Imagining iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C: The names

Analyzing rumors and speculation surrounding Apple's 2013 iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, including what they will be called and how they will be marketed

One of the first things we'll learn, perhaps even before we see it, and almost certainly before what few specs we're told are told us, and well before the price is set and availability disclosed, is what Apple will call their 2013 iPhones. Sure, iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c are being used in almost every report in every outlet in every corner of the world, but until they're locked and loaded at Apple's printer, and until they're announced up on stage, we won't know for sure and for certain. Are there any other possibilities, and if so, what are they?

iPhone 5s: Pattern vs. predictability

Branding for the next generation high-end iPhone seems almost inevitable at this point. Don't let the amount of years fool you (it'll be the 7th), don't consider model numbers (we'll be at iPhone6,1), and don't worry about keeping pace with iOS version numbers (iOS 7 will come pre-loaded). What a product is internally designated is developmental account keeping. What a product is branded for customers is purely a marketing decision. There's no place for "Apple has to call it...!" or "Apple can't call it...!" Whatever Apple wants, Apple gets. Their products, their rules, their name.

We can even get thrown a curveball. Remember the "we don't want to be predictable" new iPad in lieu of iPad 3? If Apple chose to, they could call it the New iPhone, iPhone X, or even iPhone II: Electric Boogaloo. Or they could simply call it iPhone.

Since 2008, however, Apple's has stuck the a pattern of introducing a new, numbered iPhone model with a refreshed design one year and then following it up with an S-designated variant with new internals the next.

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

Extending that out, we get iPhone 5s.

iPhone 5c: By any other name...?

The less expensive iPhone is harder to predict. All the rumors and leaks have pegged it as iPhone 5c. If, as suspected, it's an iPhone 5 with a new, colorful, polycarbonate case, then attaching it to the iPhone 5 brand makes sense. What would it be called next year or the year after that? Doesn't matter. We don't know what the less-expensive cycle will be yet. The iPhone 5c could be a multi-year product, or could keep the same design and name for multiple years, even if internals change. The future doesn't matter. If you need any greater proof, once again see the iPad brand in 2012.

There have been some rumors of "iPhone C" or "iPhone color" as alternatives. Again, Apple can do whatever they want. "iPhone color" seems odd, however, suggesting Apple only just cracked the technology.

More to come!

We'll be imagining a lot more about the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, including designs, screens, cameras, chipsets, finger-print readers and more over the next week, so stay tuned. We'll only know for certain, however, when someone at Apple holds it - or them - up on stage, presumably on September 10.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • The 5C makes a lot of sense to me. It doubles as an homage to the Apple IIc from the mid 1980s, which was a popular, simpler, and less expensive variant of the Apple IIe. The 5S makes a lot of sense, just given the history of the iPhone naming conventions. So I say "yeah, baby!" to both.
  • The "C" also reminds me of the differentiation between the"Pro" and "Consumer" model Macs that has existed for so many years; Maybe Apple might have a future plan along the same lines for their mobile devices?
    ...Under that idea, I'm surprised we don't currently see a similarity between the iPad models - iPad [pro] and an iPad [C] (instead of "mini").
  • They will probably announce the iPhone 5S as the "new" iPhone and the iPhone 5C as the iPhone color. Not shure about the iPhone color though but they did similar with the "new" iPad
  • iPhone "s" series for Steve jobs
    iPhone "c" series for tim cook ?
  • This is one of your worst posts ever, Rene. It was a few hundred words of absolutely nothing new. "It could be this. It could be that. But it'll probably be what we all expect it to be." Really? Come on, dude.
  • Thank you! At least I wasn't the only person thinking the same thing.
  • "Apple can do whatever it wants." No need to spend hundreds of words for saying and repeating that. This is typical of most fan sites and blogs now. Good writers, editors and hence editorials have become a rare commodity. I wonder if even a single decent Apple/iOS site/blog remains active. They seem to all have quit.
  • The s series of iPhone have now become a naming convention. The s doesn't have to signify anything anymore. I have always said Apple could call the phones anything they want but I think iPhone 5s and 5c are pretty good guesses at what it will be called this year. What will be crazy is next year if they do add another screen size to the iPhone. It will certainly be interesting but that's a year away so no need to talk about that now. Sent from the iMore App
  • So there will now be, according to this convention, iPhone5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, possibly also iPhone 4S, available. How on Earth is the average consumer going to tell those apart? Is iPhone 5C "better" than or "differently positioned" to iPhone 5? Ar they the same thing? The naming tells the buyer nothing.