The Curious Case of the Missing iPhone: What Happened to the iPhone 9?

Have you ever wondered why there was no iPhone 9? When Apple unveiled the iPhone X in 2017, essentially skipping over the iPhone 9, it left tech enthusiasts scratching their heads. For over a decade, consumers eagerly anticipated each new iPhone release counting incrementally up from the original iPhone to the iPhone 8. But suddenly Apple broke the pattern, leapfrogging ahead to the iPhone X. This bizarre gap sparked endless speculation, confusion, and of course, many memes poking fun at the missing iPhone 9.

Was it merely a marketing gimmick to celebrate ten years of the iPhone? Were there secret plans for an iPhone 9 that got scrapped? Why maintain sequential numbering through eight generations only to abandon it arbitrarily? The mysterious vanishing of the iPhone 9 joins the ranks of tech’s most notorious gaps and omissions alongside Windows 9, USB 3.1, and Tesla Model E. This is the curious case of the missing iPhone 9.

Brief History of iPhone Models

The iPhone revolutionized the mobile phone industry when it was unveiled by Steve Jobs in 2007. Since then, Apple has consistently released new iPhone models each year:

  • iPhone (2007) – The 1st generation iPhone introduced a touchscreen, apps, web browsing and more.
  • iPhone 3G (2008) – The iPhone 3G brought 3G data speeds, GPS and a new plastic back design.
  • iPhone 3GS (2009) – This incremental update focused on speed improvements and introduced video recording.
  • iPhone 4 (2010) – The iPhone 4 showcased a new industrial glass and steel design along with a higher resolution “Retina” display.
  • iPhone 4S (2011) – The 4S boasted the new Siri voice assistant and had similar external styling as the iPhone 4.
  • iPhone 5 (2012) – Apple increased the screen size with the iPhone 5 and switched to an anodized aluminum rear shell.
  • iPhone 5S (2013) – Touch ID debuted on the 5S along with an improved camera with dual LED flash.
  • iPhone 6/6 Plus (2014) – The first generation of larger screen iPhones was met with huge consumer demand.
  • iPhone 6S/6S Plus (2015) – These models added pressure-sensitive 3D Touch interaction and better cameras.
  • iPhone 7/7 Plus (2016) – The loss of the headphone jack was controversial but the new water resistance was welcomed.
  • iPhone 8/8 Plus (2017) – Though overshadowed by the iPhone X, wireless charging came to the iPhone 8 models.

Why No iPhone 2?

Apple has set a precedent of skipping planned model numbers in order to highlight major new features or capabilities.

The first instance of this was when Apple decided to forgo releasing an iPhone 2 in 2008. Instead, the second generation iPhone unveiled that year was called the iPhone 3G.

This strategic naming was to draw attention to the device’s new support for 3G wireless networks, which offered faster internet browsing speeds compared to the slower EDGE technology used by the original iPhone.

At the time, 3G networks were still rolling out globally, so emphasizing 3G support in the product name helped market the latest model as a substantial upgrade to take advantage of these new high-speed mobile networks.

The jump from iPhone to iPhone 3G mirrors the same naming convention Apple used for the iPod when transitioning from the 1st generation model to the 2nd generation iPod which was branded as the iPod 3G to highlight the inclusion of 3G support.

This precedent demonstrates Apple’s willingness to abandon sequential product numbering in order to highlight major new features or technological capabilities. The confusing absence of an iPhone 2 set the stage for Apple to later make an even more radical departure from sequential naming conventions.

Early Rumors About iPhone 9

Before the official announcement of the iPhone X in 2017, there was much speculation among tech enthusiasts about whether Apple was developing an iPhone 9 model.

In 2016 and early 2017, some rumors circulated about a possible iPhone 9 or “iPhone 8s” that could be launched in 2017 alongside an anniversary edition iPhone.

Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted in 2016 that Apple was planning to release three iPhones in 2017 – an iPhone 7s, iPhone 7s Plus, and a higher-end premium OLED model. This led some to believe the iPhone 7s was actually going to be the iPhone 9.

Other supplied chain leaks and sources from case manufactures in early 2017 pointed to an iPhone 8, an iPhone 8 Plus, and a mysterious higher-end iPhone, which many thought could be the iPhone 9.

However, more concrete details on the iPhone X began to emerge in Spring 2017, signifying that Apple had decided to skip iPhone 9 altogether and jump to iPhone 10 or X instead.

