Will 'iPhone 13' Scare Away Superstitious Buyers?

Probably not

Key Takeaways

  • Apple will name this year's iPhone the iPhone 13, despite its unlucky connotations.
  • The iOS 13 was a disastrous launch, but now almost nobody cares.
  • 13 isn’t considered unlucky everywhere.
Number 13 sign on a wall

Waldemar Brandt / Unsplash

The next iPhone will—according to rumors—be called the iPhone 13. Will this be unlucky for some?

Many people avoid the number 13. But will this really impact the sales of the next iPhone? And what about other parts of the world? Is 13 considered unlucky everywhere? And how has Apple handled odd product numbering in the past?

"There are a few instances where people have to avoid using the number 13 for superstitious reasons," Katherine Brown, founder of remote monitoring company Spyic, told Lifewire via email. "Look at the property developers who omit the 13th floor from the skyscraper or the couples who swore they’ll never marry on the 13th. Even more, some psychologists treat patients for triskaidekaphobia, a condition associated with the fear of the number 13."

Numbers Game

The number 13 isn’t considered unlucky everywhere, nor is its unluckiness applied. A Spanish friend told me it’s Tuesday the 13th, not Friday the 13th, that is considered unlucky. And a Swedish friend says that although it is considered unlucky, the superstition level is low. 

"You will definitely find room 13 in hotels etc," he told me via instant message.

"There are a few instances where people have to avoid using the number 13 for superstitious reasons."

In China, a huge market for Apple, the number four is considered unlucky, because it rhymes with the word for "death." And the iPhone 4 had no problem selling there at launch. In Japan, four and nine are the unlucky numbers, and while there was no iPhone 9, that seems more down to the fact that Apple wanted to switch to "X," or 10, for the launch of the new home-button-free iPhone X, than to avoid using the number nine.

It seems, then, that the name of a gadget won’t necessarily put off buyers.

The iOS 13 Debacle

That’s not to say that Apple hasn’t had its own share of 13-related bad luck. The iOS 13 launch in 2019 was a mess. After months of the usual beta testing, the release was full of bugs, crashing apps, shaky cellular connections, and more. And this came even after Apple ditched a few headline features—iCloud folder sharing, for example—after early testing proved problematic.

The release schedule was similarly messy. iOS 13.0 launched first, but for the iPhone only. iOS 13.1 and iPadOS 13 came out a few days later, followed by a flurry of updates and fixes.

And yet, despite this, users weren’t put off. When iOS 14 launched in the fall of 2020, owners updated quickly, and in huge numbers. This was attributed to the popularity of the newly introduced home-screen widgets, but it shows that people can have short memories.

So, again, the prospect of superstitious bad luck failed to dampen enthusiasm for Apple’s products. In this case, the only real effect was to give journalists an ironic peg on which to hang their news stories.

Even so, according to a survey commissioned by phone trade-in service SellCell, 74% of respondents would prefer a name other than iPhone 13, and almost one fifth of users are triskaidekaphobic, that is, they have a fear of the number 13, and are apparently not embarrassed to share the fact.

That said, SellCell’s survey found that over 80% of respondents said the number 13 "wouldn’t affect their purchase decisions."

Apple’s Naming 'Strategy'

"Apple has a weird naming scheme," says Brown, and it's hard to disagree. Just the iPhone line is confusing. 

The first iPhone was just the iPhone. Then the second iPhone was the 3G, named for its 3G connectivity; the third model was the 3GS. It wasn’t until the iPhone 4 that the numbers made sense again, but that lasted for just one year. Apple switched to a naming scheme where the number would increment every two years, with the in-between-year models getting an "S" suffix. iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, and so on.

iPhone 12, iPhone XS, and iPhone XR side-by-side

Apple

Then came the iPhone 8, instead of the 7S, and after that the X. This is where things got really out of hand. The successor to the iPhone X was, in fact, two successors: the iPhones Xs and Xr. Then, a year after that, we went back to numbers, only this time they increment yearly—11, 12, and soon 13.

In some ways, the name "iPhone 13" is a relief. It’s easy. It comes after 12, it’s not "12s," and, thankfully, it isn’t the iPhone XIIV.

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