Waiting for iPhone 9? Why tech firms skip this number

People take photos as a woman tests out a new iPhone X during a media event at Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017. PHOTO | AFP PHOTO | JOSH EDELSON
People take photos as a woman tests out a new iPhone X during a media event at Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017. PHOTO | AFP PHOTO | JOSH EDELSON   

Global technology firm Apple Inc, last week launched its latest smartphones; iPhone 8, 8 plus and X (pronounced as iPhone 10) prompting consumers as well as industry experts to point out quickly the missing iPhone 9 from the numbered progression that has been associated with the company’s naming of its smartphones since its launch.

“We have abandoned ‘nine’, apparently, and with it the neat logic that had named iPhones to date. Other handset makers offered a charcuterie of devices with different names; Apple was, until now, always cleaner,” wrote Tom Cheshire a Sky News technology correspondent.

The smartphones are expected to be released in Kenya between December and January next year, costing from Sh100,000 to Sh150,000.

However, while the release of the iPhone X can be attributed to as a way to mark the anniversary of the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, Apple is not the first technology company to skip the number nine when launching a new product, suggesting that skipping ‘9’ might have some basis in marketing returns, in indicating a ‘next generation’ of devices, and encouraging consumers to upgrade.

In 2014, Microsoft launched Windows 10 after Windows 8, skipping Windows 9. “Windows 10 will be our most comprehensive platform ever. It would not be right to call it Windows 9,” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group.

Indeed; “by skipping one number, it could be a way of showing that the product launched is far superior to what is in the market, to lure consumers to buy the product, and to beat the competition,” said Bruce Gumo, a marketing analyst at Biz Trace, a marketing solutions company.

“Besides this, the number 10 is also considered a relatable number by consumers, thus it can easily influence purchase because it is associated with things around us or things we aware of, such as the Ten Commandments.”

The skipping of the number nine by Apple also puts it beyond other associations that could limit its success.

In Japan, the number nine is pronounced as ‘ku’ or ‘kyu’, which has the same pronunciation as the words ‘agony’ or ‘suffering’ in Japanese, meaning consumers can avoid products that denote the number.

Given that the iPhone is the most popular smartphone in Japan, selling 3.3 million devices during the second quarter of 2017, and with the highest market share of 41.3 per cent, according to analytics firm Strategy Analytics, Apple might have chosen to avoid the number nine in the naming of its latest smartphone with an eye on the possibility of a national market hit if it did not.

“Superstitions exist in many parts of the world, but the numbers associated with bad luck — or good — tend to vary from one place to another.

While this kind of information is generally known to natives within a given market, it is not intuitive to foreigners.

As a result, companies often make unintentional numerical and cultural blunders when launching their presence in a new market,” said Nataly Kelly, the VP of Marketing at HubSpot in an article, Bad-Luck Numbers that Scare Off Customers, in the Harvard Business Review.

“Knowing about numerical superstitions is important for any business that seeks to expand internationally — especially in the realm of international marketing.”

— African Laughter