The iPhone 5se Has A Terrible Name


Rumor has it that the iPhone 5se will go on sale on March 18.

I suppose it's good that Apple is bringing a 4" phone into the current-gen form factor and specs.

But MAN I hate that name. Here's why.

One of the towering strengths of the iPhone line has been its lack of fragmentation.

For the longest time, there was one model - the iPhone.

And with that uniformity and simplicity came power. If you had an iPhone, you had the BEST iPhone.

Yes, Apple started introducing "S" generations of the iPhone with the 3Gs. These were "off-year" models - offering an internal spec bump, while retaining the prior year's form factor.

So, iPhone 4 and 4s looked like glass ice cream sandwiches.
The iPhone 5 and 5s were chamfered .metal.
The 6 and 6s are the bigger, rounded phones we're using today.

The "regular" vs. "S-gen" change wasn't fragmentation. It was a way to distinguish the current-year's phone from the prior year's - and it meant Apple didn't have to change its form factor every year.

Now, there was ONE detour along the way - the iPhone 5c.

One Potential Precedent

The 5c was a plastic iPhone 5 - carrying the same guts as the standard 5 - which was sold alongside the 5 and the 5s.

The iPhone 5c wasn't introduced because Apple really loved plastic.

It wasn't introduced in order to sell cheap iPhones in developing countries (which was the HUGE rumor way back when.)

The introduction of iPhone 5c allowed Apple to accelerate the demise of the 4s - and as such, to get all users moved over to Lightning ports.

Remember, Apple always sold the 2 prior generations of iPhone, at progressively lower prices.

They wanted to get the pre-Lightning "iPhone 4" connectors out of the way ASAP, but needed a "low-end" phone to fill out their standard lineup.

The 5c's plastic casing gave Apple an excuse to price the 5c a bit lower than the standard iPhone 5.

The Plus = True Fragmentation

With the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, we finally saw real fragmentation of the Apple iPhone market. For the first time, there were 2 "flagship" models for sale.

"Plus" meant "bigger". Easy enough.

And this year, we saw the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

"S" means "faster". Again, easy enough.

The number & letter tells you the phone's generation. The word "Plus" tells you its size.

It's fragmentation, yes. But it's easy enough for consumers to understand.

Mixed Metaphors

Now, Apple is purportedly releasing what really, really looks like a small iPhone 6.

It will be the size of an iPhone 5, but will have the aluminum back and rounded edges of the current-gen iPhone 6.

And this device will be called - the iPhone 6 Mini!

This makes perfect sense. The "mini" language mirrors what Apple did with the iPod line a decade ago, and with the iPad line 4 years ago.

Again, words to describe the screen size, letters to describe the internals.

BUT WAIT. According to literally every rumor site out there, the new phone is going to be called the iPhone 5se.

This is... well... this is just a monumental branding mistake. One that you don't see Apple make very often.

First off.... this phone will have an iPhone 6 appearance, and iPhone 6 internals. It's not a 5th generation iPhone in any sense.

It should NOT be called an iPhone 5 ANYTHING.

Secondly, Apple is now using numbers and letters to describe the SIZE of the screen - but only for this phone model.

The iPhone line could add a small phone. Those phones should be the 6 Mini, the 6, and the 6 Plus.

Perhaps the problem is that we're on the S generation - and this phone won't really have 6S architecture.

Still, that doesn't stop them from calling it the 6 Mini - even if it's being sold along side iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.

And then in the fall, start selling the iPhone 7 Mini, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus.

A Callback to Pre-Jobs Apple

To be totally honest - my visceral reaction to the name "iPhone 5se" isn't solely due to the fact that it makes no sense whatsoever.

It's also because that name sounds, for all the world, like something that Apple would have released right before Steve Jobs returned.

In the late 1990s, Apple was selling so many different models of Macintosh, with so many abbreviations and differentiators, that no consumer could have been expected to know what they were getting.

Quadras and Performas and LCs and Power Macs and Centris - and a half-dozen model numbers within each line. The same computer would have a different name, depending on where you bought it.

Steve Jobs ended all of that. We got the iMac, and the G3, the iBook and the PowerBook. That was all.

Consumer confusion and Apple fragmentation almost killed the company. Apple spent years obliterating all memories of their doddering 1990s incarnation.

Bringing an iPhone line to market with this kind of fragmentation.... brings all of that back.

I'm reminded of my LCIII (an absolutely useless computer), which looked nothing like the LC 520 being sold at the same time. That Mac, of course, was exactly the same as my parents' Performa 520... at least on the outside.

Simplify, Apple. Don't cause problems where they don't exist.

Mini. Standard. Plus.

Every other generation is an "S".

That's all you need to do.


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