Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone event is just around the corner, and the Mac maker is widely expected to unveil three new models that have casually been referred to as the iPhone 7s, iPhone 7s Plus, and iPhone 8, the last of which would be the OLED-equipped flagship. Those names might not actually be what Apple calls the new lineup of iPhones, though.

9to5Mac's Seth Weintraub is reporting that numerous Apple case makers have heard from supply chain sources that the new trio of devices will instead be called the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone Edition. Ahead of the launch later this month, Apple has been manufacturing product packaging that could be spotted within the supply chain.

If the rumor proves accurate, then that means Apple would be skipping its iterative "S" cycle this year for the first time since 2009, when it started using that convention for the iPhone 3GS. Back then, the "S" stood for "speed," highlighting that "S" iterations generally focused on performance improvements while keeping the same overall form factor design.

A marketing opportunity in disguise

Being the 10th-generation iPhone, Apple has an opportunity to finally adopt a more sustainable naming scheme. Apple's former ad man Ken Segall called it "The Great iPhone Naming Opportunity of 2017" earlier this year. Segall has long been a critic of the "S" branding, arguing that it creates a perception that "S" models are less of an upgrade than redesigned models.

Multiple iPhone 7 devices laying flat

Image source: Apple.

"iPhone Edition" has a nice ring to it, and was initially rumored back in March. That branding could reinforce the premium positioning and echo Apple Watch Edition, the most expensive version of Apple's smartwatch.

Baby steps

The iPhone 7 presented a dilemma for Apple, since it reused the same overall design for the third year. Was Apple supposed to call it the "iPhone 6ss"? Now that Apple is redesigning all three models, an "iPhone 7s" doesn't exactly make sense either, and most pundits only assumed that Apple would call it that out of habit. The numbering system stopped making any sort of sense a long time ago, and an overhaul to iPhone branding is long overdue.

It's unclear why Apple hasn't just gone with the simplest route of differentiating iPhones using monikers it uses in other product families -- Mini, Air, Pro, etc. Even ditching the number altogether would be simpler and preferable: iPhone, iPhone Plus, and iPhone Edition. I've been calling for Apple to drop numbered iPhones for years, so at least we're finally starting to see some progress. Baby steps.

Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.