In what feels like a repeat of last year’s revelations, an image purporting to show part of Apple’s product packaging appears to have slipped out through an unknown Chinese leaker, clearly showing the name “iPhone 13.”
The image, which was originally posted on Chinese social media site Weibo, was shared on Twitter by well-known “leaker” DuanRui, who disavows any direct involvement in the photo, but adds that he considers it “relatively reliable.”
Since Apple has been cracking down hard on leakers in recent months, DuanRui is pointedly distancing himself from the photos, emphasizing that he is “not a leaker,” and has no first-hand information.
This suggests that his assessment of the reliability of the photo is based mostly on speculation, although it’s impossible to know for sure.
What’s in a Name?
While the safe money has been on the “iPhone 13” name all along, there have been some suggestions that it could be called the “iPhone 12S” instead.
Since the overall look of this year’s iPhone isn’t expected to differ much from the iPhone 12, such a move would be in line with Apple’s tradition of using an “S” model designation in years with relatively few physical design changes.
In fact, it’s only bucked that trend once so far, when it released the very “7S-like” iPhone 8, but the reasons for that are seemingly obvious, since it also debuted alongside the much more exciting and revolutionary iPhone X.
We never saw an “iPhone 11S” either since Apple did undertake a major redesign last year, adding 5G to the mix as well, but this year’s iPhone seemed ripe for a return to the “S” designations.
Some also felt that Apple may have been reluctant to use the name “iPhone 13” for fears of igniting people’s superstitions, but recent reports suggest otherwise. Further, Apple didn’t seem to care too much about using that number for iOS 13 two years ago.
Besides, triskaidekaphobia — fear of the number 13 — is strictly a western phenomenon. Many folks in China, which is one of Apple’s largest markets, are far more scared of the number “4” since it sounds like the word for “death.” Many Chinese buildings — even those in cities like Toronto that were built by Chinese companies — not only exclude a 4th floor, but all occurrences of the number 4 entirely. This means you won’t see a 14th, 24th, or 34th floor, and really tall buildings will skip from 39 straight to 50. The number 4 won’t appear in any unit numbers, either.
Evidence for ‘iPhone 13’
Still, “S” model history aside, Apple is under no obligation to follow previous traditions, and even Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who was one of the first reliable sources to suggest the “iPhone 12S” name back in January, has backed away from that.
While Gurman doesn’t claim to have any specific inside information, he does feel that Apple wants to continue emphasizing its 5G technology, and that “Year two of the big 5G push is a fair marketing reason to jump to 13.”
However, Gurman also suggests that Apple might “avoid this whole discussion by finally ditching numbers” entirely, which he feels Apple is going to have to do eventually. After all, if Apple keeps the numbers and ditches the “S” model naming entirely, we’ll be toting an “iPhone 20” in a few years.
Could It Have Been Faked?
It’s also worth keeping in mind that although the photo shared on Weibo looks legit at first glance, it could easily have been faked.
Firstly, the horizontal green pull-tab style looks more like what’s found on the thinner packaging used on Apple’s smaller products like AirTags, chargers, and cases, which aren’t shrink-wrapped. By contrast, Apple’s larger and more solid iPhone boxes use a much larger tab that pulls vertically down the bottom length of the box.
While it’s certainly possible Apple could change its packaging for this year’s iPhone, it’s still unusual enough that the image should be taken with a grain of salt.
It’s also not the first time that doctored packaging photos have appeared. For instance, a fake set of packaging photos that circulated back in 2016 convinced many people to think that the iPhone 7 would actually be called the “iPhone 6 SE”.
The following year also saw more than a few leaks — mostly from third-party accessory makers — labelling the traditional 2017 models the “iPhone 7s” and iPhone 7s Plus” while the name for what turned out to be the iPhone X was predicted to be the “iPhone 8.”
As we noted earlier, this latest image also seems like it’s following pretty closely to last year’s iPhone 12 naming leak, which was also shared by DuanRui. In this case, however, the labels showed stickers from the packaging of Apple’s first-party silicone iPhone Cases. These showed considerably more detail, and also named all four iPhone 12 models.
Of course, even if the image is a complete fabrication, that doesn’t mean that this year’s iPhone won’t be called the “iPhone 13.” That’s still easily the frontrunner among all possible names, but it sounds like we’re still going to have to wait until next month to know for sure.