September 15, 2015

Are We Nearing the End of the iPhone Brand?

iPhone. At first glance, a funny-looking word. But now, a word that is synonymous with a technological revolution lead by Apple to transform the concept of a phone into something different – a helper, a messenger, a navigator, a photographer and more – with each evolution.

From a brand perspective, the Apple iPhone has to be one of the most recognizable consumer product brands in history, a household name like Tide or Coca-Cola, but at 300 times the investment.

The recognition for the brand is what poses our question. – Will the iPhone brand live forever? Or will it be replaced by an updated brand by Apple – an “ApplePhone” or something of the like?

The first question has to be “why?” Why would anyone ever remove the iPhone brand from the portfolio?Apple iPhone, branding

Well, for one, we are seeing a strategy shift from Apple to be more master-branded; that is, leveraging the “Apple” brand at the product level. We’ve now been introduced to the Apple TV, Apple Watch and Apple Pay, all backed by Apple Support. So simply from a brand portfolio strategy perspective, Apple Phone could be on the horizon.

A more likely reason for the change is that at some point the word “phone” in iPhone does not best represent the primary use of the device. Already, I would bet that a much greater percentage of time using an iPhone is spent browsing the internet, reading or listening to music, versus talking on the phone or even communicating through text message. At what point should iPhone be called something other than a phone?

This is true for the entire category – but could be a turning point for the product brand to make a stance and become AppleWhateverIsNext.

As it relates to whatever is next idea – how long can the number/letter extension garner the excitement Apple needs when launching a new device? iPhone 1,2,3,4,5,6, s, c and so on, sooner or later the name loses its luster. Is the change from iPhone 14 to iPhone 15 equally as exciting as the move from 4 to 5? Apple has used other extensions in the past (like nano, air, pro, etc.) but no naming strategy has been used as consistently as the number/letter system has been in the iPhone portfolio.

Apple iPhone, rebrandStill, there will always be arguments that iPhone is here for good. The “i” platform was surely revolutionary at its launch. With what used to be the iPod, iPad, iMac and iTunes, the portfolio was set. Even as I use “iTunes” as an example, the future for that brand is unclear, with Apple launching Apple Music, a streaming music provider that may eventually replace iTunes, which may be a telling sign for the iPhone.

Apple must know what is at stake if the iPhone is transitioned – years of equity and the risk associated with changing the name of one of the top selling technology products in history. That being said, Apple has never been afraid to support product launches and changes with huge amounts of money to educate the populous.

One thing is fairly certain, whatever the product is called in the future – personal technology by Apple will continue to be innovative and excite the industry and loyal brand advocates.

What do you think? iPhone forever? Or ApplePhone by 2017?

Addison Whitney is a global branding firm with a passion for building strong brands.
To learn more about Addison Whitney, visit our website at, or contact us here.

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