A phone by any other name would smell as sweet…

The general consensus is that there will be a new iPhone announced next week. I, like others, think it’s going to have new features and capabilities. But how is Apple going to label this new device?

iPhone 3G?

It’s entirely possible that Apple will keep the same name as the previous version. There’s precedence in the Mac product line: we’ve had MacBook Pros for several years now with various ways of distinguishing different product iterations (“Late 2008″, “Unibody”, etc.)

Given Apple’s reluctance to publish any of the device’s hardware capabilities, this would seem to make sense.

Except for one small problem. It’s likely that the new iPhone will have a faster processor and more memory. Some applications will be written to take specific advantage of these improvements. And that, of course, means that you need a way to let iTunes customers know if those applications are compatible with their device.

I don’t see Apple putting “iPhone 3G (2008)” and “iPhone 3G (2009)” anywhere in the iTunes UI. It’s just too confusing.

iPhone 4G?

What about having artificial product designations like they did with PowerPC desktop Macs: “G3″, “G4″ and “G5.”

The problem here is that 3G refers to a network service, not a product generation. If this naming convention is used, customers are bound to wonder if a “4G” product works on their 3G network.

iPhone 3G Plus?

So maybe they do something like we’ve seen with the iPod product line. Using terms like “Classic”, “mini”, “nano” and “shuffle” to differentiate the products.

The problem here, of course, is that there’s only one product on sale. Unless Apple plans to keep the current product on sale (at a reduced price,) this just doesn’t make sense.

I’m not going to make any predictions on the device’s name, but I will be paying close attention. The ultimate choice is likely to offer some subtle clues regarding Apple’s plans to evolve this product in future revisions.