iPhone 9 Logo with Question Mark on Blue Background

In 2017, Apple introduced the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X but skipped over the iPhone 9. In the following years, no iPhone 9 ever appeared. Why didn’t Apple release iPhone 9? We’re on the case to find out.

The Big Jump to “X”

During its September 2017 iPhone event, Apple unveiled the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which were the expected incremental upgrades to the existing form factor set in motion by the iPhone 6 and 7 before it. In particular, these iPhones came with home buttons like all iPhones released before them.

At the very end of the presentation, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced “one more thing” and debuted the iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone ten”) which marked a dramatic new direction for the iPhone series. The iPhone X included an edge-to-edge screen with no home button, an OLED display, an improved camera, and the debut of Face ID, among other features.

During the unveiling, Cook emphasized the large technological jump ahead of the iPhone 8, saying that the iPhone X was “the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.” He also referred to the 10th anniversary of the iPhone’s original release in 2007: “The first iPhone revolutionized a decade of technology and changed the world in the process. Now, ten years later, it is only fitting that we are here in this place, on this day, to reveal a product that will set the path of technology for the next decade.”

The press generally interpreted this statement to mean that the “iPhone X” name (with “X” being the Roman numeral for “10”), was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the iPhone (in line with rumors prior to the announcement), but Apple never said that specifically. In fact, Jony Ive said the technology for the iPhone X had been in development for two years and the iPhone 10th anniversary was a “wonderful coincidence.”

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Beyond the anniversary talk, there were some clear marketing reasons to leap over iPhone 9. The iPhone X introduced a new high-end parallel product line with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus that cost much more ($999 base price vs. $699 for iPhone 8). If Apple had released the “iPhone 8” and “iPhone 9” simultaneously, it would have been confusing—why instantly make the iPhone 8 obsolete? Instead, Apple was positioning low-end and high-end flagship iPhone models side-by-side and clearly labeling them as different product categories.

That’s Great, But What About iPhone 9?

Phil Schiller in front of the iPhone X in 2017.
Apple

All that being said, Apple could have easily come back the next year and released the iPhone 9 as a successor to the iPhone 8. But the company didn’t. Instead, Apple ditched the iPhone X and released the iPhone XR as the low-end flagship model (following the iPhone 8) and the iPhone XS as the high-end flagship phone (replacing the iPhone X completely.) Both names didn’t necessarily mean anything but were seen by Apple’s Phil Schiller as references to sports cars. Instead of introducing the iPhone 9, Apple kept selling the iPhone 8 for several years, discontinuing it in 2020.

In that sense, the second-generation iPhone SE (launched April 2020) that came just after Apple axed the iPhone 8 could be considered the “iPhone 9” in spirit. It retained the form factor of the iPhone 8, including the legacy home button with Touch ID.

People have speculated about Apple avoiding the number 9 for superstitious reasons (similar to Windows 9 rumors) or using “X” as a marketing trick to encourage upgrades, but neither theory has been supported by any evidence from authoritative sources. Ultimately, a name like “iPhone 9” is just a marketing term, and Apple never found a need for it, so it never came to be.

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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