The short answer is no one really knows… But there are some pretty good theories about what the “S” means in Apple’s iPhone S updates…
Apple is cagey at the best of times. But ask it direct questions – like, “what does the S stand for on your iPhone S releases? – and you’ll be met with a cold, steely gaze. Honestly, I don’t even think Apple knows. It was probably just a thing that happened, and then they just decided to stick with it.
It’s kind of like iCloud – no one really knows what the “i” means! Spoiler: in this context, it is most likely “Internet”.
How many iPhone S models iPhones has Apple released to date? You might actually be surprised. There have only been several iPhone S releases, and they are as follows:
After this, Apple switched back to solid numbers and Pro and Max monikers to differentiate its releases. It did release the iPhone SE 2020 in April 2020, however, but that is not technically an iPhone S handset; it sort of exists all by itself with the original iPhone SE.
However, there is one theory that I REALLY like about what “S” means when applied to Apple’s iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5s, and iPhone 6s range – but not its latest and greatest iPhone releases. And it goes a little something like this…
What The “S” In iPhone 5s, iPhone 6s, iPhone 4s Actually Means…
- 3GS – stands for 3G Sequel since it was the sequel to the iPhone 3G
- 4S – stands either for 4 Steve because Steve Jobs died a day after its release, but it most likely is 4 Siri because it was the first iPhone to come with Siri
- 5S – stands for 5 Security because it was the first iPhone to have Touch ID
- 5C – Stands for 5 colorful because it came in many vibrant colors
- 6S – stands for 6 Screen because it was the first iPhone to have 3D Touch
Makes sense, right? Well, this find came via Will Cohen on Quora and it is by far and away the best explanation for not only the iPhone 5c, but also all of Apple’s iPhone S releases – of which there have been four in total (not counting the Plus models, obviously).
Other Theories About Apple’s iPhone S Name?
There are plenty, as you’d expect. For instance, many think the “S” in iPhone 5s stands for security, as the iPhone 5s was the first time Apple really drilled-down on advanced security on an iPhone with the release of TouchID. Other theories for why certain iPhones carried the letter S attached to the end of them are as follows:
- iPhone 3GS – The “S” equals speed because the iPhone 3GS was so much faster than its predecessor, the iPhone 3G.
- iPhone 4s – Here, the “S” could mean Siri, as the iPhone 4s was the first phone to feature Apple’s Siri voice assistant.
- iPhone 5s – For the iPhone 5s, as mentioned above, the “S” could mean security; the iPhone 5s was the first iPhone to use TouchID.
- iPhone 6s – Apple introduced 3D Touch aboard the iPhone 6s range, so “S” here could stand for sensitivity or screen. Or it could mean scale, as you can weigh things – including weed – using your iPhone 6s’ display.
Apple’s “S” iPhones Are No Longer With Us…
As you might have gathered by looking at Apple’s most recent slew of iPhones – from big to small, none carry the “S” branding anymore. Apple switched over to “X”, where X means 10, branding with the release of its game-changing iPhone X, a phone that spelled the end of TouchID on modern iPhones and introduced a whole new gesture-based way of interacting with iOS.
Why 10? Simple: the iPhone X was the 10th anniversary iPhone launch. This is why we didn’t get an iPhone 9; Apple wanted the iPhone X, said iPhone 10, on market for the 10th anniversary of its iPhone. And that’s totally fine, it makes complete sense.
Apple’s S and Plus brands went away when TouchID was replaced with FACE ID on the iPhone X. As Apple moved towards a new design era, it wanted new branding that reflected the physical design of the phone.
Still, there are still A LOT of active iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 8 handsets in use, ditto iPhone 7, and even iPhone 6s phones. All of which got iOS 14 too, so I don’t expect this to change too much in the coming 12 months.
Fans of TouchID can still pick up a perfectly good iPhone 8 Plus in 2020, however, and they’re proper cheap now (like less than $300). And make no mistake: an iPhone 8 Plus will still be plenty powerful. Even now. These phones are built to last and an iPhone 8 Plus is easily as powerful as most top-billed 2020 Android phones.
That’s the power of Apple’s INSANELY good A-Series CPU.
So if you’re anything like me and you miss the home button, you could always save yourself some dollar and pick up an iPhone 8 plus, fully loaded, of course, instead of Apple’s new FACE ID/No Home button iPhones.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.