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iPhone 12S or iPhone 13? What will Apple call its next smartphone?

iPhone 12 Pro Max review
The iPhone 12 Pro Max (Image credit: TechRadar)

We’ve mostly been referring to Apple’s next numbered iPhone as the iPhone 13, but is that actually what it will launch as? Given that it follows the iPhone 12, it would make sense for it to, but there are a couple of reasons why it might not.

Below, we’ll look at what those reasons are, what Apple might call the next major iPhone instead (with iPhone 12S being the most likely alternative option but not the only one), and what the rumors say so far.

We’ll also consider how likely an alternative name actually is, and as soon as we hear anything else about the name, we’ll be sure to update this piece.

An inconsistent pattern

So why might Apple not call its next major phone the iPhone 13? One reason is that it sometimes follows up a numbered model with an ‘S’ version. For example, the iPhone 6 was followed by the iPhone 6S.

But that’s not a pattern Apple always sticks to, and in fact the last ‘S’ model was the iPhone XS – so the iPhone 12 followed the iPhone 11, with no iPhone 11S in between.

So if Apple continues with what it’s been doing for the last couple of years then we can expect the iPhone 13, but if it goes back to using an ‘S’ then we’ll likely get the iPhone 12S.

Unlucky number

Another reason Apple might not go for the number 13 is that it’s seen as an unlucky number in many parts of the world, including Apple’s home market of the US.

Of course, calling the next phone the iPhone 12S wouldn’t entirely solve this problem because Apple would still then be up to 13 the following year.

iPhone 12

We might get an 'S' version of the iPhone 12 (Image credit: TechRadar)

What do the rumors say?

The earliest rumors about the next main iPhone largely referred to it as the iPhone 13, but it’s not clear whether the sources had heard that would be the name or were just assuming it would be, and more recently a few sources have specifically said it will be called the iPhone 12S.

For example, Bloomberg reports that engineers inside Apple consider the upcoming model to be an ‘S’ version, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it would launch with ‘S’ in the name.

Jon Prosser, a leaker with a reasonable track record, has also suggested that the next model will be called the iPhone 12S, as have GizChina and DigiTimes.

Ross Young – a display industry expert who’s accurately leaked things in the past – also refers to the upcoming phones as the iPhone 12S range, though notes that he’s “not sure” whether that will be the final name.

Notably, no sources at the time of writing have specifically come out and said that the phones will be called the iPhone 13, so based on the evidence at the moment, iPhone 12S is actually looking more likely.

What’s in a name?

It’s worth noting that if Apple does choose to call its next iPhone the iPhone 12S, this won’t have been done at random, and could in fact signal that the next model will be a relatively minor update that’s not worthy of a new number.

That’s speculation for now, especially as it’s still early days for iPhone 13 rumors, but it’s something to bear in mind, especially as early rumors do suggest the design might be similar to the iPhone 12’s.

Could Apple pick a completely different name?

It’s possible. As noted above, calling the next model the iPhone 12S doesn’t solve the problem of 13 being unlucky, it just delays the issue by a year. So Apple might skip straight to iPhone 14, or use some new naming convention, but so far there’s no suggestion that it will, so we’d say this is unlikely.