Apple's iPhone 11 drops 'X' and 'R'

Call it the iPhone formerly known as "X."

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
3 min read

The iPhone 11 is here, waving good-bye to the old naming convention of the X and the XR.


It turns out the iPhone does go to 11. Apple is dropping the "X" for its latest iPhone, and returning to its naming roots with the iPhone 11, much to the disappointment of Roman numeral fanatics everywhere. Instead of relying on letters like the 5C and the XR did for Apple's entry-level iPhone, the $699 iPhone 11 will now be the new base model for Apple's iOS devices, essentially acknowledging that the "X" branding was a potential turnoff for customers. 

After the iPhone X's debut in 2017, there were plenty of questions for Apple, beyond, "Wait, is it pronounced 'ten' or 'ex'?" One of the greater mysteries was what would happen in 2019 when the X names hit a wall. Well, Apple answered that very important question on Tuesday at the Steve Jobs Theater on its campus in Cupertino, California. 

Getting rid of the X also means you won't have to call the iPhone 11's companion devices names like the iPhone XI Pro, or the iPhone XI R or the XI Max, and wonder if you'll have to pay more than $MCC for the latest Apple device. 

The iPhone X was originally named for the 10th anniversary edition of Apple's device, and for the company it represented a new era of iPhones. The iPhone X was the first to have an all-screen front and use Face ID, and it also jumped up in price and made $1,000 phones the new normal

But just because the iPhone's naming structure is going back to conventional numbers doesn't mean a regression in features. The iPhone 11 boasts faster Face ID unlocking, Wi-Fi 6 support, longer battery life and dual cameras with 12-megapixel lenses.

it remains to be seen whether dropping the X name helps boost sales for the iPhone in a dwindling phone market. People are holding onto their phones longer than before, as prices continue to rise on high-end devices. 

Like the iPhone 5C and the iPhone XR, budget editions of iPhones can sometimes work against Apple. With the iPhone 11 as the new entry level device, the idea is that people won't look at the phone as a special "cheaper" device, but rather the base model of Apple's latest lineup. 

Apple isn't the only company to drop letters for numbers in its naming convention in the last month. For years Google had named the versions of its Android software after candies and desserts pegged to letters of the alphabet, such as KitKat for Android K (aka version 4.4) and Marshmallow for Android M (aka 6.0). That ended with Android 10, after months of speculation on what dessert Android Q could be

And Apple itself is pretty familiar with swerving its naming convention. For a long time it named its MacOS (which had its own issues with the letter X) after cats, like Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion, then in 2013 Apple shifted to the theme of California geography, starting with with MacOS Mavericks. The most recent version, announced in June at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference, is MacOS Catalina.