For years (and even now), Apple stuck to number-focused branding. Once upon a time, there existed an iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and iPhone 6. You could even get your hands on an iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. Today, many people are using the iPhone X and iPhone 11.

But the iPhone 9 has been conspicuously absent from Apple's lineup. Even when the company had the opportunity to launch the iPhone 9 following the iPhone 8, Apple skipped right over it.

All signs since have pointed to the iPhone 9's being vaporware, a device lost to gods of tech, never to be spotted on the street.

But Apple might have had a change of heart, according to a new report from reliable Apple-tracking blog Macotakara. That site says Apple is planning to release a new, budget-friendly iPhone in early 2020, complete with a 4.7-inch screen, Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and the A13 bionic processor. Apple won't break any new ground in the device's design and will instead design it to look identical to the iPhone 8.

If that sounds familiar, it's because we've been hearing reports about this device for several months. But all of those reports said the handset would be called the iPhone SE 2, indicating it would be a successor to the budget-friendly iPhone SE.

Macotakara, however, reports that its souces say the device will be known as the iPhone 9. Finally, after years of trying to figure out what happened to it, we'll have an iPhone 9 on store shelves.

Of course, Apple hasn't confirmed any new phones for 2020, let alone the name it'll use. And it's possible Apple could go with a different name by the time the device launches. But naming it iPhone 9 would be a satisfying conclusion to the iPhone 9 mystery.

After all, Apple didn't say much about why it skipped iPhone 9 when it unveiled the iPhone X in 2017. In truth, it might have been the result of two issues.

First, Apple was competing at the time with Samsung and the company's Galaxy S8 was on store shelves. Seeing an opportunity, Apple is rumored to have believed that going with X, or 10, instead of 9 gave the iPhone a bigger perceived advantage over Samsung's device. It's also why, according to reports at the time, Samsung had considered calling the Galaxy S9 it launched in early 2018 the Galaxy S10. It didn't want its phone to look outdated or underpowered compared with a "10" model from Apple.

The other possible reason Apple nixed the iPhone 9 branding perhaps makes even more sense: The X was released 10 years after the iPhone had launched.

Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, but didn't really commit to a numbering scheme until the iPhone 4 in 2010. Its iPhone 5 launched in 2012 and iPhone 6 in 2014. Apple's iPhone 7 launched in 2016, and its iPhone 8 launched in 2017, the same year as the iPhone X. It made sense--the iPhone X launched 10 years after the first iPhone.

If Apple hadn't opted for the iPhone X version in 2017, the company would have technically been due to release the iPhone 9 in 2019. But since it had already committed to the iPhone X, it followed that with the iPhone XS lineup in 2018 and, this year, the iPhone 11.

Now, though, Apple is perhaps more justified in going with iPhone 9. It also makes some branding sense, considering it would launch alongside the iPhone XS lineup the company is still selling, as well as this year's iPhone 11. The iPhone 9 would be the cheapest of the bunch, and its number would reflect that.

So, perhaps Apple really will address a big decision it made a couple of years ago and finally, after all the speculation, put to rest whether an iPhone 9 should have existed.