(Originally published: March 23, 2013) When it comes to naming mobile phones and tablets, the numbers at the end of the model’s name often do not reflect any sort of ‘new’ version of the device – Instead, they’re often indications of the device’s SIZE. Example: The Nexus 4 is a Google phone made by the Korean company LG, while the Nexus 7 is a Google mini-tablet made by the Taiwanese company ASUS. You might be wondering: Why 4 and 7? And what happened to 5 and 6? Well, for the Nexus 4 phone, its screen is larger than 4 inches (4.7 inches to be exact, and, coincidentally, it also happened to be the 4th Nexus phone, meaning there was a real phone named the “Nexus One” and there were two others in between the first and fourth that didn’t have a number suffix. Don’t let this coincidence confuse you.) For the Nexus 7 mini-tablet, its screen is 7 inches. So with this naming scheme, you won’t really see any Model 5 or Model 6 floating around stores or websites because these specific sizes (meaning 5 inches and 6 inches) are too small for mini-tablets and, historically, they were too large for phones. (5-inch and even 6-inch phones do exist today, however.)
Naming and numbering are completely up to the companies, so there’s no standardized reference – This means the opening paragraph of this article is not always true! For example, when you look at the Samsung Galaxy Note and the Galaxy Note 2, the 2 at the end of Note 2 is to tell people that the Note II (officially it’s Roman numeral II, not the everyday 2) is, in fact, the new and improved version of the original Galaxy Note!
So, generally speaking, seeing 2’s and 3’s in names can mean improvements; 4’s and especially 7’s and 10’s often refer to size (and often you’ll see decimals included as size indicators within the official full names such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and the Galaxy Note 10.1). To see 5’s and 6’s and 9’s and 1’s is just plain rare (Notable exceptions are the Nexus One and the iPhone 5). If you see 8’s: Well, the only current examples I can think of are Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 which indicates nothing other than the name of the phone’s operating system named Windows Phone 8 (e.g.: the HTC Windows Phone 8X) and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 mini-tablet which alludes to the screen size of that mini-tablet. Still confused? Consider this: With the Note II and Note 8.0, there’s no Note 4, 5, 6 or 7 at this time. But there will likely be a Note 3 (not Roman III if current rumors are true) by the end of this year. This is a strong example that there’s no standardized reference for numbered names, nor a set-in-stone rule for suffixes. Don’t expect to see standardization – I’m no Nostradamus but I can pretty much bet the farm it’s not happening! Companies are not obligated to use Roman numeral suffixes, nor are they obligated to follow any naming rules because there aren’t any rules! For example the Nexus S was the second Google Nexus phone and the Galaxy Nexus was the third, but as you can see, neither has a number in its name. (Maybe Roman numerals are now Samsung’s way of showing mercy to confused shoppers, sort of – LOL)
So in a nutshell, it’s a hodgepodge, it’s not intentional or sinister, and the best way to keep up with what’s improved and/or what’s been given a new snazzy number is to read tech articles on CNET, ZDNet, etc and become familiar with mobile device culture and a sprinkle of history. Another good site is phonearena.com which will tell you officially whether a model’s a phone or a tablet by looking at the model’s specs page. Wikipedia is superb too.