What if iPhone 5 isn't called 'iPhone' at all?

Everyone assumes that Apple's iPhone franchise will go on forever. But might this be the time to disrupt the idea that smartphones are phones?

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

They say that Apple disrupts markets.

At least that's what the legends tell us. Cupertino marches in, creates something that is a little different, looks a little different, does something a little different, or is merely oddly understandable to a real human being.

For many real people, the iPad was something the likes of which they had never seen before or ever really imagined. Within an instant, it took over a market and became that market: the iPad market.

On the other hand, smartphones are becoming ubiquitous. One look at Samsung's Galaxy S3 and it looks like the newest, and perhaps even sexiest, version of, well, a smartphone.

The problem with the word smartphone is that part of it has become a little old -- redundant, even. That part isn't the smart part. It's the phone part.

In calling something a "smartphone," you're telling people that the core of it is still a phone -- a machine whose top part you put to your ear and whose bottom part you put to your lips. Yes, just like Alexander Graham Bell might have done.

Yet for many people that phone part is the least of their concerns. Their iPhones are for e-mailing, texting, tweeting, app-loading and, most of all, locating potential lovers on Facebook and staring at their pictures.

That thing in their pockets is something that is operated solely by the hands and eyes, not the ears and lips.

While the iPhone franchise has been delightfully successful, perhaps now is the time to ditch the phone part and make people feel that the new, new thing is something entirely new.

When one looks at the rumors about iPhone 5 , how many of them suggest an improvement to the "phone" part of the offering?

The screen will be bigger (is Apple playing catch-up?), the camera lens might be enhanced, there might be easier ways to make payments and faster network support. And, goodness, let's not forget that smaller dock connector.

There might be tweaks with the maps. There might be a new grayness and sleekness. There has to be a new, far more wonderful Siri.

But the phone part? Will calls suddenly become the aural equivalent of the Retina display? Perhaps not. Instead, the phone part will likely still be the same old backward, awkward stick-it-to-your-ear-and-hope-you-get-a-signal affair.

Instead of calling it iPhone 5, why not package all the new finger-fun gizmos and declare that this machine just isn't a phone any more?

Oh, I know it'll probably be called iPhone 5.

But wouldn't it be more interesting if Apple suddenly released a new machine that did things that people truly didn't expect and that this machine would be the first iCom or even simply the i5?

 

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