A product’s name is a big part of its presentation, and many brands use catchy names to attract your attention. Well, some sure don’t, perhaps most notably Sony, which really doesn’t seem to care about attention-grabbing, meaningful names, instead calling its headphones something like “WH-1000XM5″. And Sony has been this way for decades with its headphones – instead of telling customers what they’re all about from the name, Sony expects potential buyers to do their own research.But Apple, Samsung, and most of the other big smartphone brands really want to sell you on their products in any way that works.
So let’s talk about smartphone names. The upcoming iPhone 14 series is expected to drop the “mini” and introduce a “Max” model, in addition to the base iPhone 14, iPhone 14 “Pro” and “Pro Max”. Confused already? You’re not alone.
Those names do have a meaning, as you’d expect, at least when it comes to Apple products. But, the Cupertino company’s naming schemes have spawned a lot of meaningless “Pro” products from other brands. Same goes for Samsung, and its now-retired “Note” line…
The “mini” name made perfect sense – clear and simple
iPhone 13 mini
There’s not a more obvious, simple and easy-to-understand name than the “mini” – whether you’re looking at an iPhone mini, iPad mini, HomePod mini – you can immediately tell that those are supposed to be the smallest devices in their respective categories.If you want something small and portable from Apple – you get the “mini”. Makes perfect sense.
Other brands have used the “mini” name in the past too, although nowadays small phones in general have gone the way of the dodo. Samsung had a “mini” phone way before Apple – the Samsung Galaxy Mini S5570 was released in early 2011, while the first iPhone to carry the “mini” name (the iPhone 12 mini) came out just two years ago. And Apple’s mini line is already retired!
Yes, we can’t talk about the iPhone mini without mentioning that the upcoming iPhone 14 series won’t have such a phone. Even Apple is giving up on small flagships, as it seems. So the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 13 mini are the only two mini Apple phones to get, if you want that small form factor.
And from my personal experience – here’s a tip – get the iPhone 13 mini, not the 12, as the former has better battery life.
The “Max” name makes sense too
iPhone 13 Pro Max
What is the upcoming iPhone 14 Max? It’s going to be Apple’s first model to carry that name, likely to be unveiled with the other iPhone 14 models about two weeks from now.
Until now, we’ve only ever had “Pro Max” iPhones, not just “Max”. And the “Pro Max” made perfect sense.
Like “mini”, the “Max” name simply describes the phone’s size – in this case – it’s the biggest iPhone in its series. It’s a good name, simple.
With the upcoming (speculated) new iPhone 14 Max, though, things will surely get more complicated. Because rumors say that the iPhone 14 Max will be under the “Pro” and “Pro Max” models in terms of price. So we’ll have a “Max” that’s smaller than a “Pro”? Or just a “Max” without the “Pro” features?
Jeez, Apple… Why couldn’t we just stick with the simpler names?
The “Note” name made sense, at least for Samsung, but others are playing fast and loose with it
Galaxy Note 20
I’ve always been a big fan of Samsung’s Galaxy Note phones, as I’m sure many of you are. The Note was a beloved, flagship, big phone series that Samsung recently retired, in an effort to optimize its flagship options a bit. Namely by dropping the hassle of selling both Notes and S-models, and just combining them. Now the Galaxy S22 Ultra is basically a note.
The Notes most notably came with an S Pen stylus, so their name was more than justified, and perfectly apt. You want to jot down notes on your phone – you get a Galaxy Note. The stylus experience was top tier.
Now, the Note’s spiritual successor – the Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn’t have a name that reflects its stylus-centered design and features as much as “Note” did, and Samsung should’ve probably just called it S22 Note, but hey, at least the idea of a flagship stylus phone lives on.
However, other brands have adopted the “Note” name too, and they kind of just use it for easy brand recognition. Riding off of Samsung’s now-retired, but hugely recognizable “Note” series, yet without actually delivering a stylus experience.
For example, I recently bought the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus 5G. As you can immediately see from the ridiculously contrived name – Xiaomi is trying to hit all the buzzwords it can, to attract your attention.
“5G” – because it has 5G, “Plus” – because it’s large, “Pro” – because… it sounds cool, I guess, and “Note” – because… Go figure.
It’s not a phone that comes with a stylus like Samsung’s Note series, nor does it have any special note-taking features worth mentioning. It’s just a meaningless name. Not cool, Xiaomi.
But let’s finally get to the “Pro” name, which I’d say is the biggest, most common offender.
In many cases the “Pro” name means almost nothing, so don’t let brands trick you
iPhone 13 Pro
Many brands use the “Pro” name to signify a slightly better-specced smartphone. It definitely doesn’t mean that your new “Pro” phone is ready for professional use. It just might sport a better camera, processor, or more RAM and storage. In some cases, not even that much.
