Moments ago, Apple unveiled the sixth-generation iPhone. When they did, they named it the iPhone 5. Confused? Don’t be, as we’ve been waiting for the iPhone 5 to arrive for over two years now.

Throughout much of last year, AppAdvice, like other news and review sites, referred to Apple’s fifth generation handset as the “iPhone 5.” Of course, when Cupertino unveiled the iPhone 4S in October, that moniker was proven incorrect.

There are a number of reasons Apple might have delayed the iPhone 5 name a year ago.

A name delayed

The iPhone 3G

The iPhone 3G

For one, the iPhone 4S turned out to be a modest update, and not the handset Steve Jobs was rumored to be working on just months before he died in October.

That handset, which was probably much closer in design to the one announced today, was reportedly scrapped as far back as February 2011 because of delays with iOS 5 and Foxconn’s inability to create a thinner iPhone.

Additionally, there are some who argue that Apple switched the name “iPhone 5” for “iPhone 4S” at the last minute as a tribute “4 Steve,” who had resigned as CEO last September. Jobs died on Oct. 5, one day after the iPhone 4S launched.

Most likely, Apple kept the iPhone 5 name until today because of past practice.

Names were never about version numbers

The iPhone 4

The iPhone 4

Ever since the second-generation iPhone arrived in 2008, Apple has followed a unique numbering pattern when it comes to naming handsets. The iPhone 3G was named as such because it was the first to use 3G technology. The iPhone 3GS, meanwhile, was so named because it used a faster processor than the previous model. However, because it was only an incremental update, this third generation handset kept “3” in its name.

In 2010, the fourth generation handset debuted, and because it was radically different than the previous three models, it received the name iPhone 4.

What about the new iPad?

We’re still scratching our head as to why Apple chose to drop the numbering convention when they announced the new iPad earlier this year. This is especially puzzling given Apple’s decision to announce the iPhone 5. Perhaps the original plan was to no longer use iPhone numbering this year. But, because of the minor backlash that followed the naming of the new iPad, Apple did an about face.

Apple’s future plans

I’d suggest that Apple’s 2013 handset will retain some sort of iPhone 5 moniker, just as the iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4S did so previously. In other words, the iPhone 5 (insert letter) will be an incremental update, while the 2014 handset will be named the iPhone 6. That would be the eighth-generation iPhone for those keeping score.

Of course, that discussion can wait for another day.