A colleague said that each new smartphone introduced is akin to the latest drug of choice.  Early adopters can’t seem to get enough of them.

That’s true enough.  There’s a war being waged over operating systems, screen sizes, resolutions and processor speeds.  The interest in walloping the popular Apple iPhone remains keen, especially with iPhone 4 shipping on Thursday.

Consider the names of the coming devices.  They want to decimate, destroy or otherwise squash the iPhone.  Research in Motion is said to be working on something called the Torch 9800, while Samsung has the Captivate smartphone underway. The coming Droid X, previously the Xtreme, plays up the X-Factor theme, implying that it can blast the iPhone to bits.

Those names could help the phones catch on, but Apple really has the best name for the iPhone and ain’t nobody going to touch it.  The ‘i’ in iPhone (in lower case, in e e cummings style) was undoubtedly, at least partially, meant to represent the Internet at the heart of iPhone browsing, e-mailing and social networking.

It was a Steve Jobs’ stroke of genius to name anything with the first-person pronoun in this way, just because everybody likes anything about themselves.  Me, myself and I. What else really matters in this consumer world?

You could argue that early adopters especially like things referring to themselves.  This tendency carries over in the many naval-gazing bloggers who refer to their personal insights constantly and love to link to their earlier blogs as gospel.

Sure, we’ve endured a massive global recession. We are supposed to have learned to regard other people and our economic and spiritual interdependence … yada, yada, yada. Still, despite that lesson, isn’t everything still all about me?

A product reference to everything me, myself and I might have been behind the T-Mobile myTouch smartphone as well.  Actually, myTouch might not be the strongest competitor to the iPhone from a hardware or software standpoint, but the marketing types understood what counts in a name, even down to the lower case ‘m’ in ‘my.’

The biggest failures in names for phones that try to compete with the iPhone, bar none, are those with a bunch of digits, and maybe a letter, strung together like a messy (but highly secure) password.

Nokia fell into this naming trap the way all the European sports car makers did. Espoo, Finland-based Nokia, makes a smartphone called the N97, for example, and another called the 5530. There are dozens of others.

Come on. And Nokia says it wants to grow its market share in the U.S.

Nokia really needs to get down and create a Hagar the Horrible phone. Or maybe even the Eviscerate smartphone. They could even use the Finnish verb for that one, and start up a hot new marketing campaign. (Actually, no. Google Translate says the Finnish translation for ‘eviscerate’ is ‘poistaa sisalmykset jltak.’ That alone pretty much explains why Nokia doesn’t use actual names for its phones, at least in its mother tongue.)

If I had a smartphone line, I’d call it Matt’s Phone, and work out a way to have yours named after you. The name could be embossed right on the phone with a logo, and on the box too. (Elisha’s Phone, Job’s Phone, Gunner’s Phone … you get the idea.)

Such branding would probably cause trademark confusion, but it would truly put the buyer at the center of things.

That’s iPhone Wisdom.

Advertisements