When Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) introduced the iPhone 6 series smartphones back in September 2014, the devices came in two different screen options. The standard-sized model with a 4.7-inch display was called iPhone 6 and the larger one with a 5.5-inch display was marketed as the iPhone 6 Plus.
Apple continued to offer both screen sizes for several subsequent generations, including the iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, and iPhone 8 product families.
Last year, alongside the iPhone 8 product family, Apple introduced a radically redesigned device, called the iPhone X. This device came in only a single screen size: 5.8 inches. While the iPhone X has done well for the company, there's clearly an opportunity for Apple to appeal to a broader set of potential customers by introducing a larger-screen version of the iPhone X.
Fortunately for Apple customers who prefer huge smartphones, the company's planning to do just that. According to a report from 9to5Mac, which cites "two sources familiar with Apple's marketing plans," the larger-screen variant of Apple's upcoming flagship smartphone could be called the "iPhone Xs Max."
Ditching the "Plus" name?
To be clear, 9to5Mac said that "Apple has considered the name 'iPhone Xs Max' for the larger 6.5-inch version [...]," so it doesn't seem as though this is a done deal (although with the products set to be announced about a week from now, Apple doesn't have a ton of time to figure out the final name).
Nevertheless, I can see why Apple would pick this name. First, at this point, the "Plus" name has been in use since 2014, so it's not surprising that it would want to choose a new moniker to keep things fresh.
Additionally, it's worth comparing the dictionary definitions of the words "plus" and "max" to get a sense of what Apple's trying to do here. One definition of the word "plus" is "something additional." A definition of "maximum," on the other hand, is "greatest or highest possible or attained."
So, while the hypothetical "iPhone Xs Plus" branding might give the impression that the larger 6.5-inch version of the iPhone Xs is just that -- a larger iPhone Xs -- the rumored "iPhone Xs Max" may make it clearer to consumers that the bigger iPhone Xs is the best iPhone that Apple has to offer.
During the first three quarters of its current fiscal year (that's fiscal year 2018), Apple shipped 170.83 million iPhones, which was practically flat compared to the 170.08 million it shipped during the first three quarters of its fiscal year 2017.
However, average selling prices have grown dramatically, which fueled the 15% iPhone revenue growth that the company enjoyed during that period.
This phenomenon has undoubtedly been driven by Apple shipping significant quantities of the iPhone X, which starts at $999 for the baseline model and runs up to $1,149 for the variant with greatest storage capacity. The previous flagship iPhone, the iPhone 7 Plus, started at $769 and topped out at $969 for the configuration with the most storage.
Given Apple's clear desire to keep trying to grow its iPhone average selling prices, it's not surprising to see that the company could make a change in its product branding that's designed to, even in a subtle way, encourage customers to buy its biggest (and priciest) devices.
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.