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What will Apple name its next iPhone? Latest rumours say it'll be iPhone 13

Nothing is guaranteed until Apple's highly awaited event in the fall. In the meantime, indulge yourself with some speculation.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Until Apple's marquee event in the fall, the name of the next iPhone is anyone's guess. Will the company stick to a sequential naming scheme this year? Here at CNET, we've been referring to the next flagship as the iPhone 13 for the sake of continuity. Now a new report seems to back up the notion that Apple will proceed with a sequential naming convention despite earlier rumours suggesting it might skip the number 13 entirely or wait until next year.

According to a report from Taiwanese publication Economic Daily News, which cites supply chain sources, the tech giant will stick to using iPhone 13 for its 2021 lineup. Apple will reportedly offer Mini, Pro and Pro Max versions of the iPhone 13, similar to its iPhone 12 lineup

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Patrick Holland/CNET

Previous rumours had suggested that iPhone 13 may not be Apple's moniker of choice with iPhone 12S expected to be the front-runner for this year's series. A January Bloomberg article citing Apple engineers says only minor upgrades are 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 We've seen Apple use this naming scheme in the past with 2015's iPhone 6S, which superseded 2014's iPhone 6, and again with 2018's iPhone XS, a follow-up to 2017's iPhone X. Still, another report points to Apple leapfrogging to an iPhone 14 in 2022, excluding "iPhone 13" from its nomenclature altogether. 

Until Apple's marquee event in the fall, however, there's no telling for sure what name it'll wind up using and the latest rumours don't necessarily provide more clarity. Here are some of the reasons why it might not stick to traditional naming conventions. 

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 is 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 paves the way for a big upgrade

By going with the name iPhone 12S and skipping iPhone 13, Apple could also be setting 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 name 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.

Until Apple's fall event, there are no guarantees about what name will get slapped onto this year's iPhone. But if you're interested in learning more about what we're expecting from the Phone 13, or ahem, iPhone 12S family, read our roundup of some of the juiciest iPhone rumors