What Does the “i” in iPhone Stand For?

Apple’s iMac, iPad, iPod, and more all have names with lowercase “i”s. The iPhone is one of the most well-known. What does “iPhone” mean? We’ll go back in time to find out. This is what we’ll do.

The I stands for the Internet.

I in iPhone started as a way to group Apple’s smartphone with other I products like the iMac, iBook, and iPod. The I in iPhone came from this idea. According to the fan-run Apple Wiki, Apple has released at least 23 products with the lowercase I branding scheme in the last 30 years. This is based on the number of products that have been released.

There was an innovative personal computer called the iMac that came out in 1998 that was made easy to get into the internet. Starting with the iMac, Apple changed its direction from being doomed to becoming the world’s most valuable company.

Steve Jobs wanted to call the computer “MacMan” when it was being made. “iMac” was named after an Apple collaborator who worked with the advertising firm TBWA Chiat/Day. The I stands for “internet” because that was one of the most unique things about the machine. If “internet” used to be capitalized, only Apple would lowercase the “I.” Steven Levy wrote for Newsweek in 1998 that only Apple would do this.

On May 6, 1998, when the iMac was first shown off, Steve Jobs talked a little about the name: When the internet and the Macintosh came together, Jobs said, “iMac was born.” It doesn’t matter that this is a full-fledged Macintosh. We’re going to target this for the number one thing people say they want a computer for, which is to get on the internet quickly and easily.

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People all over the world now use the internet, but in 1998, having a machine that made it easy to get on the internet was a big deal. In fact, the I could mean a lot more than just “internet.” During the presentation, Jobs put up a slide that was based on Ken Segall’s original pitch for the iMac name, and it had words like “individual,” “instruct,” and “inspire.”

“I” also means other things to us, said Jobs. Personal computer company: “We make these kinds of things, and this one was made to connect.” It is also a beautiful product on its own. We also want to use it for education. They want to buy these, and it’s good for most of the things they do in class. This is a good thing to have. It’s great for finding a huge amount of information on the internet. Then, we hope that when you see the product, it will give us all the motivation to make even better products in the future.

When Apple came up with a name for their computer, “iMac,” they used the letter “i.” Even though the I in the name meant “internet,” Apple came up with a way to use that letter I to mean just about anything. That may be why it has worked so well with so many different kinds of products over the years, including the iPhone, as well.

iPod to iPhone

Apple came out with its iPod music player a few years later, and it was a huge hit. All eyes were on Apple after the iPod took the world by storm. What would they do next?

When the company decided to work on a cell phone, a lot of names came up. Apple also thought about the names “Mobi,” “TriPod,” “TelePod,” and even “iPad” for its new phone, according to Ken Segall, who worked at Chiat/Day at the time.

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As it turns out, it’s not clear which person at Apple or Chiat/Day came up with the name “iPhone.” But someone made a connection between a simple descriptive word like “phone” and the strong, prevailing lowercase-i branding of the iPod. It made sense, and the iPhone was Apple’s best-selling product line ever, making it Apple’s best-selling product line ever.

Think about the I branding we talked about above. If you ask Apple today what the I in “iPhone” stands for (which we did; Apple refused to comment), you might not get a clear answer. At its launch in 2007, one of the iPhone’s most important features was that it could use all of the internet on a phone. So, the idea that “iPhone” means “internet Phone” doesn’t seem too far off.

It’s hard not to agree with Segall when he says that the iPhone SE and iPhone XR are confusing extensions of the name. But it’s hard not to agree with the power of the iPhone, which is now a business for Apple that makes about $70 billion a year. I think Apple will keep the “iPhone” name for a long time to come.

Darren Trumbler

Darren Trumbler

Darrent is a digital marketer, tech enthusiast & blogger.

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