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What does the “i” in iPhone (or iPad) mean?

Have you always wondered what the “I” in iPad or the iPhone meant? We may have the answer.

siri logo for apple
Image: KnowTechie

We all know what an iPhone or iPad is, but very few of us actually know what the “i” stands for. Well, at least until recently. More on that that below.

We just know that the infamous “i” has existed for as long as we can remember, and the letter itself has become a pivotal part of the phone’s name. Without the “i,” the iPhone would just be called “Phone,” and the iPad would just be called “Pad.”  

Of course, we don’t want to make this a fifty-word article in which we just display what the “i” could stand for, so we’re going to present you with a decent amount of logic and reasoning behind this question. And, of course, a definitive answer on what “i” actually stands for.

I had to look around quite a bit to answer this, digging through tons of information. But, unfortunately, nothing really seemed all that conclusive, sadly enough. Still, after looking through tons of different Wiki answers, Apple questions on their forum, and more, I came up with a list of possible things that the “i” could mean, but no conclusive evidence towards anything.

All of these potential answers have a good amount of reasoning behind them

steve jobs
Image: Work of the World

The first thing I’d like to mention, though, is that I don’t believe that Apple planned to use the “i” for everything, as they pretty much have continued to do with the iPhone, iPad, iMac, and more.

It just caught on so well and worked so well with the products, so I have reason to believe that they kept it due to the success of the “i.”

Let’s now take a look at a few options that the “I” in iPhone or iPad could stand for.

  • Information: This is probably the most logical explanation. With the information age, perhaps Apple decided that they wanted to throw an “i” in front of their products, to display the information age.
  • Internet: This is another fairly logical explanation. With the internet coming into a huge wave of success at the time, Apple thought it’d be for the best to symbolize internet in front of their products.
  • Independent: This explanation is mostly guesswork, but there’s also a good amount of logic we can put behind this decision as well.
  • Interactive: This is the last potential answer we can think of. As iPhones are indeed very interactive, and were very interactive at their time of release (as compared to other phones), this answer seems very logical as well.

Have any thoughts on this list of potential answers? Well, the answer is on that list, sort of. Can you guess which one it is? If you still can’t figure it out, no worries, we have the answer below.

Here’s what the “i” in iPhone or iPad stands for

So the answer is a bit complicated. First, we have to remember before the iPhone was ever released, Apple launched the iMac computer back in 1998. Notice anything?

Yup, the first instance we can find of Apple using “i” as a brand identifier dates back before the iPhone was ever released. Check out the video of Steve Jobs describing the iMac in the video below:

“We are targeting this for the number-one use that consumers tell us they want a computer for, which is to get on the internet,” Jobs says, before adding that “i” also stands for four other words: individual, instruct, inform, and inspire.

The takeaway here is that “i” stands for internet, emphasizing Mac’s revolutionary internet capabilities. If you didn’t watch the video above, here’s a quick excerpt:

“’i’ also means some other things to us,” Jobs said on stage. “We are a personal computer company, and although this product is born to network, it also is a beautiful stand-alone product. We are targeting it also for education. They want to buy these. And it is perfect for most of the things they do in instruction.”

But here’s where things get interesting. Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate at Comparitech, tells Readers Digest that Jobs “didn’t have an official meaning” for the letter “i.” Instead, it was meant to be more of a brand identifier. “He also alluded to it referencing ‘I’ as a personal pronoun, and ‘instruction’ for education purposes,” says Bischoff. 

steve jobs iphone

While internet seems like a logical conclusion for the “i” in iPhone, it still doesn’t add up. Think about it: if the “i” stood for internet on the iMac, then why did Apple add an “i” in the first iPod when it was launched back in 2001? The original iPod didn’t have any internet capabilities, so the “i” in internet blows that theory out of the water.

The answer is simple. My conclusion is that the “I” identifies the brand rather than merely representing one shortened word.

You can decide which answer you feel is correct. However, we can also speculate that there is absolutely no meaning of the “i,” and it was just something that Apple decided to do. Whatever the case may be, and whatever the meaning may be, we will never truly know (or so it seems).

What do you think the ‘i” in iPhone means? Do you have an idea or reason to believe it’s a certain different word? Let us know in the comments below. If your suggestion is good enough, we’ll move it into the article itself.

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