03 July 2007

iPhone User Guide: The Anthropomorphic iPhone

Apple has posted their iPhone User's Guide for all those of you who can't get a hold of one, and all throughout are references to 'iPhone', not 'the iPhone.' One example follows:

To activate iPhone:

1 Download and install iTunes 7.3 (or later) from www.itunes.com.

2 Connect iPhone to a USB 2.0 port on your Mac or PC using the dock and cable that came with iPhone. (Don’t connect iPhone to the USB port on your keyboard—it does not have enough power.) iTunes opens automatically.

3 Follow the onscreen instructions in iTunes to activate iPhone and sync iPhone with your contacts, calendars, email accounts, and bookmarks on your computer.

Why would Apple do this? No one talks this way. What are they getting out of this grammatical detail? At lunch a few of us discussed it and the only thing we could come up with is that it anthropomorphizes the iPhone, and that some how makes it more, uh, human or something. I admit, it's kind of weak. Any other ideas?

33 comments:

Jens T. said...

Do you remember this one?

«On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’»

floh said...

it's just a reference to the biblical nature of the um strike that... of iPhone

e.g.
And God saw the light, that it was good and God divided the light from the darkness

Patrick Quinn-Graham said...

They refer to iPod the same way.

iPhone is its name. So it makes sense not to have an adjective before it.

Robert Sharl said...

The iPhone would be a product, something that you can just hold in your hand. iPhone is an experience, akin to a blend of hardware, software and service. Oh yes, it's definitely giving it a personality, and it sounds way cooler too :-)

Charles said...

They've also done that all along with iPod. Look at any of the iPod documentation, and the October 2001 keynote where Jobs introduces it.

Mattie said...

Well who ever said it was THE iPhone? Meaning there will doubtless be more then one model of iPhone eventually, so "iPhone" becomes the family of product with multiple models.

Iván said...

It may be trademark issues. There are all kinds of corporate guidelines about how to refer to a trademarked product in order to not weaken its trademark protections, in particular that the trademark must not be used as a noun but as an adjective.

"The iPhone" makes iPhone a noun; "iPhone" by itself could be argued to be an adjective with an implicit noun.

(don't look at me, I don't come up with this crap; go talk to legal)

Dom and Trey said...

Hey there. I'm a blogger who stumbled on your 2006 July 25th post about QTVR. I'm really into QTVR and I want to know how you were able to post yours and link it to your blog. Thanks.

David Weiss said...

Dom and Trey,

I have a .Mac account and I uploaded the QTVR movie file to my public folder then linked to it from my blog. It was that easy.

David Weiss

CB said...

Watch the "Guided Tour" video again and you'll hear that the guy says both "the iPhone" and "iPhone." Both.

Younghusband said...

Reminds me of that line from "The Good Shepherd":

I remember a senator once asked me. When we talk about CIA why we never use the word "the" in front of it. And I asked him, do you put the word "the" in front of God?

LKM said...

Apple has always done that. Mac, Newton, iPod, iPhone... Welcome to the party :-)

Justin Blanton said...

I'm right there with you Dave.

Adam said...

That immediately makes me think of "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Fun_Ball

Nate said...

And don't forget:

"Do not eat iPod Shuffle."

Anonymous said...

This is nothing new. It always annoyed me, though, when car companies do it. Your neighbor will say, "I bought *a* Mustang" but the commercial will say "you can buy Mustang for just..."

Matthew Rieger said...

Car companies have done this for ages. It's not "a Corvette" or "The Camry", it's "Corvette" and "Camry".

As far as keeping trademark rights from the scourge of generic status, it's usually treating the name as a VERB that gets you into real trouble. Behold "to xerox"

I personally think getting rid of the pronoun is designed to shock us a little bit and convey that this isn't just ANY product

Anonymous said...

See? Dom and Trey didn't say, "the" Quicktive VR. Ha!

base10 said...

Think about iPhone vs. "The iPhone" another way. Adding an article kinda neuters the cool, much as in the same way as saying, "the Google," or, reaching way back, "the Wordperfect."

Matt J said...

Apple do this with all their products. Nothing new. Xserve, Mighty Mouse, Mac Pro, the lot.

Tank Johnson's Lawyer said...

Anybody remember when "Internet" was popular in media, as opposed to "the internet," or, as of late, "the internets" or "series of tubes"?

Gordon said...

A blog post in which the David wonders about an age-old practice. :-)

testperson said...

I wrote about the lack of the definite article at the time of the iPhone keynote:

http://www.adaptivepath.com/blog/2007/01/22/whats-in-a-definite-article/

artMonster said...

"No one talks this way"

Reminds me of The Jimmy on Seinfeld...

Anonymous said...

I've read lots of software manuals that do this with the product name, and I'm sure I've seen this in hardware before, as well. This is nothing new.

Anonymous said...

The grammatical structure is odd; ordinary people (not lawyers/marketers) just don't speak like that. The iPhone, the keyboard, the Apple Cinema Display, etc. "Joe bought a MacBook and an iPod." "I can't afford an iPhone." But people do speak like that about software: "I got MS Word," not "I got the MS Word;" "I use Safari," not "I use the Safari." Why the difference?

Ken said...

Actually, I have found that adding the definite article to the beginning of product names increases the joy of saying it. For example, I'll say "I was watching the ESPN last evening, and...". Far funnier than simply saying "watching ESPN".

-Ken (co-host of "The Definite Article", a defunct podcast from KDUP radio in Portland, OR)

Anonymous said...

Y'all are silly discussing this. Anyway, referring to it as simply iPhone is grammatically incorrect. The Steve can do what he wants though -- it's his puppy.

Aqua said...

Yup, they have done the same thing with the iPod, but with the iPhone it creeps me out a little. No doubt its a marketing thing as someone mentioned. You know, the iphone experience vs. just a thing, but still its kind of creepy when you practice that nomenclature !! It gives it a "living" quality of sorts. Its like we're talking about it as an entity rather than a product. Thus, I refuse to refer to the iPhone as iPhone. I'm not some stupid drone who just mouths along with whatever Apple thinks is the right way to refer to it when I think its creepy. I will get my greedy little hands on one of those thingies as soon as I can :), but refer to it the way Apple marketing wants me to ? F*ck them. Now that IS the true spirit of iPhone, I mean *the* iPhone !

Jaharmi said...

Plus, it's easy to find-and-replace "the iPhone" with just "iPhone" in Microsoft Word!

LKM said...

>Why the difference?

One's a name for a specific instance (your Safari is the same "thing" as the Safari on any other Mac), the other's a product (or "category") name, so the specific instance is different (your iPhone is a different "thing" as somebody else's, but the same category of things). Apple wants to use iPhone more like a human name to make it feel more personal.

>referring to it as simply iPhone is grammatically incorrect.

No, it's not. It's somewhat weird, because it means iPhone is used like an "instance name" instead of like a "category name," but it's correct.

Anonymous said...

Do not taunt iPhone.

bc said...

I believe Iván has it right: i.e. that it has to trademark issues and trying to avoid it becoming a genericized trade-mark by using iPhone as a noun

by omitting "the" then iPhone may be more clearly a proper-noun i.e. proper name

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genericized_trademark

quote: "One risk factor which may lead to genericide is the use of a trademark as a verb, noun, plural or possessive..."

I'm no trademark lawyer, so this is just my guess. but coincidentally a newsletter from our lawyers on the very topic of trademarks and brand genericide just arrived in the mail :)