From the Editor's Desk: Smartphone names are getting stupid again

Time for some Chromebooks and churros
Time for some Chromebooks and churros (Image credit: Android Central)

My very first Android phone was a Samsung Captivate Glide. I called it Soarin. I had to; calling it the Captivate Glide just felt ridiculous. The Samsung Captivate Glide was the QWERTY Keyboard variant of the Samsung Galaxy S II. The Glide was the follow-up to the Samsung Captivate, the AT&T-tailored version of the original Galaxy S, which had over a dozen different named variants in in the US alone. It was the dawning of a new era for Android — and for stupid-ass phone names.

The Captivate Glide is actually on the tame end of the spectrum if we look back over the last decade of Android phone naming. The Samsung Galaxy S II Epic Touch 4G. The T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. The Acer Liquid Zest Plus. The Casio G'zOne Commando...

And now, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, because somehow in the last 10 years, Samsung hasn't found a better way to name a slab of silicon, glass, and metal.

There's a lot to be excited about in 2020 when it comes to smartphones. After a few years of stagnation and relative uniformity, things are about to get inventive and fresh and weird. We've got folding phones! We've got (mainstream) 5G phones! We've got circular phones! Cool, great, but for the love of all that is sane and logical in this world, could we maybe rein it in with the naming in 2020?

Your phone name should get 3 words, 50 characters maximum.

Once upon a time, Motorola did something bold, daring, and sane: they simplified their smartphone portfolio down to three lines: The Moto X, the Moto G, and the Moto E — Droids don't count since those are carrier contractual obligations. They cut down the clutter and made it easy for buyers to figure out which of their phones they wanted. This worked amazingly well, with the Moto G becoming one of the most popular phone brands in Central and South America. But then Lenovo wanted to have its cake and eat it, too, so the Moto G line split into two models, then three, then four.

Brand marketers want phone names to be instantly recognizable and associated with its successful predecessors. And so when a model splits, we end up with the Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20+. And then when the models split again between 4G and 5G, we get the Galaxy S20 5G and the Galaxy S20+ 5G. And then they decide the want to Gigantamax a phone, so that one has to still be a Galaxy S20 5G, but it needs to have a modifier that's even cooler than Plus. Better than Plus....

Go beyond! Plus Ultra!

Source: Funimation (Image credit: Source: Funimation)

Hey, that'll work. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G!

Let's give another example: we now think there's going to be three versions of the Pixel 4a. Last year we had the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, so we'll now have the Google Pixel 4a and Google Pixel 4a XL, plus an extra 5G model that will presumably be called the Google Pixel 4a XL 5G. It's the logical assumption, it follows the easy pattern and makes it easy for buyers to tell where it falls in the Pixel 4a lineup...

You can do better Google, Samsung, and Motorola, and please, in this new decade, let's try something new with the names: each phone gets 3 words and 50 characters maximum, including the company name. 3 words basically rules out tacking on "5G" at the end, and can hopefully encourage some newer, more useful series names you could adopt instead.

In other news this week....

  • I agree with Jerry about Google's incentive to get Steam working properly on Chrome OS, and Valve's incentive to get Steam into more living rooms with Chromeboxes.
  • Andrew Martonik is utterly wrong about notification sounds and can sit there in his wrongness and get used to it. Cute/nerdy/cool notification tones are great, and you will pry them from my cold, dead hands!!! For a lot of people, and especially a lot of women, we don't in fact keep our phone on our person at all times; they don't fit in our front pockets! So they're on the table, or buried in our purse, on propped up on a wireless stand/throne, and that notification tone is very important.
  • However the EU's attempt to standardize chargers on mobile devices shakes out, my goal for 2020 is to not only buy absolutely nothing that still charges with micro-USB, but to recommend to you fine folks only gear that can charge via USB-C. My phones, laptops, power banks, and headphones all charge via USB-C and with the exception of my OnePlus 6T and my Bludio headphones, everything can charge off the same 45W Power Delivery charger in my living room and at my standing desk.

See you in a few weeks, and as a reminder boys, Valentine's is three weeks away and nothing says love like a cute, useful accessory like a PopSocket or a heart red USB-C cable!

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.