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

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 203
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    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.

  • Reply 2 of 203
    gwmacgwmac Posts: 1,795member
    Very valid points. Rightly or wrongly when you hear "S" after a name that otherwise has remained the same like the 4 to 4S or possibly now the 5 and 5S, you immediately think minor upgrade. It doesn't matter that the changes might be as much if not more than going from the 4S to the 5, that is just a gut reaction. If they were to release the exact same phone they have planned for the 5S but call it the iPhone 6 I personally think there would be a lot more excitement and buzz resulting in higher sales.
  • Reply 3 of 203
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    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?
  • Reply 4 of 203
    bwikbwik Posts: 555member
    So, this guy launched a more popular product that the iPhone? Please tell us more about it.
  • Reply 5 of 203
    mactelmactel Posts: 1,275member
    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".
  • Reply 6 of 203
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 203
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member


    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.

  • Reply 8 of 203
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 203


    "Brand consultant."

  • Reply 10 of 203
    zoffdinozoffdino Posts: 192member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 203
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,182member

    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.

  • Reply 12 of 203
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 203
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    nagromme wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 203
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    jackthemac wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 203
    maccherrymaccherry Posts: 924member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 203
    inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    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.

  • Reply 17 of 203
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,076member

    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 #. 

  • Reply 18 of 203
    grbladegrblade Posts: 85member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 203
    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).
  • Reply 20 of 203
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,345member
    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.
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