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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

Quick Answer: The “i” in iPhone could refer to the internet capabilities of the original iMac, or it could simply be a branding decision. At present, there is no definitive answer.

We all know what an iPhone or iPad is, but very few of us actually know what the “i” stands for.

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.”

I had to look around quite a bit to answer this, digging through tons of information. But, unfortunately, nothing really seems all that conclusive.

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.

Theories on what the “i” in iPhone/iPad/iMac branding could mean

Steve jobs
Image: Work of the World

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The first thing I’d like to mention is that I don’t believe that Apple planned to use the “i” for everything.

It just caught on and worked so well with the products, that I believe they kept it due to the success of the original iMac.

Let’s now 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 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 hitting its stride around the release of the original iMac, Apple could have decided to ride that wave.
  • Independent: This explanation is mostly guesswork, but there’s also a good amount of logic we can put behind this decision.
  • Interactive: This is the last potential answer we can think of. The iPhone is very interactive and had a ton of features upon its original release.

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 must remember that before the iPhone was ever released, Apple launched the iMac computer in 1998. Notice anything?

Yup, the first instance we can find of Apple using “i” as a brand identifier dates back to before the iPhone. 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.

He goes on to add that “i” also stands for four other words: individual, instruct, inform, and inspire.

The takeaway 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.”

There’s more to Apple’s story than meets the eye

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 back in 2001?

The original iPod didn’t have internet capabilities. That means that the “i” in “internet” blows that theory out of the water.

The answer is simple. 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 to the “i,” and it was just something Apple decided to do.

Whatever the case — and the meaning — 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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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at or find him on Mastodon or Post.

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