by Tom Kaneshige

Apple’s iPad, iPhone, iPod: What’s in a Name?

Jul 18, 20123 mins
Consumer ElectronicsiPhoneTablets

The "iPad Mini" could do more harm than good to the iPad brand. So why not make it a big iPod Touch?

In the months leading up to the latest iPad unveiling earlier this year, everyone was calling it the iPad 3 – that is, everyone except Apple.

In an odd detour from the Steve Jobs era, the new powers at Apple decided to name it the “new iPad.” The thinking goes that the next-generation iPad is simply another iPad, just like the latest MacBook Pro is referred to merely as a MacBook Pro.


The new naming convention caused confusion in the blogosphere. “We don’t want to be predictable,” says Phil Schiller, senior vice president of global marketing at Apple.

Now people are wondering what Apple might call the much rumored smaller tablet, which sources told the Wall Street Journal will come out in the fall.

The new iPad name sets the stage for a smaller tablet to be called the iPad Mini, much like the iPod Mini, wrote Will Shanklin at back in March: “If yesterday’s new device had been called the iPad 3, then we would have had the iPad 3 and iPad mini sitting side-by-side. That’s fine, but what happens when the second iPad mini hits the market? iPad 4 and iPad mini 2? It starts to get confusing, complicated, and convoluted: everything that Apple avoids like the plague.”

Shanklin isn’t alone; the popular consensus is that a smaller Apple tablet will be called an iPad Mini. Just do a search for “iPad Mini” and you’ll see what I mean. Even I referred to it as iPad Mini in my story The iPad Mini: A Late Game Changer?

But there’s a problem with the name iPad Mini.

The iPad will face perhaps its biggest rival this fall when Microsoft unleashes its 10.6-inch Windows tablet, called Surface. It will be a premium product likely cost compatible with the iPad and sold concierge-style at Microsoft retail stores. Expect the battle to play out with aggressive advertising campaigns.

It would be the worst time for the iPad brand to be dragged down by a cheap, mini version.

Then there are the immortal words of the late Steve Jobs. He dismissed 7-inch tablets as “tweeners,” neither tablet nor smartphone. If Apple names the smaller-screen product an iPad Mini, then Apple is basically saying that such a “tweener” is not only a tablet but an iPad tablet.

Enter an interesting idea courtesy of Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Milanesi contends that such branding would be detrimental to the iPad and a slap in the face to Jobs, which the new leaders at Apple just won’t do. Instead of imagining a smaller-screen product, she sees it as a larger-screen product – as in, a larger iPod Touch.

If Apple calls the new product an iPod, not only does it avoid cheapening the iPad brand but also breathes new life into the iPod brand. The iPod, of course, has been somewhat stagnant compared to its more lively iPhone and iPad brethren.

So there you have it. Get ready for the new iPod.