Though this isn't too surprising, I have seen some criticism of this naming in the comments section of the 9to5Mac article.
This leads me to ask (and try to answer) the broader question: Do this year's LCD iPhones deserve a new number?
Here's why I think the answer is yes.
What was the iPhone 7?
With the iPhone 7, Apple delivered the following improvements over the iPhone 6s:
- Improved front- and rear-facing cameras
- New processor
- Faster cellular connectivity
- More robust haptic feedback engine (marketed as the Taptic Engine)
- Water resistance
- Brighter, more accurate display with wider color gamut
- Improved speakers
Here's what I expect to see from the iPhone 8 based on various leaks as well as my own speculation/analysis:
- New processor
- Faster Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity
- Wireless charging
- Improved displays; I'm hoping to see brighter, True Tone displays possibly coupled with ProMotion display technology
- Improved camera subsystems (though I'm not that confident in this one, since the major upgrades may be reserved for the iPhone Edition)
If all the features that I expect to see in the new devices make it into the phones, then I would say the user experience jump should be at least as significant as the jump from the 6s to the 7 was. In fact, ProMotion display technology and a new chip to handle the faster display speeds alone would probably be enough to justify such a new number -- the other stuff would simply be gravy.
It's also just good marketing
To be perfectly blunt, I never liked the idea of "s" iPhones. By simply appending an "s" to last year's smartphone name, Apple tells the world, "Hey, this is a warmed-over version of last year's smartphone."
While I could see Apple's rationale for such naming with older devices, the company clearly accelerated the pace of innovation with the iPhone 6s to iPhone 7 transition, and that pace of innovation appears to be on track with this year's LCD iPhones.
Calling the new phones "iPhone 7s" and "iPhone 7s" would be doing the product a disservice, would be doing the engineers and product managers who worked on all the technologies inside the devices a disservice, and would do Apple's stockholders a disservice since "iPhone 8" is clearly much more marketable than "iPhone 7s."
One more thing...
In addition to the above, there's another reason that Apple would want to move quickly to the number "8" this year -- China.
The number 8 is said to be the "luckiest number in Chinese culture," so it makes sense that as Apple hopes to reinvigorate its iPhone sales in the Greater China region, it'd want to offer up an iPhone 8 as quickly as it reasonably can.