iPhone 5s And 5c: Yes, Those Are Lower-Case

Here at Mind Your Language, we follow a simple rule when it comes to product names: what the manufacturer says goes. If Apple chooses to spell iPhone with no initial capital, we're stuck with that. And we're also stuck with using a lower-case 's' and 'c' for the iPhone 5s and 5c, even though that's inconsistent with how Apple has named its products in the past.

Picture: Getty Images

Every time Apple refers to the iPhone 5c or 5s in text form on its site, the letters are lower case. So there's no issue there. However, there are two reasons many people are confused, and why so many early and speculative reports used capital letters instead.

Firstly, the logos which Apple displayed during the launch place the letter inside a box, which makes it look like a capital (see above) . Secondly, the iPhone 4S always used a capital letter (check out the launch press release for the first example). So many people simply assumed Apple would stick to those rules. It didn't, and now we're stuck with the inconsistency.

Apple isn't the only company that does this. Samsung used Roman numerals for the first three generations of the Galaxy, and then switched to regular numbers.

Somewhat messily, Apple has now apparently decided the 4S should be lower case too, at least some of the time. On its store site, it mow shows up with a lower-case s, as you can see here:

However, Apple's own press release from today announcing the 8GB model retains the capital S, and that has been the dominant standard.

In this instance, my own stylistic decision is that the 4S is still the 4S, not the 4s, while the 5c and the 5s are lower-case. Some sites might choose to also use lower-case for the 4s to reflect Apple's new usage. I wouldn't want to set an absolute rule for everyone on that point, but I would suggest the new models can only be referred to with lower case. That's how they've been named, right from the start. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


Comments

    This works until a manufacturer starts going crazy with underscores, umlauts, accents and apostrophes. My personal tipping point was the Kia Pro_cee'd.

    Hmm, interesting. Maybe having 5 and capital S next to each other, on some fonts, looks like "SS"(may have Nazi connotations?). So having the lower case s, it avoids that. Or it could be something totally random that Apple decided.

    I can also understand Samsung ditching the Roman numerals when it got to IV. Roman numerals aren't common in Asia, and IV would have confused a lot of people outside of Europe and English speaking countries.

    Last edited 11/09/13 1:32 pm

    "mow" should be "now". (Feel free to delete my proofreading comments once fixed :-)

    I think there are two reasons why the "s" is lowercased.
    • 1 - People could easily confused "iPhone 5S" with "iPhone 55" or "iPhone SS." (Yikes!!)
    • 2 - in iPhone 5s, the "s" doesn't really stand for anything. In iPhone 3G S, the "S" stood for "speed." In iPhone 4S, the "S" stood for Siri. The "s" in "iPhone 5s" doesn't really stand for anything, therefore there's no reason for it to be capital.

    And since Apple always likes everything to match, they went ahead and lowercased the "s" in both the iPhone 3Gs and iPhone 4s, and decided to lowercase the "c" in "iPhone 5c" as well, on most of the pages of their website where they're mentioned.
    Makes sense to me!

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