It’s common enough to encounter confusingly similar monikers in the smartphone and tablet markets and though it’s been a while since we’ve seen anything as stupid as the “Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch”, device manufacturers still don’t always seem to be putting much thought in to the names of their products.
Android OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are particularly to blame here. For example, there are well over 50 Android smartphones worldwide that begin with “Samsung Galaxy” and HTC’s new “HTC One [insert letter or letters here]” naming scheme isn’t doing itself too many favours, either.
Of course, Android OEMs tend to release multiple smartphones every year so it’s difficult to compete with the elegance of “iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5” etc, but in a way that’s just part of the problem.
It’s difficult enough to keep track of what device is the latest and greatest without adding a new release on top ever 3 or so months. But customers must also always contend with that device which is just around the corner, but whose release date is still unconfirmed. A great display of this is the Samsung Galaxy S3 4G. When the originally Galaxy S3 was released the media circus surrounding it was massive. Then, just a few months later an upgraded version with more RAM and 4G LTE support was quietly released, immediately making the standard Galaxy S3 out-dated anywhere with 4G support.
While we don’t have too much trouble keeping track on our end, seeing as it’s part of our job, we do get frustrated with the number of caveats we have to add when answering any question. Just today a personal friend asked me what non-iPhone smartphones were good right now, with particular regards to HTC.
I answered that my current favourite HTC handset is the HTC One XL on Telstra. I also mentioned the HTC One SV on Optus or Virgin Mobile. Both these phones offer solid Android experiences and both support 4G LTE. In an ideal world I would have been able to stop there, but I was forced to continue.
I have learned that it is important to make sure that people will often confuse a device with a similar name to the actual one that I have recommended. So, knowing this, I explained that the HTC One XL is not the same device as the HTC One X. Nor is the HTC One SV the same as the HTC One S or HTC One V.
Obviously I didn’t want to leave my recommendations limited to only HTC products, so I explained that my current favourite Android device is the Samsung Galaxy S3 4G; not to be confused with the Samsung Galaxy S3, or the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G.
Unnecessarily lengthy answers like this are always followed with a moment of confusion, after which the dreaded but unavoidable query of “what’s the difference?” will emerge, leading to me, or someone like me, explaining the difference between all the similarly-named smartphones. This usually just leads to more confusion and ultimately culminates with me saying “Look, just get [X] phone or [Y] phone and try to remember their exact names and don’t be fooled by anything that sounds similar.”
The blame doesn’t solely lie with Android. Nokia may have been impressing the world with its new approach to smartphone design and its quality Windows Phone experience through the new Nokia Lumia line, but it’s getting worse in terms of naming as more phones emerge.
Once again, as a tech writer and reviewer I can keep up with the difference between the Nokia Lumia 610 and 710/800/810/820/920 and all the others I failed to mention, but the average shopper that I talk to has a bit more trouble. But, really, why shouldn’t they? To a person who’s just looking for a new, solid smartphone, the Nokia Lumia [insert number here] is just exactly that; a phone with a recognisable enough name and then a 3-digit number on the end.
It’s not surprising to me that someone who didn’t plan on spending more than an hour picking out a new device might get mixed up between a Lumia 800 and 820, or the 820 and 920, especially if they go for more than a week without revisiting their notes and then walk in to a store. I don’t particularly encounter problems with Nokia’s naming scheme as much as with Samsung’s or HTC’s when answering the questions of curious buyers, but it’s still an issue that’s arisen more than once.
Apple and Others
Even Apple isn’t completely free of blame here. While the iPhone line is probably the most elegantly named of the major smartphone manufacturers, the iPad leaves a bit to be desired. Despite happening quite some time ago, most people I talk to are still confused when it comes to any full-sized iPad released after the iPad 2.
If you missed out on the fun, every Retina iPad after the iPad 2 is simply called “iPad”. We’re currently at the second Retina iPad, which is often referred to as the iPad 4th generation, or iPad 4. The 4th generation iPad replaced the 3rd generation (also simply called “iPad”) as the premium iPad option, but without bumping the iPad 2 from the lineup.
That means that customers now have the option of iPad Mini, iPad 2 or iPad with Retina Display (aka the iPad 4th generation). While this is easily the least confusing of all these examples, it’s still a bit perplexing as to why Apple ever bothered dropping the number scheme of iPads in the first place.
There are, of course, many other manufacturers guilty of ill-thought-through monikers, but to list them all would be as lengthy as it would be depressing. Specifically, we could go on with regards to the BlackBerry line for ages, but with the impending release of BB10 and RIM’s totally new focus on it we’re not going to point any figures until the new BB10 naming scheme proves itself worthy of derision.
What we’d really like to see is manufacturers either trading on their own brand name or the name of the product, rather than trying to go with both. While Apple’s iPhone line is sometimes marketed as the “Apple iPhone [number]”, Apple itself only ever calls it “iPhone [number]”. Similarly we think that Samsung might make things easier for consumers by, rather than the “Samsung Galaxy S3 4G”, simply going with something like “Galaxy S3 4G”, “Galaxy 3 4G” or even “Samsung S3 4G”.
Of course it’s probably a bit late for the Korean giant or any of the other manufacturers to make immediate changes now, but we can always dream of a simpler world where consumers always know what they’re buying just by checking its name. Then again, if that happened we may find ourselves out of a job.