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Significance Of Word “S” After A Smartphone Name

It might seem reasonable for a smartphone model name to include an S, but does it stand for ‘smart’? And if so, why don’t all smartphone model names include an S?

We all take the name of the iPhone 4S for granted, but it wasn’t until I came to sell my HTC Desire S that I really started to recognize that Apple are not the only manufacturers to add an S to their model names. You might be surprised, however, to learn that Apple were not the first major manufacturer to add an S not only to one model, but to an entire range of smartphones.


The Samsung Galaxy S launched in spring 2010, and new models continue to carry the S moniker – even their latest model is named Galaxy S4. As far as I can tell, there is no widely accepted meaning behind the S here – and if Samsung ever had a reason for it, other than it being their initial, that reason hasn’t made it very far into the public domain over the past three years.

My HTC Desire S actually came on to the market before the iPhone 4S too, launching in spring 2011 having previously been reported in pre-release reviews under the name of HTC Desire 2. What prompted the turnaround? It’s hard to be sure – maybe it was simply inspired by the success of the Samsung Galaxy. More likely is that it was a combination of HTC’s desire for something a bit catchier than simply adding a ‘2’ to their previous model name. It’s also possible that the HTC Desire S gets its name from the initial letter of the Qualcomm Snapdragon ‘system on chip’ that powers its functions.

No such luck in using the same explanation for Samsung however, as it was not until the Galaxy S II that the Snapdragon chip first became used as standard in the Samsung Galaxy S family.

Infact, Apple’s iPhone 4S is actually the smartphone whose ‘S’ is the easiest to explain – and although you might not immediately guess where it comes from, you’ll certainly understand as soon as you find out. The answer is that the iPhone 4S is so named because it was the first iPhone to feature the voice recognition system named Siri. Technology news sites knew what the name would be – and that it would not be the iPhone 5 – quite early in 2011, although the iPhone 4S was not officially unveiled until October, around six months after the HTC Desire S, and roughly 18 months after the first Samsung Galaxy S.

Whatever the reason, the S moniker has become popular among smartphone manufacturers, and it is likely that, in the future, it will simply mean ‘smart’ – so look out for it in plenty more model names to come.


This article has been written by Alisa Martin. She is a technology commentator, rather than a reviewer. She draws inspiration from everyday events, like trying to sell my HTC Desire S, and let those briefest of ideas decide what she will blog about.



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