A supposed leak of the iOS 11 firmware appears to reveal the names of the new iPhone models expected on September 12.
Another apparent leak of Apple software is revealing a treasure trove of information on new iPhones and other products that the company is widely expected to announce at its event on Tuesday, September 12.
A leak of the iOS 11 "gold master" firmware, as reported by 9to5mac and others, is said to reveal everything from how the new iPhone will handle its "notch" screen design, the possibility of an AirPods update, animated emojis and more.
CNET cannot independently verify the accuracy of the reported leak, and Apple has not responded to our request for comment. That said, the bulk of the new info seems to come from iOS developers Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo, the same eagle-eyed coders who found a boatload of information from the similar HomePod firmware leak in late July.
Chief among the info that's been flooding Twitter today is possible evidence of the names of the new iPhones. According to Troughton-Smith, the code indicates that the top-end iPhone will be called "iPhone X," while the step-down models will be called iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.
That somewhat upends the conventional wisdom of the past several months, where the internet community had effectively dubbed the top-end model -- presumed to have a big OLED screen and facial recognition in place of the traditional Touch ID home button -- as the "iPhone 8." And by that logic, the stepdown models -- presumed to be traditional "S phone" upgrades we get in odd-numbered years -- were generally referred to as "iPhone 7S" and "iPhone 7S Plus."
Now, however, it sounds like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be the "conventional" iPhones, while the iPhone X will be the hard-to-get super iPhone.
To some degree, it makes sense. The iPhones that will be widely available to buy will have a "newness" to them that often seems lacking in an S model. And the iPhone X -- which is already assumed to be in short supply, and possibly delayed -- gets a cool designation that conveys both "experimental" and "10," the latter a nod to the iPhone's 10th anniversary.
Of course, "iPhone X" rekindles the pronunciation snafu that dogged the OS X operating system for years. Intended as "10," it was widely mispronounced as "OS ex" for years, to the point that Apple rebranded its computer operating system as simply MacOS in 2016.
That said, as strong as the reported iPhone X and iPhone 8 names now seem, there are still other contenders in the name game.
This nomenclature would bring the iPhone line into a degree of symmetry with Apple's laptop and iPad lines. MacBook, MacBook Pro. iPad, iPad Pro. iPhone, iPhone Pro. OK, iPhone would be a bit messier. After all, if Apple follows its normal tradition, the existing iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will remain on sale with $100 knocked off the price. The iPhone SE, which was refreshed in March, would presumably remain as the entry-level iPhone. And the "iPhone 7S" and "7S Plus" (or, now, 8 and 8 Plus) would be in the line, too. (Apple could totally shake things up too, leaving only some or even none of these models.)
But "iPhone Pro" would be the first-ever use of that name -- a nice nod to its "newness" -- and the Pro designation as "king of the hill" would line up with everyone's general understanding of Apple's product lines. The only problem is that it somehow sounds "unfun" -- like a phone that's destined for you to toil away on work-related tasks.
When the Apple Watch first launched, the line included a gold model that started for a cool $10,000. The so-called Apple Watch Edition still exists, but now in a ceramic body that starts at a somewhat less stratospheric $1,249, £1,249 or AU$1,799. With all signs pointing to the high-end iPhone starting at prices near $1,000 in the US and going up from there, the analogy to the luxury watch lines up nicely. Still, "iPhone Edition" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
Just days ago, 9to5mac reported that scuttlebutt at the IFA trade show had case makers locking into the iPhone Edition name for the top model, and iPhone 8 and 8 Plus names for the stepdowns.
Alternately, teeing off the iPhone X/10 name, some think Apple might go with something like "iPhone Anniversary Edition." The problem with that, as many have already suggested, is that Apple rarely invokes nostalgia (giant pricey coffee table books notwithstanding). The company wants to keep consumers focused on its view of an ever-better future, not have them pining for some sort of idealized past.
Apple could opt for stripping things back down to ultimate simplicity. It did this in 2015 with its newest, sexiest laptop losing the Air name and just going with "MacBook." Likewise, the iPad Air 2 was replaced by "iPad."
Two problems here. Just "iPhone" sounds more like a baseline model, which doesn't help distinguish it from a line that would likely retain one if not two "Plus" 5.5-inch models -- even though they would be stepdowns to this king of the hill model. Meanwhile, "iPhone" has, as we say in the business, terrible SEO. The default search terms would immediately become something like "new iPhone," "iPhone 2017" or "OLED iPhone." That's the opposite of good branding.
Steve Jobs was all about the iNames -- iMac, iCloud, iTunes, iPhone and iPad. But starting with Jobs' own introduction of the Apple TV and continuing into the Tim Cook era, it's been more about "Apple [insert generic product name here]." With Apple Music, Apple Pay and Apple Watch being the buzzwords of the day, would the company ever hit the ultimate reset button and walk away from the iPhone name?
My guess? Not in a million years. Throwing away one of the most valuable brand names in history just doesn't sound like a smart idea.
Before the latest X/8 leak, my money would've been on "iPhone Pro," even if it doesn't sound quite right. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple pulls something totally unexpected but familiar out of the ether, not unlike the "HomePod" name. (We generally called that product the "Siri Speaker" in the rumor phase.)
And if you dislike the eventual name, just remember to take a beat. Believe it or not, the name "iPad" was originally mocked and derided, as was the moniker for the Nintendo Wii. Both of them went on to become smashing successes.
The good news -- regardless of the eventual name -- is that the wait should soon be over. Expect Tim Cook to be on stage on Tuesday, September 12, proudly holding the new iPhone ______ high above his head.
Apple September 12 event: What we expect at the big Tuesday iPhone (and more) launch.
Editors' note: A version of this story was originally posted on August 13. It has been extensively updated with new information based on subsequent news reports.