This Is What the “I” in iPhone Stands for

There's actually more than one meaning!

Even though the iPhone is actually not the best-selling cell phone of all time, you probably either have one or know of at least ten people who do. The iPhone took the world by storm when it debuted in 2007 and its popularity has shown no signs of slowing down. But, even if you do have one, can you confidently say you know what that now-iconic letter I is short for?

Your first guess might be “Internet,” since the iPhone’s claim to fame is its ability to access the Web. Or maybe you think it means “I” as in the personal pronoun “I,” since you can personalize your smartphone with the apps and features of your choice. But you’ll be surprised to know that there is not one but five different I-words that the “I” in iPhone represents.

That little “I” actually got its start long before the iPhone became a reality. The first Apple product with an “I” in its name was the iMac computer, released back in 1998. Never mind phones that could access the Internet—back then, computers that could do so were a rarity. So the “I” originally stood for Internet, to highlight the Mac’s revolutionary Internet capacities. Find out the fascinating origins of some more of your favorite company names.

But when that first iMac launched, the “I” had several other meanings as well. When Steve Jobs introduced the iMac, he displayed a presentation with not one but five potential I-meanings. “Steve Jobs said the ‘I’ stands for ‘internet, individual, instruct, inform, [and] inspire,'” Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate at Comparitech, explains. However, while these words were an important part of the presentation, Jobs also said that the “I” “didn’t have an official meaning,” Bischoff continues. “He also alluded to it referencing ‘I’ as a personal pronoun, and ‘instruction’ for education purposes.” So it seems the “I” is open to Interpretation.

Not to mention, while the “I” got its start as “Internet,” and it’s true that Internet access was the iPhone’s biggest selling point when it debuted in 2007, some Apple products with I-names didn’t even have Internet access (think the early iPod!). So the “I” isn’t so much representative of a single shortened word as it is a memorable—dare we say Iconic—brand identifier. Learn more things you never knew about your iPhone with these brilliant hidden iPhone hacks.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.