Many of the early supply chain rumors about a new premium iPhone with an OLED display, facial recognition, and glass body turned out to be accurate for the iPhone X.

In retrospect, it seems Apple likely developed prototypes for both an incremental iPhone 9 and a radical iPhone X redesign before deciding to bet big on the future with the iPhone X branding.

Was an iPhone 9 Planned?

In the months leading up to the iPhone X announcement in 2017, the biggest question on everyone’s mind was whether Apple had originally planned to release an iPhone 9. There was intense speculation and rumors swirling about early iPhone 9 prototypes and if a finished model was scrapped last minute.

Technology analysts and Apple insiders searched extensively for any evidence of the rumored missing iPhone 9 model during the development process. A few possible clues emerged but nothing definitive:

  • In 2016 to early 2017, some supply chain leaks referenced an upcoming “iPhone 9” model in progress, but no details were given.
  • Developers uncovered an “iPhone 9,1” model identifier in an early iOS 11 build from early 2017, hinting at an iPhone 9 variant. However, these identifiers are not always indicative of final product names.
  • Alleged iPhone 9 casing parts leaked on Chinese websites in mid 2017 but were unconfirmed sources. The parts featured an LCD screen and aluminum body similar to the iPhone 8 design rather than the new iPhone X styling.
  • A sketchy rumor from a Chinese social media site claimed iPhone 9 prototypes were pitched internally in 2016 but later rejected in favor of more ambitious upgrades for the iPhone X instead.

Overall, the evidence remains circumstantial and inconclusive. If early iPhone 9 prototypes did exist, Apple must have locked them down to avoid any leaks about the iPhone X rebranding. Some analysts argue shifting to the iPhone X was a late pivot in Apple’s plans, but solid proof of a canceled iPhone 9 model has yet to surface. The missing iPhone 9 may just remain a mystery for now.

Strategy Behind the iPhone X Rebranding

Apple decided to skip the iPhone 9 name and go directly to the iPhone X in order to mark the 10-year anniversary of the first iPhone’s release. The original iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry when it was unveiled in 2007, so a decade later Apple wanted to do something equally dramatic for the 2017 model.

Rather than just calling it the iPhone 10 or doing an incremental update, Apple decided to rebrand it entirely as the iPhone X to signify this was a completely new era for the iPhone. The Roman numeral X creatively tied into the 10-year milestone.

Beyond the significance of the 10th anniversary, the iPhone X introduced a radical new design and features for Apple. With its edge-to-edge OLED display and facial recognition scanner, the iPhone X represented the biggest physical redesign since the original iPhone. Apple felt this major overhaul deserved a fitting name like iPhone X to reflect the magnitude of the advancements.

The iPhone X broke from the standardized design people had come to expect, eliminating the home button and dramatically reducing screen bezels. These bold changes made it clear the iPhone X represented a new generation and incarnation of the iPhone rather than an iterative update.

In this way, the naming and branding of the iPhone X helped communicate that it ushered in an exciting new chapter in the iPhone legacy. The X signaled the future while celebrating 10 years of innovations along the way.

iPhone X Welcomed as a New Era

The iPhone X represented a dramatic new era for Apple’s smartphone line, with its nearly all-screen design and use of advanced facial recognition technology. When the iPhone X was unveiled in September 2017, anticipation was incredibly high after months of rumors about Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone.

Pre-orders for the iPhone X began on October 27, 2017 and within minutes, shipping estimates slipped to 5-6 weeks out due to exceptionally strong demand. Lines outside Apple stores formed once again for the iPhone X launch on November 3rd.

Overall, the iPhone X was incredibly well-received, especially by technology critics. Reviewers praised the phone’s gorgeous OLED display, powerful A11 Bionic processor, advanced camera, and Face ID facial recognition system. The removal of the home button and shift to gesture-based navigation on the iPhone X did have a learning curve for some users. However, most welcomed the iPhone X as a bold step forward and a completely new iPhone experience.

The glass and stainless steel design of the iPhone X also felt distinctly premium and set it apart from previous models. Apple invested heavily in custom components like the TrueDepth camera system to make the notch at the top of the display as small as possible. These efforts paid off in positive reviews about the iPhone X’s futuristic yet elegant design.

Of course, the iPhone X was also Apple’s most expensive iPhone ever at a starting price of $999. But for Apple’s loyal customers, the iPhone X still represented the future of smartphones. Its combination of visual appeal, performance, and innovative features like Face ID and Animoji earned the iPhone X a spot as one of Apple’s most celebrated iPhones yet upon its release.

