What's In A Name? That Which We Call An "iPhone 3GS" By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

picture-31We’re on the verge of Apple’s WWDC keynote tomorrow morning in San Francisco. We’ll be there covering it live starting at 10 AM PST. After the usual months of speculation, there are two things Apple’s VP of marketing Phil Schiller is expected to focus on during the keynote: Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” and the iPhone platform. Obviously, the iPhone 3.0 software will be a big part of that, but most of those details were already given during Apple’s iPhone 3.0 SDK event a few months back. That’s why a new piece of iPhone hardware seems likely to take center stage tomorrow as well.

Details of such a device (or devices) have been trickling out over the past few months. It now seems fairly likely that the device will look similar to the current iPhone 3G, perhaps with a different, more matte-finish back and a loss of the silver ring that goes around the screen now. It will likely feature a better camera — probably 3.2 megapixels (as opposed to the current version’s 2 megapixels) and could have autofocus. The device should also be able to record video. It’s also possible that it could have a front-facing camera, though that may be saved for a future version rather than this one. Speed will likely be a focus as the device should have a faster processor, more RAM and be able to handle faster 3G connection speeds. And that leads to two final rumors: The device’s name and battery life.

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber made his predictions for the WWDC keynote this morning, talking about what he’s heard and what he’s unsure about. He has a great track record when it comes to such things, so when he says he’s heard a new possible name for the device, it’s at the very least probably a code name, which he notes. And I hope it is a code name, because it’s kind of lame: iPhone 3GS.

As I allude to above, he makes the case that the “S” in iPhone 3GS would stand for “Speed.” That makes sense given what Apple is likely to tout with this version, but is a rather boring naming convention. I would much rather see Apple go with some other names that have been tossed around like “iPhone Video” or the “iPhone Pro.” The latter makes some sense given the other recently reported talk that there will be a slightly cheaper version of the iPhone that will be for sale when this new version comes out. A lot of people including Gruber believe this cheaper version could simply be the current iPhone 3G reduced in price to either $149 or $99.

Eventually, such a model would undoubtedly be phased out in favor of a new, smaller model just as Apple has done with its iPod line. And that’s why I still have some hope that Apple will simply call its new iPhone the “iPhone,” while it gets ready to transition to an “iPhone nano” or whatever they’ll call that when it comes out eventually (not tomorrow). But calling it simply the “iPhone” could raise some confusion if the cheaper iPhone model is still the “iPhone 3G” — some people might be tricked into thinking that the iPhone 3G is more advanced than the one which would be called the iPhone. So that’s a roundabout way to describe why would could be stuck with a clunky iPhone 3GS name.

I just wonder if that name will draw some confusion from people misreading it as the plural version of the iPhone 3G. I can just see ads touting that a store has iPhone 3Gs in stock — while they mean the iPhone 3GS. And just try doing a Google search for “iPhone 3GS,” — yeah, that’s pretty useless. Not that Apple would dictate a name based on a Google search. Of course, I also thought the MacBook Air was a bad name because it sounded like “MacBook Error,” but that seems to have worked out okay for Apple.

The other juicy tidbit in Gruber’s predictions is that he’s heard this new iPhone 3GS will have 15 to 20% better battery life. If true, that is awesome. I recently complained about the diminishing battery life of my iPhone 3G, but when it was still young, I found the device’s battery life to be pretty good — not great, but good, considering how much I was using it. But a 20% boost on top of that would be most welcomed.

[photo: flickr/kennymatic]