Until Apple’s marquee event in the fall, the guessing game over the name of the upcoming iPhone family will continue. At CNET, we’ve been referring to the next-gen iPhone family as the iPhone 13 for the sake of continuity, but a recent wave of reports suggest that we may never get an iPhone 13.
Out of the possible names, iPhone 12S is rumored to be the front-runner for this year’s series. A January Bloomberg article citing Apple engineers says only minor upgrades are planned for the upcoming lineup, which will likely be an “S” version of the iPhone 12. Frequent leaker Jon Prosser pointed toward an iPhone 12S, too. We’ve seen Apple use this naming scheme in the past with 2015’s iPhone 6S, which superseded 2014’s iPhone 6, and again with 2018’s iPhone XS, a follow-up to 2017’s iPhone X.
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But if other reports are accurate, there won’t be an iPhone 13 hitting shelves next year either: Apple is expected to leapfrog to an iPhone 14 in 2022, excluding “iPhone 13” from its nomenclature altogether. Here’s why.
The name iPhone 13 can be bad for optics
It’s no secret that the number 13’s association with bad luck has real-world responses. Just ask the property developers who omit the 13th floor from their high-rises, the droves of couples who steer clear of marrying on the 13th or the psychologists who treat patients for triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13.
Apple knows this less-than-favorable perception could scare customers away from buying an iPhone 13. In the past, Apple hasn’t shied away from branding its products with the number 13, having released the A13 Bionic chipset and the iOS 13 software update, for instance. This is a higher-stakes branding exercise, however, as we’re talking about a consumer product as opposed to a component or software. Plus the iPhone is Apple’s marquee product, responsible for generating nearly 50% of Apple’s billions of dollars in revenue — and it’s also one of the most popular consumer products ever.
Read more: Apple’s iPhone 12 led to largest revenue and profit in its company history
The iPhone X (center), launched in 2017 alongside the iPhone 8 (left) and iPhone 8 Plus (right).
iPhone 12S paves the way for a big upgrade
By going with the name iPhone 12S and skipping iPhone 13, Apple could also be setting the stage for a sweeping design overhaul when the iPhone 14 or 15 comes around, just as it did with the iPhone X. You may remember Apple skipped the iPhone 9 name in 2017, instead following up 2016’s iPhone 7 with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X. And don’t forget that the iPhone X was the one that redefined design standards and paved the way for the modern-day iPhone.
By some accounts, the iPhone 14 or 15 (or whatever Apple decides to call it) could be the company’s much-awaited entry into the world of foldable smartphones. To be clear, we can’t say for certain whether a foldable iPhone will ever see the light of day, but we’re holding out hope that it could happen as early as next year. A Bloomberg report, published in January, said Apple already has a working prototype of a foldable iPhone display, but didn’t confirm a launch. Other outlets, like Taiwan’s Economic Daily for instance, pinned down 2022 as the year the foldable iPhone will come to fruition. Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo pointed to 2023.
Until Apple’s fall event, there are no guarantees about what name will get slapped onto this year’s iPhone. But if you’re interested in learning more about what we’re expecting from the Phone 13, or ahem, iPhone 12S family, read our roundup of some of the juiciest iPhone rumors.