Impact on Marketing and Consumers

Apple’s decision to skip the iPhone 9 and go straight to the iPhone X caused some notable confusion and difficulties for both marketers and consumers.

Many marketing materials and advertisements had likely already been produced referencing an iPhone 9 prior to Apple announcing the iPhone X. These materials would have quickly become outdated and misleading. Companies that make iPhone accessories and cases also had to scramble to shift production from an anticipated iPhone 9 to the newly released iPhone X. The dramatic change in design meant accessory makers couldn’t simply re-use iPhone 8 cases and components.

For consumers, the missing iPhone 9 disrupted typical upgrade patterns and decision making. Those who may have been waiting to upgrade to the next incremental iPhone model were now forced to skip ahead to a very different iPhone X design. This made evaluating whether to upgrade more complicated, as the iPhone X introduced many significant new features all at once beyond a typical “S” model upgrade.

The unusual naming convention also created misunderstandings among more casual consumers. Some likely wondered if they had missed a previous iPhone 9 release or incorrectly believed the iPhone X was merely an incremental update over an imagined iPhone 9. This could damage consumer trust in Apple’s historical branding and predictable upgrade cycle. Overall the missing iPhone 9 created an unanticipated source of confusion and difficulties for both marketers and everyday iPhone buyers.

Apple’s Unpredictable Naming

Apple has demonstrated a willingness to abandon conventional naming schemes and take an unexpected direction for major new iPhone releases. This precedent of dramatic reveals and unconventional names leaves the door open for more naming surprises in the future.

With the presumed iPhone 12 generation in 2020, many wonder if Apple will stick to sequential numbering or take another unpredictable turn. Some possibilities include commemorative names like iPhone XX for a 10 year anniversary edition, skipping numbers like iPhone One, or even no number at all like with iPad and Apple Watch.

Recent rumors suggest the 2020 iPhones could be called iPhone, iPhone Pro, and iPhone Pro Max – dropping numbers entirely. This follows Apple’s trend of simplifying naming from MacBook Pro to just MacBook and iPad Pro to iPad. However, losing the numbered generations could cause consumer confusion.

The potential for Apple to celebrate future milestones with special names like iPhone 15X or iPhone 25 is also strong. An incrementally improving line risks boring consumers, so dramatically named releases help reinvigorate interest and signal redesigns.

In the end, Apple has proven that iPhone naming is more art than science. With no signs of their creativity slowing down, one can only guess what naming surprises the next decade of iPhones has in store. For now, the missing iPhone 9 endures as Apple’s most perplexing gap.

Will the iPhone 9 Gap Ever Be Filled?

One of the most lingering questions around the missing iPhone 9 is whether Apple will ever later decide to fill in this blank space in their lineup with a new model.

Some analysts speculate that Apple may someday release an “iPhone 9” to slot into their numbering sequence between the iPhone 8 and iPhone X generations. This could happen if they run out of differentiating names like Pro or Max and want to return to a simple numbering scheme.

Releasing an iPhone 9 now over 5 years after skipping from 8 to X would be an unusual move. However, Apple has made unpredictable naming decisions before, so it’s not entirely out of the question.

The potential benefits would be solidifying their numbered sequence and marketing an “all-new” iPhone 9 despite it not representing a true technological leap. The downside is it would call attention to the years-old questionable decision to skip 9 in the first place.

While there is a possibility of an iPhone 9 in the future, Apple has given no indication this is in their plans. For now the missing iPhone 9 gap remains a lingering mystery in Apple’s lineup. But as we’ve seen many times, nothing is ever certain when it comes to Apple’s naming conventions. The iPhone 9 may still have its day someday.

The Enduring Legacy

The missing iPhone 9 has captured the imagination of Apple fans and ignited conspiracy theories for years. Why does the lack of an iPhone 9 still intrigue and perplex us?

Part of the fascination stems from the sheer curiosity of an unexplained gap in a iconic product lineup. Apple offered no real rationale, so the mystery endures. The iPhone had followed an predictable numerical progression from 1 to 8, so why suddenly skip ahead? It felt contradictory for Apple to leave such an obvious void in their flagship product’s naming sequence.

For Apple devotees, the iPhone 9 became an elusive mythical object of fascination. Its absence only fueled a longing for the iPhone that never was. Many still hold out hope that Apple will eventually acknowledge the iPhone 9 with some sort of special edition release. While unlikely, the thought speaks to our collective inability to accept something missing where we expected order.