In Apple’s case, however, the “Pro” actually does technically mean something worth paying attention to. For example, the iPhone 13 Pro has the following features over the base iPhone 13: A 120Hz display, a telephoto camera with 6x optical zoom (as opposed to 2x), a LiDAR scanner, which helps with taking better Night mode portraits, and supposedly delivers faster autofocus in low light, a 5-core GPU (as opposed to 4-core), slightly better battery life…
So far, just a spec bump, as with most “Pro” phones out there. But – here’s the kicker – the iPhone 13 Pro can record in the ProRes video format, which the base iPhone 13 cannot do. So this one thing is arguably the most notable “Pro”-ish feature to justify the name. ProRes is no joke, many big-budget Hollywood movies are shot in this format.
But the rest of this specs gobbledygook – let’s be honest, most people won’t care for it. So for them it’s just a slightly more powerful phone with a cooler name.
And again, most other brands that use the “Pro” name simply spec up their phones a bit over the base model to justify it. You’ll be getting nothing on an actual professional level.
Apple’s history of iPhone names and what they meant
As a bonus, let’s dive into Apple’s way of naming iPhones through the years, and what those names meant. We’ll skip the base models and jump right to phones with names that signify a specific feature.
The iPhone 3G, which is technically the 2nd iPhone ever, came out in 2008 and used the 3G name for obvious reasons – to signify its 3G connectivity. Can you believe how old 3G is? We’re up to 5G, and 6G might be just around the corner.
Anyway, the iPhone 3G was followed by the iPhone 3GS a year later, and according to Apple, the “S” stood for “Speed”. cheeky
The iPhone 4S had a meaningful name too; the “S” this time stood for “Siri”. As you can guess, this is the first iPhone that came with Apple’s virtual assistant on board. Back then, in 2013, that was quite a big deal – an “intelligent” virtual person inside your phone? Indeed.
The iPhone 5C was next to have a letter in its name, for people to wonder about. But once again, the letter stood for something simple and clear – “color”. This phone came out in several vibrant, fun colors, unlike its predecessors. So if you were young and hip, and wanted your phone to reflect your fun personality – the “C” iPhone was a worthy pick.
Alongside the iPhone 5C, Apple released the iPhone 5S, and at this time, the “S” supposedly stood for “security”, although Apple didn’t officially confirm that theory. In any case, this was the first iPhone to introduce the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, so it makes sense.
Next would be the iPhone 6 Plus. Finally, no more unclear single letters, but a name that pretty much explained itself. The iPhone 6 Plus was the iPhone 6’s bigger brother.
Skipping ahead, we have the iPhone SE from early 2016. The “SE” stood for “Special Edition”, as it reused the iPhone 5S’ body, but had better specs, it was affordable, and basically a precursor to the “mini” line, as it was compact too. In fact, its compact size was one of Apple’s biggest selling points for the SE, as at the time phones in general, including iPhones, were getting bigger.
A bunch more phones later and we got back to confusing naming schemes – in 2018 Apple released an iPhone XR, XS and XS Max. Now, the “X” stands for “10”, which is needlessly confusing, but looks cool, I guess . And what the “R” stands for, Apple never made clear. But it was the cheapest phone, so surely the “R” was meant to reflect that somehow. The “S” was basically the base model in the XS series, while the XS Max – obviously the largest one. Yup, things were pretty confusing. Thankfully, later on Apple simplified its naming scheme to the one we know and love today…
The iPhone 11 Pro was the first to have “Pro” in the name, so late 2019 is when Apple began actively targeting the professionals. Trying to catch their eye with promises of pro-grade camera quality; good enough for shooting professional videos!
And it was. Legitimate movies like High Flying Bird, starring big names like Zazie Beetz, were shot on iPhone 8, so by the time the iPhone 11 Pro rolled around, Apple was justified to market certain iPhones as “Pro” devices. Many more movies have been filmed with newer iPhone generations since then. And indeed, we could argue that the iPhone’s video quality remains above any competition to this day.
The iPhone 12 mini came out in 2020 and was the first “mini” iPhone, adopting the name of the beloved iPad mini line. And since then, things haven’t changed much.
But with the iPhone 14 series, as we mentioned earlier – they might. For better or worse (more confusing)? We shall see.
What’s your phone’s name? Is it a base model, a mini, a Pro, a Pro Max, a Note, Fold, Flip?
Let us know what your phone’s name is, and why you chose that particular variant! Whether you have a mini, a Pro, a Pro Max, a Note, or something else – what attracted you to it?
I’ll start first – I have an iPhone 12 mini I’m currently selling, and I chose it exactly because of its “mini” factor. I had never used small flagship phones, so it was a fun experience to give that a try. I also currently use the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus, which I mentioned earlier, although again – its name doesn’t mean much, and it’s not what attracted me to it. Well, maybe the “Plus” part did – I wanted a big phone this time, and it is.