iPhone, iPad, iPod – most of Apple's top products start with an “i,” and this naming pattern is consistent enough to raise the eyebrows of many curious fans. What about the "i" and what does it mean?

In this article, we'll find out why Apple decided to add the "i" prefix to almost all product names.

Where does the "i" come from?

In 1998 Apple introduced its first "i" product, the iMac. The internet was just exploding in popularity and becoming the number one selling point for computers.

Apple took advantage of this trend by making the iMac connect to the Internet faster and easier than the competition. And that was the iMac's biggest selling point. Along with its slim and compact appearance, of course – at least when compared to the other computers on the market at the time.

At the launch of the iMac, Apple's co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs said the iMac was designed to help users take advantage of the myriad possibilities offered by the Internet. So "i" stood for Internet and Mac for Macintosh.

Related: The Evolution of the iMac: From 1998 to 2021 and Beyond

But, as Jobs pointed out, this was nowhere near the only meaning of the letter "i". During the presentation he showed a slide with different meanings of the prefix.

You are:

  • Internet: For the reasons mentioned above.

  • Individual: Because Apple wanted users to express themselves and exude personality with the iMac's unique capabilities.

  • Instruct: To emphasize the purpose of the product as a learning tool in the classroom and beyond.

  • Educate: Highlight how much people could learn from using the power of the Internet on the Macintosh.

  • Inspire: Because Apple intended the iMac to inspire users to create amazing products and content.

The iBook and iMac were the first to use the letter "i". Steve Jobs wanted a professional-grade, consumer-grade desktop and portable computer, so these were made. Since the introduction of the iMac in 1998, Apple has developed a number of other consumer products using the "i," including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Why do some Apple products not start with an "i"?

Many newer Apple products, such as the Apple TV and Apple Watch, have adopted a new name pattern that completely leaves out the “i” and instead opts for a generic name, sometimes accompanied by the Apple logo.

It is possible that these were so named because Apple wanted to avoid trademark wars that typically lead to lawsuits and settlements, especially because similar cases had already occurred.

With the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Apple had a legal battle with Cisco Systems, as described on Wikipedia, because the company already had a product with the same name. Cisco and Apple eventually agreed on the precious iPhone name, although the price of the settlement was not disclosed.

From "i" to "Apple" to "Air"

Apple began deviating from the “i” path in 2014 when current Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the company's first wearable technology, the Apple Watch. Not long after that, Apple released the AirPods, followed by AirTags, and who knows what's next. Will Apple release an Apple Mac? An AirPhone? Or adopt a completely new prefix?

What Makes Apple Successful?

Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world, but how did it get there? Here are our thoughts on the matter.

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About the author

Keyede Erinfolami
(24 articles published)

Keyede Erinfolami is a professional freelance writer passionate about discovering new technologies that can improve productivity in daily life and at work. She shares her knowledge of freelance and productivity on her blog, along with hot views on afrobeats and pop culture. When she's not writing, she's playing scrabble or finding the best spots to take nature photos.

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