iPhone Air with iOS 8 supplants iPhone 6 release date, plus 5S/5C

Those users counting down the days to the iPhone 6 release date should start getting used to a different vernacular along the way, as recent moves by Apple have made clear that its next flagship smartphone will break the mold when it comes to naming conventions. In other words, say hello to the iPhone Air, which will arrive alongside the new iOS 8 operating system in the summer or fall. Apple made its current iPhone naming system untenable going forward when it released the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C side by side last year. They’ll both stick around as the cheap and free iPhone models, respectively, which means Apple is now in no position to release an “iPhone 6” with no clear delineation of what it might offer sans any lettering. This impasse comes as Apple has shifted to the name “iPad Air” for its flagship tablet, paving the way for the next iPhone to simply be known as iPhone Air. But what will it offer?

This is where things get stickier for Apple. The only certainty for the would-be iPhone 6 is that it’ll come with the iOS 8 system software and interface, but even the details of that won’t be revealed until early June. In terms of hardware, Apple is facing severe pressure to deliver an iPhone with a larger screen in order to compete with devices from vendors like Samsung and HTC which offer five inch-plus displays. The silver lining for Apple is that a taller and wider smartphone means it can be made thinner by spreading out the internal components, easily allowing the iPhone Air to live up to its name when its release date arrives.

While the iPhone Air will take the flagship spot in the lineup and likely debut for $199 with contract or upgrade in the United States, Apple will keep some form of its current iPhone lineup around as cheaper model. That most likely means the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C stick around unscathed. However Apple did discontinue the iPhone 5 last fall in favor of the iPhone 5C, even while keeping the older iPhone 4S around – so there’s a chance Apple could debut more than one new iPhone model. But count on the release date bringing an iPhone Air – not an iPhone 6 – to the table. Whether that release date comes in the summer or the fall depends both on how quickly Apple is moving along with iOS 8 development, and how eager it is to compete with its Android counterparts on their big-screen playing field.