Beyond mere curiosity, the skipped iPhone 9 number also signaled Apple charting a new path forward. The iPhone X introduced major changes that made it feel worthy of a special designation. But by continuing to increment models as iPhone 11 and 12 afterwards, Apple sustained the mystery gap rather than filling it in retroactively.

The missing iPhone 9 has become somewhat of a cultural legend, referenced in media and memes for years. Its absence defied convention in a way that resonated with audiences. More than any other skipped model, the lost iPhone 9 made us reconsider Apple’s branding and challenged perceptions of consistency. The enduring fascination illustrates our desire for answers and completion of patterns. Until resolved, our unanswered questions about the missing iPhone 9 live on.

Other Major Tech Gaps

Apple isn’t the only tech company to have strange, unexplained gaps in product releases. Here are some other notable tech gaps that have puzzled consumers:

  • Windows 9 – Microsoft decided to skip Windows 9 and jump straight from Windows 8 to Windows 10 in 2015. While not as dramatic a jump as Apple, they still skipped Windows 9 to signal major changes and advancements with Windows 10.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 6 – Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note phablet line skipped the Galaxy Note 6 and jumped from the Note 5 in 2015 to the Note 7 in 2016. Theories suggest they skipped it to realign their Note launch with the Galaxy S series.
  • Xbox 2 – There never was an Xbox 2 console. Microsoft went from the original Xbox in 2001 to the Xbox 360 in 2005. They skipped Xbox 2 to emphasize the shift to 360 degrees of gaming.
  • PlayStation 4 Pro – Sony skipped calling it the PlayStation 5 and instead labeled their new 4K console the PlayStation 4 Pro in 2016. This maintained association with the standard PS4.
  • Nvidia GeForce 900 Series – Nvidia decided to skip the 900 product series and jumped from 800 to 1000 in their GeForce GPU numbering. They used this to promote greater capabilities.

So while Apple’s missing iPhone 9 is unusual, other major tech companies have also made surprising decisions to skip product names and numbers to mark new eras or major advancements. The tech world has seen several perplexing naming gaps over the years.

Apple’s Continued Innovation

While the mystery of the vanished iPhone 9 still endures, one thing is clear – Apple has never been a company focused on maintaining traditional numbering schemes. In fact, this unpredictability has become one of their hallmarks.

Rather than being constrained by sequential models like iPhone 9, 11, 12… Apple has demonstrated a willingness to leapfrog numbers and introduce completely new naming schemes when they feel a product warrants it. This focus on innovation over conformity has served them well over the years.

The iPhone X is a perfect embodiment of this spirit. While the X represented the 10th anniversary iPhone, it broke with convention in such a radical way that a totally new name made sense. The roman numeral signified this was a special milestone model, not just another iterative update.

Likewise, the introduction of the iPhone SE as a budget-friendly compact option showed how Apple will create new branding when they expand into specific market segments. The SE name marked it as a specialty model different from the main iPhone series.

And Apple has not limited this innovative naming approach just to the iPhone. In recent years we’ve seen unconventional naming extended to other product lines like the MacBook Air, iMac Pro, iPad mini and iPad Air.

The freedom to abandon sequential product numbering has allowed Apple to continually revamp and reinvent itself. While the lost iPhone 9 still conjures up questions, Apple has made it clear they aren’t going to let the numbering hold them back. They seem primed to continue surprising us with bold unconventional names befitting their innovative vision.


The mystery around the missing iPhone 9 model endures. Apple’s unusual decision to skip straight from the iPhone 8 to the iPhone X in 2017 left a conspicuous gap in their product lineup that remains unfilled to this day. After more than a decade of iconic iPhone models, the missing iPhone 9 stands out as a perplexing break in the predictable naming sequence that Apple had established.

Various theories have circulated about secret prototypes and last minute changes that led to the iPhone 9 being cancelled and replaced by the iPhone X instead. But Apple has never officially commented on their internal plans or reasoning for the surprising rebranding. The true story behind the vanished iPhone 9 may remain forever an enigma.

While the iPhone X introduced many significant new innovations and ushered in a new era for Apple, many Apple fans still ponder the phantom iPhone 9 that never saw the light of day. Its absence is a cautionary tale of how even the most successful, dominant brands like Apple can still make unpredictable, inscrutable choices that baffle their most loyal customers. For now, the missing iPhone 9 remains in tech history as Apple’s most intriguing mystery.