Here are some observations on Apple’s product naming system, written originally in 2015 but still holding true today. Here’s why…

With recent product launches from Apple, I’m wondering what the design system is behind the use of Uppercase and Lowercase type in Apple’s product names. Specifically, I’m referring to the Uppercase typesetting of ‘Apple WATCH’ and ‘Apple MUSIC’, compared to the use of Sentence-case, for iPhone and iPad. It could be part of the debate (that’s been happening online at least) about the ‘i’ moniker and whether it’s being phased out. If that happens, will the next generation of iPhones and iPads be typeset like Apple WATCH, and will the ‘i’ be dropped?

At some point, even the best brands struggle to have a consistent naming approach. This is especially true of consumer electronics with new product releases happening all the time, but for Apple, having different naming approaches is uncharacteristically messy, not least because it centres around two of its most high profile products – iPhone continues to break sales records and all eyes are on the growth Apple WATCH.

If the new naming approach uses Uppercase type, why didn’t they do the same for ‘Apple Pay’? (Apple WATCH / Apple Pay).

So what’s going on? Is it just a necessary transition from one naming system to another, or have things got a bit muddled? If the new approach uses Uppercase type for the descriptor names, why didn’t they launch their new payment proposition as ‘Apple PAY’? Instead, it’s typeset as ‘Pay’ in Sentence-case, following the same approach to the ‘i’ system? This decision wasn’t a legacy thing as Apple Pay was unveiled alongside Uppercase ‘Apple MUSIC’ and ‘Apple WATCH’ at the same event in September last year. Perhaps an Uppercase ‘PAY’ was considered too shouty? Perhaps there was a last minute co-branding problem with a partner, like Visa? Perhaps it’s because ‘Apple Pay’ is a software proposition and ‘Apple WATCH’ hardware, but then you’d expect ‘Apple MUSIC’ to be in Sentence case as well, no? And then there’s Lowercase ‘Apple tv’ which seems to be going in the opposite direction, launched in 2007 as Uppercase ‘Apple TV’, (similar to Apple WATCH and Apple MUSIC), but redesigned in 2014 to Lowercase ‘tv’.

It’s one thing for Apple to change naming systems and go through a slightly messy period of transition as old generation products get phased out, but it’s a bigger problem if the path of change is already showing cracks. That doesn’t sound like Apple. If anyone can figure out the system let me know? In the meantime I’ll continue to follow the UPs and downs.

By Nick Couch, founder of Bright New Thing.