The once extremely logical naming structure of the iPhone product range has gone bananas with the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR
In product naming, it seems to happen a lot – the once so easily understood structures become very complicated. In cars, the same is happening to Mercedes-Benz and in some way to Volkswagen as well. These I will cover in an upcoming next article.
Apple was so simple from the start, in 2007 Apple launched the iPhone. Then it made the decision to add a key feature in the name, the iPhone 3G in 2008. So far so good.
The 2009 model was an improvement over the 2008 model, but not a revolution. Apple decided to introduce the S marker for these improved (supercharged?) iPhones. The 2009 model was called iPhone 3GS.
This logic served well with the next models:
2010 – iPhone 4
2011 – iPhone 4S
2012 – iPhone 5
2013 – iPhone 5S
2014 – iPhone 6
2015 – iPhone 6S and 6S Plus (the bigger screen variant).
2016 – iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
Back in 2013 Apple tried the iPhone 5C, the model name could be post-rationalized: the C for color – it came in many different colorful covers.
Apple also tried in 2016 the iPhone SE, also here the model name could be post-rationalized to perhaps Slim Edition. Apple never told consumers the meaning of the name even though consumers always like to put meaning in names, it makes them easier to remember.
But in 2017 it went wrong…. Apple skipped the iPhone 7S convention and went straight to iPhone 8.
Then it introduced the iPhone X (“ten”) as the new full screen most advanced product. It worked – the iPhone X was the future and sales went well.
But what comes after the future? In the case of Apple, an improved future, the iPhone XS. So far so good… but instead of sticking to a successful and commonly understood naming convention Apple decided differently: it introduced the Apple iPhone XS Max, yes this is the previously called Apple iPhone Xs Plus and introduced a new iPhone called the iPhone XR.
At the moment of writing, sales have gone on for some time. It becomes very clear that the naming structure has gone bananas.
First of all the iPhone XS Max is a drag of a name for a consumer product. What comes after Max? The Max II? The MaxS (I hope not!) Why not simply stick with what people already know? There are the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Plus for the bigger screen variant.
It might have been that the naming team at Apple decided to change to Max as the screen is the biggest of them all. But that would be a mistake as consumers read Product Brand – Identifier – Variant. So, consumers compare the “Max” against the version without the Max, and not against the iPhone XR.
Clearly, the screen is the differentiator if you follow the Apple messaging – but comparing the key messages on Apple.com does not make this very clear either.
Even comparing the screen sizes does not help – it turns out that in terms of Big Screens, the iPhone XR has a BIGGER screen than the iPhone XS. (of course, Apple is after screen resolution between the XS and XR but what you don’t tell, people don’t know)
In fact when going through the comparison on https://www.apple.com/iphone/compare/ you will find it very difficult to spot real differences between the XS and the XR. And when there are differences it is not clear how they impact you as a future user.
So the question becomes obvious – what is Apple trying to achieve with the iPhone XR? Is the confusion this product obviously is causing (through bad naming and communication) worth the effort?
Could Apple do without the product? I think so, the less the better. That is what the market has told Apple before, first with the iPhone 5C and another time with the iPhone SE. Now the market will tell again that there is no space for an iPhone above, beyond or below the core range of products.
The real question is: how will Apple fix the naming structure going forward?