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iPhone 13 proves Apple isn't afraid of a little bad luck

The name of Apple's latest iPhone lineup shows that the company isn't as superstitious as some people thought.

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Rumors suggested Apple's new iPhone would be dubbed the iPhone 13, but there was also speculation it could have been called the iPhone 12S.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Is Apple afraid of "unlucky" number 13? Going by the iPhone 13's name, it sure doesn't seem like the bad luck traditionally associated with the number is giving the company any jitters. 

Apple announced four new members, the iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max last week, ending months of speculation about whether it'd choose to stick to a sequential naming scheme or opt to go with iPhone 12S instead. In the past, Apple has chosen to add the letter S to its names to indicate an incremental upgrade to a next-gen lineup as opposed to a transformative overhaul. 

Read more: CNET's iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max reviews

But here's some trivia for you: At one point the iPhone 12S was the rumoured front-runner for the new iPhone lineup. A January article by seasoned Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman cited company engineers saying only minor upgrades were planned for the upcoming lineup, which will likely be an "S" version of the iPhone 12. Frequent leaker Jon Prosser pointed toward an iPhone 12S too. We've seen Apple use this naming scheme in the past with 2015's iPhone 6S, which superseded 2014's iPhone 6, and again with 2018's iPhone XS, a follow-up to 2017's iPhone X. Still another report predicted that no iPhone 13 hitting shelves next year either: Apple had been expected to leapfrog to the iPhone 14 in 2022, excluding the iPhone 13 from its nomenclature altogether. 

With its product launch event, Apple has finally put an end to all that conjecture. But if you've read this far you're most likely an Apple superfan, so let's indulge ourselves and explore the reasons why people thought Apple might have skipped the iPhone 13 name entirely this year.

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Patrick Holland/CNET
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The name iPhone 13 can be bad for optics

It's no secret that the number 13's association with bad luck has real-world responses. Just ask the property developers who omit the 13th floor from their high-rises, the droves of couples who steer clear of marrying on the 13th or the psychologists who treat patients for triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13.

Apple knows this less-than-favorable perception could scare customers away from buying an iPhone 13. An online survey of 3,000 Apple users conducted by trade-in site SellCell in June found that nearly three-fourths of respondents would prefer Apple name its next-gen iPhone anything but iPhone 13. iPhone 2021 was voted the most suitable name, garnering 38% of the vote.

In the past, Apple hasn't shied away from branding its products with the number 13, having released the A13 Bionic chipset and the iOS 13 software update, for instance. This was a higher-stakes branding exercise, however, as we're talking about the iPhone, one of the most popular consumer products ever. A product that generates nearly 50% of Apple's billions of dollars in revenue.

Read more: Apple's iPhone 12 led to largest revenue and profit in its company history

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The iPhone X (center), launched in 2017 alongside the iPhone 8 (left) and iPhone 8 Plus (right).

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 12S could have paved the way for a big upgrade

By going with the name iPhone 12S and skipping iPhone 13, Apple could have set the stage for a sweeping design overhaul when the iPhone 14 or 15 comes around, just as it did with the iPhone X. You may remember Apple skipped the iPhone 9 in 2017, instead following up 2016's iPhone 7 with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X. And don't forget that the iPhone X was the one that redefined design standards and paved the way for the modern-day iPhone.

By some accounts, the iPhone 14 or 15 (or whatever Apple decides to call it) could be the company's much-awaited entry into the world of foldable smartphones. To be clear, we can't say for certain whether a foldable iPhone will ever see the light of day, but we're holding out hope that it could happen as early as next year. A Bloomberg report, published in January, said Apple already has a working prototype of a foldable iPhone display, but didn't confirm a launch. Other outlets, like Taiwan's Economic Daily for instance, pinned down 2022 as the year the foldable iPhone will come to fruition. Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo pointed to 2023.