When naming one's child there are two ways to go: The risky character-building route, or the safe, but possibly lame, classic name path. The same goes for phones. We came to this realization while looking at the funny Internet thing of the moment, Intercom's "Is it a Condom, or Is it an Android?," which pokes fun at phone names. Desire? Touch? Intensity? A lot of phones share names with condoms. And, just as many phones have ridiculous monikers, we also get phones with boring names, like the iPhone series. Like naming babies, both tactics can backfire. Classic names on bad phones come off as lame. And, while a good phone can overcome its challenging name, a bad phone ends up sounding like a condom.
We've seen both success and failure from brands that have taken the standard route. Take the iPhone. Apple has stuck with that same basic formulation, slapping a new number (and sometimes letter) on each upgrade. When Apple didn't deliver the iPhone 5, as the techies had expected, some tech bloggers at first grumbled that barely modifying the old name meant the product was a not-new enough phone. But they warmed to it in no time -- about one week -- because the iPhone 4S proved itself and managed to overcome its lame branding. "The question isn’t what’s in a name -- it’s what’s in a phone. And the answer is: A lot of amazing technology. And some of it feels like magic," wrote The New York Times' David Pogue in his review of the phone a week after its release.
Not all phones can overcome lame names, however. Take the Nokia series, which like Apple has stuck to a boring pattern, using letter plus number combos for its phones. As of late, they have switched things up a bit, to "keep up with the times," now using just numbers. It started this hipper direction with the Nokia 500. And, like the Ann's of the world, it's a forgettable name for a forgettable phone.
The other way to go has proven just as precarious for the gadget makers. Like Blue Ivy, who could have been given any name by her superstar parents, Jay-Z and Beyoncé and still be the princess of the world, a quality phone—from the right maker—can pull off a silly name. So, HTC, who has taken the character-building name strategy, can name its phones things like the HTC Sensation, even with its obvious sensual overtones. But, not all Android phones have that luxury. Ridiculous Android names for so-so phones have elicited mockery via this Android phone name generator, which gives us silly fake (but could be real) products like the LG Vigor Vibrant.
So what path should a company take when picking a name for its gadget? Shakespeare has our answer. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." We'd (probably) still love an iPhone named Poop, but if your phone is lame, it's name better be above reproach.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.