Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, Oscar Mayer — the wiener people (no relation to Anthony) — ran a series of adorable commercials featuring kids singing about how their hot dogs and bologna had first and last names. It's how many people learned how to spell "B-O-L-O-G-N-A."
The cellphone business took this inanimate object naming idea to heart. Heretofore, cellphone marketing geniuses kept saddling their wares with an alphabet soup of identifiers that looked as if they'd been created by a password generator or by the failed attempts of the infinite number of monkeys (not otherwise involved in planet domination) sitting at typewriters attempting to reproduce Hamlet.
For a while, we were golden. StarTAC. Razor. Chocolate. iPhone. Droid. Galaxy. Evo. Evocative and easy to remember, everything a trade name should be.
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But those damned Shakespeare-typing primates may have taken over the cellphone naming planet, but Apple may have some need of them to help with identifiers for its upcoming iPhone and HDTV.
Depending on what rumor you click on today, the next Apple iPhone will be arriving either next month or the month after that. Aside from the usual "What will it look like?" speculation (more like iPhone 4 or more like iPhone 3G?), the biggest question for me is — will it run on AT&T's sputtering 3G network, or via the souped-up HSPA+ 4G?
If the latter (and it DEFINITELY won't run on battery-hogging LTE), Apple has a naming problem.
We've all be referring to this next-gen iPhone as "iPhone 5." But if it's a 4G phone, will it be the 4G iPhone 5?
Apple may be many things, but stupid, by endowing its flagship product with a confusing name, isn't one of them — which rules out iPhone 5.
Since "4G iPhone 5" makes no sense, a plethora of pundits are positing the next iPhone will be called "iPhone 4S," just like the faster 3G model was called "3S." Except, "4S" evokes more a minor adjustment rather than the expected major upgrade — larger screen, 8 MP camera, 1.2 GHz processor, etc.
So, maybe Apple will go with the simplest sobriquet — iPhone 4G.
But then what does Apple name its first iPhone LTE phone? iPhone LTE? Oooh, that's catchy. Someone call the monkeys!
Of course, if iPhone 5 is just another 3G phone (YAWN!), Apple's marketing problems will be heftier than just a contradictory cognomen.
But Apple isn't the only company facing cellphone pseudonym sticklers.
My Smartphone Has A First And Last Name
With its science and sci-fi associations, "Galaxy" is a wonderful name for any high-tech product. And the thusly-named Samsung smartphones and tablets have found justifiable success in part because of this celestial appellation.
But unlike iPhone's simple numerical delineation between models, Samsung has endowed its Galaxy satellites different first name — Vibrant, Infuse, Captivate, Indulge, Fascinate... That's a lot of Galaxies.
And then there's the strange case of BlackBerry, itself a familiar brand name. But in addition to "BlackBerry," each BlackBerry not only also has a number but another name as well, one of which is "Bold."
But given RIM's inability to produce a smart phone that can effectively compete with either iPhone or Android, "Bold" seems more ironic than expository. Naming it so doesn't make it so and merely evokes an ironic usage.
Then there's the even stranger case of Droid. Naming its Android phones thusly I thought was brilliant and simple. And once the first Droid proved successful, succeeding models similarly named would carry the original's reputation.
So how did HTC end up with "Droid" as a surname for its Incredible and Eris phones? I understand why HTC would want to, um, borrow, the already well broken in moniker, but I don't understand why Motorola either didn't trademark it or even raise a fuss over HTC's usage.
I only know that "Droid" has become diluted.
Apple's TV Troubles
Which brings us back to Apple.
For some reason, only cellphones seem to get names. Home theater gear still use name/model numbers, although an increasing number of HDTVs now sport nom de plumes — Sony Bravia, Panasonic Viera, etc.
Aside from the disruptive affect an Apple HDTV will have on the TV business, and what an Apple HDTV would actually do, what will Apple call it?
Obviously, Apple TV is taken — and the fact that Apple will make an HDTV already makes its set-top box name confusing.
Apple can't use "iTV" — it already ran into this issue a year ago when BBC competitor ITV insisted it would aggressively enforce its trademark.
And obviously trying to insert its "iPxxx" into the name — i.e. "iPTV" — is out since IPTV is an acronym for the Internet Protocol TV technical standard.
What's left? iHDTV? iLCD? iLED? MacTV? iOSTV? Fred?
Maybe it's time to sit Caesar at a QWERTY.