'm not mistaken sales aren't really affected by the fact that there's an S each year instead of a new model. If they changed number every year people would complain. Until Apple can't make a drastic redesign each year, there is no need to change this convention.
That said, I hope that there is no 5S this year. Having the S as a trend isn't very original. Or at least use it this year for the last time. 6S would feel wrong.
Edited by ClemyNX - 4/6/13 at 2:04pm
post #36 of 199
They wisely called the the second version of the A5 processor the A5X.
If they had called it the A5S, they would have opened themselves to endless jokes about the ASS-powered phone.
post #37 of 199
Honestly, the S versions have been much better than the new models. Yes, they may have modest improvements, but they are still fasterer than it's predecessor.

For me, thanks to my carrier in Canada where we're only eligible for hardware upgrades on smartphones every 3 years and our contract terms are 3 years as well. I shall be looking at the iPhone 7S as my next smartphone. Hopefully, my iPhone will last one year longer and be able to survive after my extended warranty runs out. Smartphones don't usually last longer than 2 years. Canadian carriers don't care about that though.
post #38 of 199
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post
It makes perfect sense to pretty much everyone other than you.

 

No one on Earth would tell you that it makes sense to call the 6th model of a product running the 6th version of its software on the 6th iteration of its processor "5".

 

Were it an Apple competitor, it would be still be mocked "six months out".


Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post
Tallest Ski, the phone has been out for 6 months, has been a massive success, and clearly you're the only person on the planet that has an issue with the name, so with all due respect it's high time you got the hell over it. It's just embarassing for you at this point. Don't you see how ridiculous you look?

 

Yes, it's quite embarrassing for me that everyone else seems to want to perpetuate stupidity. Maybe I should say, "2+2=5". That probably makes more sense, given the sheer lack of questioning the name.

 

I don't give a flying frick how successful the device is. That doesn't matter. People clearly don't have a clue why the name is a problem.

 

Originally Posted by bmason1270 View Post
I wish I could see the time stamp that shows you posting 3 seconds after the article headline went live.

 

I don't understand… It's right there. And you're wrong.


Originally Posted by jakeb View Post
They wisely called the the second version of the A5 processor the A5X.
If they had called it the A5S, they would have opened themselves to endless jokes about the ASS-powered phone.
 

That wasn't a "second version". It was the same processor with a better GPU. The same is true of the A6X.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
post #39 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoffdino View Post


On the iPad topic, dropping the version number was about the most confusing thing Apple ever did. Instead of calling it a simple "iPad 4" they call it "iPad, fourth generation". In daily usage, people will call it the iPad 4 anyway, but then the "new iPad" is only the iPad 3. If only Apple had sticked the same simple principle for the GUI.

Quick question. Did you type this on your iMac 7?
post #40 of 199
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

The only weak message is calling your 6th device "5". That's just pre-kindergarten levels of stupidity.

 

I know this quote has been beaten to death, but I'd also like to take a stab at it.

 

Barely any of the "mainstream" iPhone customers have a clue how many iPhones Apple has made. I'd wager more people would be confused by the apparent absence of of all odd numbers in the naming scheme than anything else. Can you imagine 4S, 6, 6S, 8, 8S 10..etc..etc. The mainstream customer doesn't care how many actual iPhone models have been made, and they have a very short-term memory. They just care that 5 comes after 4 and 6 comes after 5 and that's that.

 

The whole problem is in fact perpetrated by the "S" naming convention. If they had just named the 4S the 5 and the forthcoming iPhone the 6 and so on, the problem would be completely solved.

 

Anyhow..

 

However, to play devils advocate to the advertisers (in the article) insistence that the 'S' naming convention sends a weak message to consumers, I would say that perhaps it is the opposite. Perhaps the 'S' signifies to consumers that this isn't Apples beta version they're testing on you, but instead a tried and true iteration on the last product with beefed up speed...food for thought anyway.

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