The next iPhone probably won’t be called the iPhone 5, and here’s why…

Here’s the story so far. The first iPhone was released in 2007, then a year later came the second-generation model, called the iPhone 3G. Then came the third-generation iPhone 3GS, the fourth-generation iPhone 4 and finally, the fifth-generation iPhone 4S.

In just a few months, we’ll have the sixth generation iPhone, which is currently referred to as either the iPhone 5 or simply the next-generation iPhone, by those wishing to be diplomatic.

A Google search for the iPhone 5 returns more links than you’ll ever have time to read, and it’s not only because every tech blog is writing about the handset continuously at the moment, but also because this time last year, everyone expected the iPhone 4S to be called the iPhone 5.

So will Apple call this model the iPhone 5? It’s possible, but it’s unlikely, given that it’s really the sixth iPhone, and all these numbers and letters are getting too messy for a company that loves simplicity.

Bar the iPhone 4, no other iPhones have had a simple number related to their generation attached, in the same way we’re not handling the iPod Nano 7.

If it’s not the iPhone 5, then, what will it be? The most obvious is that Apple will repeat what it did with the iPad in March, and drop everything except the product name, which will leave us with the “new iPhone.”

This fits in with the iPad, the iPod, the Apple TV and even the MacBook product lines, all of which are known by their generation or by the time of year in which they’re released. If you own a Mac, click More Info under the About This Mac option to see which season and what year it was made.

It helps Apple too, as it doesn’t have to come up with stupid suffixes to the iPhone (or iPad) name, avoiding the hole Samsung has dug for itself with the Galaxy S, S2 and S3. The change from it being a numbered iPhone model to being known simply as the iPhone will happen eventually, it’s just a case of when.

Most regular smartphone buyers only know it as the iPhone anyway. Just listen to anyone who aspires to own one, and the phrase is always “I want an iPhone,” and almost never “I want an iPhone 4S.” It probably works this way in shops too, with sales people automatically going to the latest model when they hear the same thing.

It doesn’t help much online though, especially if you’re searching for it, or worse still, if you’re writing about it. Search for “new iPhone” and the results are mixed, with several networks, various news sites and blogs talking about the iPhone, but it’s far less targeted than searching specifically for the iPhone 4S or the iPhone 5. The reason most writers use iPhone 5 to describe the next model is that it’s convenient, and most readers equate that name with the next device anyway.

Are there any other options? Well, the iPhone LTE has been suggested, but as 4G LTE networks aren’t operated all over the world, this would do nothing but cause confusion, making it very unlikely. Of course, Apple could surprise us all and come up with something completely different too.

The latest rumours point to a September 12 launch event and a September 21 release for the next generation iPhone, whatever it may end up being called.

About Andrew Boxall

Andy's fascination with mobile tech began in the 90s, at a time when SMS messages were considered cutting edge, but it would be at least a decade before he would put finger-to-keyboard as a freelance tech writer. In the interim he wrote about travel, formulated strong opinions about films and drove a series of audacious cars