iPhone 9: Here‘s Every Reason It Never Launched (and What Happened Instead)

Have you ever wondered what happened to the iPhone 9? As an avid tech follower, you likely watched Apple unveil new iPhone models year after year, steadily ticking up the numbering sequence from the original iPhone to the iPhone 7 and 8. Next in line should have been the iPhone 9 in September 2017, ready to extend Apple‘s 10 year anniversary iPhone celebration.

But the iPhone 9 never materialized. Instead, Tim Cook lifted the curtain on the boldly futuristic iPhone X. This styled "X" didn‘t merely break the predictable naming pattern up to that point – the device itself redefined everything consumers expected from a smartphone.

In this in-depth guide just for you, we‘ll unravel the mysteries around why Apple skipped the iPhone 9 to deliver a decade-defining iPhone X. Exploring the reasons behind that shock decision reveals so much about Apple‘s past, present, and future smartphone aspirations.

The Legacy: Each iPhone Builds on the Last

To appreciate why anticipation steadily grew for an iPhone 9 release in 2017 demands a quick trip down memory lane. Let‘s trace the year-by-year iPhone evolution since Steve Jobs unveiled the original model back in 2007:

iPhone ModelYear ReleasedDisplay SizeCamera MPProcessorKey Changes
iPhone (1st gen)20073.5"2MPAPL0098First iOS phone with Multi-touch
iPhone 3G20083.5"2 MPAPL02783G network support added
iPhone 3GS20093.5"3 MPAPL1278Faster speeds, improved camera
iPhone 420103.5"5 MPA4New sleek external design, Retina display

With each new release through models like the iPhone 5 series, Apple retained the same overall form factor while incrementally improving major components. Typically megapixel counts, screen quality, storage capacity, battery efficiency and cellular connectivity stepped forward in parallel with user needs and mobile industry innovation trends.

This measured, step-by-step evolution provided consistency that you as the consumer came to rely upon. The naming convention also made it easy to grasp how far the current model was from the original iPhone.

By 2016 as Apple prepared for the iPhone‘s 10th anniversary, expectations were sky high for the next logical iteration – an iPhone 8 release in 2017, followed soon after by an iPhone 9.

But the iPhone 9 never arrived...so what exactly happened?

The No-Show: Why Apple Skipped the iPhone 9

Right on schedule in September 2017, Apple unveiled the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. These delivered flashy upgrades like wireless charging, faster A11 processors, better cameras and subtly enhanced glass-and-aluminum design. Honestly, they checked all the boxes as solid iterations anyone could easily grasp.

However, behind the scenes, excitement was already redlining around a far more exotic iPhone in testing – one intended to blow away expectations for the 10th anniversary edition.

So when Tim Cook took the stage that September to unveil this headline act, it wasn‘t the safe, predictable iPhone 9. Instead, we got the iPhone X.

The iPhone X introduced a radical new bezel-less display with Face ID

This intense "X" styling didn‘t just break the entrenched numbering pattern by skipping right over 9. The device itself shattered every concept of what an iPhone could be:

  • A vibrant 5.8" OLED screen flowed from edge to edge with scarcely any borders
  • The familiar home button vanished entirely, replaced by infrared 3D face mapping to unlock the phone
  • The polished stainless steel and glass body felt leaps beyond previous aluminum models

In every way, the iPhone X introduced a bold new chapter that made everything before it feel outdated overnight. Suddenly the absence of an iPhone 9 made total sense. Apple jump straight to "X" because it signified a flagship worthy of the term groundbreaking.

Beyond matching its radically redesigned credentials, I unearthed a handful of other motivators behind Apple‘s decision to forgo the iPhone 9 name:

1. The iPhone X aligned visually and symbolically with the 10 year milestone
2. A dramatically revamped iPhone demanded an equally dramatic name departure  
3. The $999 price was easier to rationalize as a premium "X" release rather than just another incremental iPhone "9"
4. Superstition around the number 9 holds negative connotations in key Asian markets

Clearly for both marketing optics and industrial design leapfrogging factors, the time had come to transform iPhone identity itself. Now let‘s examine closer what it meant to bring this intensely futuristic yet short-lived iPhone X to life.

Arrival and Impact of the iPhone Ten (X)

When the iPhone X began reaching customers‘ eager hands in November 2017, its reception proved even most breathless expectations weren‘t quite ready for it. Cnet perfectly encapsulated the tone in the opening line of their glowing 10/10 review:

"The iPhone X is the most beautiful, advanced and expensive smartphone Apple has ever made..."

Buyers and industry experts alike praised the iPhone X as a glimpse into the future of smartphones. And future sales rapidly validated the public‘s appetite for Apple‘s vision. In just the first quarter of availability from November 2017 to September 2018, Apple sold over 60 million iPhone X units, driving over $100 billion in revenue.

iPhone X adoption exceeded Apple's expectations

For perspective, that enormous iPhone X revenue surpassed what Apple makes from all Mac computer sales in an entire year.

So why if the iPhone X proved so wildly successful did Apple make the confounding decision to discontinue it barely a year after launch? As with the missing iPhone 9, understanding this requires peering behind the scenes.

Why the iPhone X Faced Swift Discontinuation

In September 2018, Apple unveiled the iPhone XS, a follow-up improving on the iPhone X formula with an even more powerful A12 processor, better cameras and internal upgrades. Typically Apple offered the previous year‘s model at a $100 discount to hit a lower price tier.

But that iPhone X and iPhone XS co-existence posed serious headaches:

  • How could Apple justify still selling the dated iPhone X for just $100 less than the clearly superior iPhone XS?
  • Wouldn‘t most rational buyers just save $100 and buy the iPhone X instead, hurting iPhone XS sales?

Discontinuing the iPhone X just 11 months after its debut, while shocking, elegantly resolved this tension. With no lingering value option, buyers had clearer Apple premium phone tiers:

  • iPhone XS – Latest and greatest pure luxury experience
  • iPhone XR – Nearly as good at more accessible pricing

This rhythm let Apple maximize revenue from early adopters ready to pay premium prices for the newest innovative tech. And the departure further cemented the iPhone X‘s legacy as a uniquely special commemorative edition never to be repeated.

What Happens Next? The Road to iPhone 14

Jumping straight from the iPhone 8 to the destination iPhone X to commemorate Apple‘s first decade of smartphones was a gutsy but ultimately successful gambit. The "X" left an enduring mark by paving the way for the bezel-less design and notch display template retained right through 2021’s iPhone 13 series.

But with the symbolic cycle now complete after the iPhone 8-X transition, Apple has largely returned to business as usual. After three generations of “X” branded models, the iPhone 11, 12 and soon to arrive iPhone 14 families signal Apple‘s eyes are fixed straight ahead toward the future rather than the past.

Still, the absence of an iPhone 9 and brief, brilliant life of the iPhone X reflect pivotal moments in Apple‘s smartphone journey. Even as excitement builds for the iPhone 14 release just over the horizon, the story behind missing iPhone 9 and lightning strike iPhone X remind how far mobile technology has come – and just how far Apple may take it in the decade yet to unfold.

Hopefully unraveling the twin mysteries between no iPhone 9 and the shock early retirement of the iPhone X finally satisfied your inner tech history detective! For my latest views on all the leaks and rumors swirling around the upcoming iPhone 14 family, check out my just published iPhone 14 Release Date and Feature Predictions. Trust me when I say the next era of iPhone innovation looks to be Apple‘s most sensational yet since the original model that started an entire smartphone revolution back in 2007. Buckle up!

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