The stories behind smartphone brand names: Apple, Samsung, Google, Nokia, Xiaomi, and more

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alex mathos17 May 2021Last Update : 1 year ago
The stories behind smartphone brand names: Apple, Samsung, Google, Nokia, Xiaomi, and more

There are millions of companies globally and therefore it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a good and suitable brand. There are some huge companies like Apple and Google and less made by a handful of people or even just one person (retailer).

However, some may argue that the brand name does not even matter that much – they believe that the brand only becomes a brand when the company becomes successful. It is not an unfounded theory. Think about it: Apple !? You would not necessarily say that it is a good name for an organization if it was not affiliated with the most valued company in the world.

Moreover, Apple sounds incredibly different to native English speakers than it does to non-native English speakers (there are the majority). If you are brought up to think of fruit when you hear the word “apple”, you associate the mark with the fruit, not the other way around. It is a natural cognitive function.

But for those learning English as a foreign language, the meaning received may be something unrelated to the original connotation, especially if the brand’s influence is so prominent.

For example, in Bulgarian, “apple” is “ya-bŭl-ka”, and the brand name “apple” sounds like, well … simply “apple” (apl). So the point is – for a foreigner who does not speak English, Apple may not be a fruit, but a technical brand. But … That’s probably linguistic enlightenment.

Some types of brands:

  • Eponym / surname (eg Disney, Adidas, Tesla)
  • Descriptive (eg American Airlines, The Home Depot)
  • Acronymic (eg GE, BP, KFC, HSBC)
  • Suggestive (e.g. Uber, Slack, Facebook, Pinterest)
  • Associative (eg SiriusXM, Red Bull, Amazon)
  • Non-English (eg Samsung, Lego, Hulu)
  • Abstract (eg Rolex, Kodak)

Now let’s take a trip around the world and find out where some of the most popular smartphone / tech brands come from.

Nokia: From makes paper to to get paper

Nokia’s paper mill

Nokia is clearly a non-English name, but entirely associative of the Finnish people. As you may know, Nokia is a Finnish brand from Finland, Europe. What you probably do not know is that Nokia was not always a smartphone or a telecommunications company.

Its first operation was a paper mill – a large industrial plant for the conversion of wood and wood chips into other products. Your grocery bag, cereal box or even the paper towels you use in the kitchen start as pulp.

The year is 1896, when the company in search of a better water flow necessary for the operation of the paper mill, opens a new mill a few kilometers away from the city of Nokia. It is right on the banks of the Nokianvirta River that will be the inspiration behind what we know today as Nokia – the telecommunications and smartphone maker, now owned by HMD.

Honestly, the Nokia story deserves its own article, so let’s do Finnish things here.

Google: “Only Back massage that!”

A deliberate spelling mistake, “Google”, was created from a twist on Larry Page’s originally planned name, “Googol” – a mathematical expression for number 1 followed by 100 zeros, which technically Google an associative name. Pretty nerdy … Unlike the original name of the search engine!

While the above is a famous story, did you know we could say “just BackRub it” instead of “Google it”? This is because Page and Sergey Brin’s 1996 search engine adventure was originally called “BackRub” – when it analyzed the Internet’s “backlinks” to understand how important a site was and what other pages it had links to.

Apple: Who said money doesn’t grow on (apple) trees

Steve Jobs

Since we’re already in Silicon Valley, let’s talk about Steve Jobs’ fruit story. Because … that’s literally what it was. The name is again associative. Legend (also his biography) says that Steve Jobs was on a fruit diet and drove away from an apple farm (not a Apple farm!), and thought the name sounded “fun, lively and not scary. “

Today, Apple is “rich, richer and very scary” for the competition. That may be why so many companies are sues the Cupertino-based technology giant.
It is safe to say that Steve Jobs forever changed the way we think of an apple. The company has grown so large that by 2030 children might be guessing that the fruit came in second place. We can not blame them if they play with one iPad before eating a real apple. At least the “chicken vs eggs” debate will not be the only one of its kind!

