What Does the “i” in iPhone Stand For?


The original 2007 iPhone in someone's hand.

Mysterious lowercase “i” names reign in a few of Apple’s product traces: iMac, iPad, iPod, and extra—together with the well-known iPhone. However what does the “i” in “iPhone” imply? We’ll dig into the historical past to search out out.

The “i” Stands for Web—Kinda

The “i” in iPhone originated as a approach to group Apple’s smartphone with a bunch of similarly-branded “i” merchandise, such because the iMac, iBook, iPod, and extra. In line with the fan-run Apple Wiki, Apple has launched at the least 23 merchandise utilizing the lowercase “i” branding scheme previously three a long time.

All of that branding originated in 1998 with the iMac, an revolutionary private laptop designed to be a simple on-ramp to the web. The iMac initiated Apple’s reversal from being doomed to changing into probably the most priceless firm on Earth.

A front and side view of the original 1998 Apple iMac computer.
The unique 1998 iMac laptop. Apple

Throughout iMac’s growth, Steve Jobs wished to name the friendly-looking laptop “MacMan.” After consulting with promoting agency TBWA Chiat/Day, an everyday Apple collaborator there named Ken Segall got here up with the title “iMac,” with the i being brief for “web,” since that was probably the most distinctive options of the machine. (“Solely Apple would dare to lowercase the “I” in Web,” wrote Steven Levy for Newsweek in 1998, at a time when “web” was normally capitalized.)

In the course of the unveiling of the iMac on Might 6, 1998, Steve Jobs spent a couple of minutes speaking concerning the iMac title: “iMac comes from the wedding of the joy of the web with the simplicity of the Macintosh,” mentioned Jobs. “Regardless that it is a full-blooded Macintosh, we’re focusing on this for the primary use that buyers inform us they need a pc for, which is to get on the web—merely and quick.”

Though the world’s use of the web is commonplace immediately, offering a machine that might allow you to get on the Web simply in 1998 was a really huge deal. However the “i” may imply a lot greater than that, and throughout the presentation, Jobs put up a slide that borrowed from Ken Segall’s unique pitch for the iMac title that included the phrases “particular person,” “instruct,” “inform,” and “encourage” along with “web.”

A slide of alternative Apple "i" words from a presentation in May 1998.

“‘I’ additionally means another issues to us,” defined Jobs. “We’re a private laptop firm, and this product is born to community. It is also a stupendous standalone product. We’re focusing on it additionally for schooling. They wish to purchase these, and it’s excellent for a lot of the issues they do [in] instruction. It’s excellent for locating [a] great supply of knowledge over the web. And we hope, as you see the product, it is going to encourage us all to make even higher merchandise sooner or later.”

So although the “i” in “iMac” primarily meant “web,” Apple discovered a approach to summary the “i” naming scheme to imply absolutely anything you may think about. That’s presumably why it has proved so adaptable to so many alternative sorts of merchandise through the years—together with the iPhone.

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From iPod to iPhone

Quick ahead just a few years, and Apple launched its iPod moveable music participant, which turned wildly profitable. After the iPod conquered the world, all eyes had been on Apple: What would they do subsequent?

When the agency determined to work on a cellular phone, many potential names floated round. In line with Ken Segall (as reported by 9to5Mac), who was nonetheless working at promoting agency Chiat/Day, Apple additionally thought of the names “Mobi,” “TriPod,” “TelePod,” and even “iPad” for its new telephone.

"Say Hello to iPhone" from Apple website in 1998.

Finally, it’s unclear who precisely inside Apple or Chiat/Day named the iPhone “iPhone,” however somebody made the connection between a easy descriptive phrase like “telephone” and the sturdy, prevailing lowercase-i branding of the iPod. It made sense, and the iPhone turned Apple’s most profitable product line but.

Considering again to the nebulous nature of the “i” branding we talked about above, in the event you ask Apple immediately what the “i” in “iPhone” stands for (which we did—Apple declined to remark), you may not get a concrete reply. Nonetheless, utilizing the total web on a telephone was one of many iPhone’s most distinguishing options at launch in 2007, so the considered “iPhone” that means “web Telephone” isn’t too far off the mark.

Lately, Segall has criticized complicated extensions of the iPhone title, reminiscent of iPhone SE and iPhone XR, but it surely’s arduous to disclaim the model energy of the iPhone, which is now a roughly $70 billion enterprise for Apple. With these sorts of billions on the road, it’s probably Apple will preserve utilizing the iPhone title for years to return.

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