If you’re wondering where the confusing “XS” and “XR” names for Apple’s new iPhones came from, Phil Schiller provides an answer in a new interview: from the car industry.
“I love cars and things that go fast, and R and S are both letters used to denote sport cars that are really extra special,” Schiller told Engadget in an interview coinciding with the launch of the iPhone XR.
As it happens, this is far from the first time Apple has embraced automotive marketing techniques to sell its products.
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It’s not clear whether Schiller’s answer is the official Apple one, but he’s certainly right about the car industry’s love of the letters “R” and “S.” There’s a whole lot of fondness for the letter “X,” too, although Apple prefers that you call the new iPhones “10” rather than “X.”
For example, the automotive industry has the Cadillac SRX, Cadillac XLR, Jaguar XJR and XKR, the Lexus RX, Mazda RX-7 and RX-8. That’s just to name a few.
Apple has always borrowed from the car industry
I’ve previously argued that Apple’s iPhone naming has lost what made it so great originally. The iPhone XR and XS Max sound unwieldy, reminiscent of the bad old days of the 1990s, before Steve Jobs came back and gave us simple names like the iBook and iMac. But invoking the automotive industry in its marketing is something Apple has done for years.
Back in 1984, when Apple introduced the first Macintosh, it accompanied it by a campaign offering users the chance to “test drive” one of Apple’s new computers. The campaign was accompanied by a TV commercial which showed what appeared to be the outline of a high-end sports car obscured by a dust cover. When the cover was removed, it turned out not to be a sleek Ferrari or Mercedes, but rather a mouse connected to the Mac.
Former Apple CEO John Sculley told me the following when I interviewed him for my book The Apple Revolution: “Automobiles were bought for emotional reasons as much as any practical reason.” They are status symbols that set you apart from the pack. And the luxury of owning one helps make sense of the hefty price tag.
Now doesn’t that sound like it applies to both luxury cars and the latest iPhone? It sure does to me.