Samsung: Shooting for the stars

Samsung logo over the years (including the “three stars” element)

It only makes sense to jump on Apple’s biggest competitor in the smartphone world. I do not know about Apple, but I give Samsung three stars! The name is, as you probably guessed, non-English (also associative for Korean speakers). Samsung funds “three stars“in Korean! This also explains why their flagship lineup carries the” Galaxy “brand and spirit!

If Jobs was obsessed with apples, Lee Jae-Yong must have been into astrology. The name is supposed to represent something “great, many, powerful and eternal“You know – like stars in the sky.

Sony: Named after a young boy

1986 View of Times Square, NYC, USA

We’re sailing away from Korea to the island of Japan and we’re a little weird. The name Sony was chosen for the brand as a mix of two words (also known as portmanteau) – one was the Latin word “sonus” (root of sound and sound), and the other was “sonny”, a slang for “a young boy“America from the 1950s.

The company dates back to 1946, when it was first created under the name Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo KK – Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, or simply Totsuko. It was focused on research.

As you may have noticed, the original name was too far, so the Japanese decided to bring it down to TTK. But they ended up giving it up as it belonged to the Tokyo Kyuko Railway Company. Then Sony jumped on the Sony bandwagon. It was not until 1955 that the company began to use Sony names of actual products.

LG: Life … Lucky

An old “LUCKY GOLDSTAR” (LG) cassette tape

LG’s smartphone business may be dead, but the name is very still with us. Some may think it means “Good of Life”, as it’s the famous tagline that runs through all of LG’s ads, but – not quite.

GoldStar was founded five years after the end of the Korean War. Unlike Nokia, it was always meant to be an electronics company. GoldStar had a sister (company) – Lak-Hui, or “Lucky”, and that’s how LG or “Lucky Goldstar” came to be. Sounds like a fairy tale.
Today, LG does not really associate its name with the above words – it’s just … LG. This means that the name remains an acronym of … nothing.

Asus: My Big Fat Greek … Naming

Pegasus

Asus is relatively new to the smartphone market, but it has managed to make a name for itself – both literally and figuratively. While the company was founded in Taiwan by former Acer employees, the name is foreign. It comes from the mythological Greek divine winged horse, Pegasus (hence Zenfone Pegasus series). This makes it a non-English, but also eponymous, and even an associative name.

Asus says the name “embodies strength, purity (Pegasus is depicted as “pure white”) and the adventurous spirit of this amazing creature. “Myth says that Pegasus, the horse, was transformed by Zeus into the Pegasus constellation, which is still recognized today. The more you know.

Huawei: It’s your way or Huawei

Shenzhen, China: Huawei’s first office – an old apartment complex

Huawei remains loyal to the “started from scratch” cliché, as does Apple, for example. The company was founded in a small apartment in Shenzhen and sold telecommunication equipment to the Chinese market in the countryside.

Later, Huawei began developing and producing the equipment, until at some point in the early 1990s it won a government contract to supply telecommunications equipment to the People’s Liberation Army. The rest is history.

According to the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, the name Huawei was inspired by a slogan he saw on a wall in China – “Zhonghua youwei”, which roughly translates to “promising China” or “China is capable”. This, of course, makes the name non-English and descriptive of mandarin speakers.

We look forward to seeing if Huawei still is able to continue in spite of US trade ban. That The launch of the Huawei P50 series is said to take place as early as this month, bringing the new and long-awaited, Harmony OS.

Xiaomi: Yes, it’s corn (y)

Xiaomi’s Mi Rice Cooker (Sold On Mi.com)

Honestly, I’m not sure if Lei Jun himself knows what the name means. Xiaomi stands for “millet” – a cereal (corn) used in the manufacture of flour and alcoholic beverages. However, the CEO of the company associates the “Xiao” part with the Buddhist concept that “a single grain of rice from a Buddhist is as big as a mountain”, suggesting that the small company (back in 2011) may grow to become so big the rest.

At one point, he was quoted as saying that “mi” is an acronym for “mobile internet”, but also “impossible mission”, referring to the film and the difficulties he encountered in the beginning of Xiaomi’s story.
Whatever Xiaomi really means, Jun has certainly managed to turn this “single grain of rice” into a very large mountain (which somehow ended up on the back of Mi 11 Ultra).

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