Saturday, September 21, 2013

Give Me an "S"

In an announcement watched by Apple fanboys and girls everywhere, the company trotted out not one, but two new phones to titillate the masses. The Apple 5S is the firm's new flagship, coming in gold, silver and "space gray," while the Apple 5C comes in green, blue, yellow, pink and white. In the arms race that is the smartphone market today, they both come with all of the standard "me too!" stuff you'd expect, like cameras, HD video and high resolution screens. But this being Apple, or just perhaps being the latest phone from any manufacturer, the 5S also sports a number of "groundbreaking" features such as a fingerprint identity scanner, an separate motion coprocessor and a camera that is spec'ed as having "8 megapixels with 1.5ยต pixels," regardless of the fact that no one has any idea of what that means or why you need it.

Interestingly, what is attracting as much attention as the feature sets themselves are the names of the devices. On the last go-round, when the company upped the ante on the 4 to the 4S, the best guess was that the "S" stood for "Siri," its intelligent personal assistant that enabled you to speak to the phone and get an answer or help. But there was also speculation it stood for "speed" or even "Steve" in tribute to the company's founder. This time around the gurus from Cupertino have once again offered no guidance. The initial guesses were for "sensor" in deference to the fingerprint scanner, or "security" for the same reason. While there is no definitive answer, it might simply be that, as with its older sibling, it's just the "second edition" of the phone.  

But if that's the case, what about that "C" on the other model? A knee jerk answer would be "color." After all, it is the first phone the company has offered in anything other than stealthy black or techy white. But it could just as easily be for "China," as it's a phone aimed squarely at that growth market in terms of design and price. Other suggestions have surfaced, including "cute" and "custom" for the look of it, and even "control," as in controlling the market. And while the company would never agree to this adjective with its products, the lower price point makes one wonder is the "c" stands for "cheaper."

The question is this: what next? With smartphones adding features seemingly minute by minute, would anyone be surprised if they add other gizmos and sensors in the next iterations to augment our other senses, and named them to match? I for one would not be surprised to see the new 6H, which would constantly monitor what you said, and then called up the weather when you wonder aloud if you need an umbrella, no button push necessary. By the way, "H" wouldn't be for "helical scanning" or "heptalogical processing," it would be for "hearing." Or the yet to be released 7T, which would sport a pad that enabled you to check the level of spiciness in your Indian curry. The "T" of course, would be for "taste." Or then there's the still in R&D 8O, which would be capable of sniffing the air for that fresh baked smell, and then plotting a course to the local bakery. Since "S" was taken, "O" would be for "odor."

Unlikely, you say? Well, regardless of the manufacturer, there seems to be no feature which is off the table. As to the name, keep in mind the simplest answers are most likely the most correct ones. In an area I'm more familiar with, and back in the day, we all used to work with gear made by a Japanese company called Ikegami. The flagship camera was designated as the HL-78. As to those two initials, you might guess it stood for the something highly technical, like "hyper-longitudinal," never mind that the words meant nothing in the context of the device. But if that was your speculation, you would be wrong. I've never seen it written, and can't say I ever had it definitively confirmed, but it was common knowledge that the designation as the "HL" series, which encompassed some of the first truly portable video cameras, stood for the only thing they really should: "handy-looky."


Marc Wollin of Bedford is a proud Android user. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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