The original iPhone truly revolutionized the mobile phone industry. Can the upcoming iPhone 5 have as big of an impact as the original? Only if Apple introduces at least one killer feature that differentiates it from the rest of the pack.
The iPhone 4S shares the iPhone 4’s design, which is almost two years old, an eternity in smartphone years. It is highly unlikely Apple will repeat this performance when it introduces the iPhone 5. The company introduced iOS 6 at its Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this week, which will launch this fall.
The company did not introduce the iPhone 5 (or whatever it decides to call the next iPhone), but the company is almost definitely holding back some iOS 6 features until the iPhone 5 makes its debut in time for the holiday shopping season.
The iPhone 5 Years Ago
It’s easy to forget what mobile phones looked like before Apple introduced the iPhone. Phones like the Palm Treo 650 and the BlackBerry 8800 reigned supreme. Microsoft’s partners were selling truckloads of Windows Mobile devices.
Many industry insiders, including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer thought the idea of Apple selling an expensive touchscreen phone was a joke. Above is his reaction to the first iPhone five years ago. Back in 2006 a Palm Inc. executive said future smartphones would have a lot in common with the Treo 650 when pressed for predictions of what phones would look like in five years.
Apple released the iPhone in June of 2007 and exceeded expectations by all measures. The original iPhone didn’t have third-party apps, 3G or other features found on competitive phones, but the touchscreen, user interface and media integration made up for it. Fast forward five years and we’re in a world where Apple just sold 35 million iPhones in a quarter.
Sure, you can argue that the iPhone 4S is the best smartphone currently available, but the competition is within striking distance and even surpassed the iPhone by some measures. For example, iPhone users are stuck with 3G while Android phones and Windows Phone often come with 4G LTE baked in. And of course there’s the whole issue of choice.
Android phones come in a range of sizes, feature sets and prices, while Apple offers just one size and buyers on a budget are directed to Apple’s older iPhones. How can the iPhone 5 be revolutionary? Apple will have to pull out all the stops and clearly differentiate the iPhone 5 and make it more than ‘just’ a smartphone. Apple can’t simply match the competition’s advantages, such as 4G LTE. Here’s a few things that could propel iPhone 5 well beyond the competition.
Mobile Payments Done Right
Mobile payments like Google Wallet, Pay With Square and other mobile payment solutions are OK, but there is plenty of room for Apple to deliver a better mobile payment solution with the iPhone 5.
Apple already has over 400 million credit card numbers on file, and the clout to avoid carrier squabbles that keep Google Wallet off of popular phones like the Samsung Galaxy nexus.
By including NFC, the same technology in PayPass credit cards, Apple could deliver a seamless payment option at many national retailers. By partnering with PayPass or a similar already in place technology there would be no need for retailers to buy extra equipment to take iPhone payments.
Apple says that the new PassBook app for iOS 6 is for loyalty card, gift cards and tickets, but the company loves to include exclusive features in new iPhones. Siri only worked on the iPhone 5 at launch, so it is possible that Apple will launch an NFC enabled iPhone 5 with PassBook that can act as your credit or debit card.
Mobile payments have not taken off in the States, but as we saw with the Pebble smartwatch, combining an already existing solution with the iPhone is a quick path to success.
Location Aware Phone
Starting with the iPhone 4S and iOS 5.1, Apple brought meaningful location aware apps and services to the iPhone. The Reminders app is the most prominent example of a location aware app on the iPhone. Reminders use location to trigger reminders when users leave or arrive at a location, making it possible to set up reminders such as, “Remind me to file the Johnson folder when I get to work.”
This is a good start, but the same technology could be used to do much more. Apple could build in support for profiles based on location, changing the ringers, text notifications and even app push notification sounds and settings based on where the phone is. At work, toned down tones and alerts replace loud ringers.
Apple has already introduced better location information into the iOS 6 beta. The Find My Friends app will be able to push alerts when friends enter or leave a certain area. The Passbook app is also location aware for flights and tickets. Apple could combine this location aware technology with the Do Not Disturb control over ringers and notifications to do much more than silence the iPhone at night.
Siri That Works
Siri is frustrating to use in its current form. Sometimes Siri does exactly what you ask, but it often doesn’t understand requests or fails to complete them.
To revolutionize the phone industry again, Apple needs to roll out a new version of Siri with improved recognition skills and additional features.
It’s time to drop the beta tag and deliver a Siri solution that doesn’t fail to send one in four text messages, stall even with a good connection and the inability to control more of the iPhone. Check out the new Siri features in the iOS 6 beta.
Apple needs to improve Siri’s reliability and add features. If Apple remains committed to burying settings controls behind multiple taps for the sake of aesthetics, at least let users control them with Siri. On a jailbroken iPhone users can already control brightness, airplane mode, Bluetooth and WiFi with Siri.
In IOS 6 users can finally open apps with Siri, but users still lack a good way to control third-party apps. For example, it would be great to tell Pandora or Spotify to start playing a station. Developers would need to build in support for Siri control inside apps, but a few are already working on it in private.
Spotify already claims to offer Siri control, at least in a test version of Spotify on the CEO’s iPhone.
Even Easier to Use
After helping a first time (computer or iPad) user set up her iPad it became clear that there are a lot of sign up screens and passwords. Apple could streamline much of this setup by defaulting to the free .me email address, included with iCloud.
Apple also needs to build in easier to use support for multiple computers and multiple family members. Shared apps in the same house would be amazing, without the need for a shared Apple ID, but even the ability to plug into any computer on the home network and add additional music would fix many of the complaints I hear.
Another area that needs attention is how to handle switching to a new computer. iCloud simplifies the experience for Apple purchased products, but there is still a need for a new computer utility or app that moves all the content into iTunes on a new Mac or PC.
A Serious Camera
The camera on the back of the iPhone 4S is adequate, but it’s not spectacular. Shooting photos with an iPhone is one of the easiest ways to share photos, but image quality isn’t nearly as good as what users get out of mediocre point-and-shoot cameras.
Apple could choose to upgrade the iPhone 5 sensor and lens to deliver a camera rivaling PureView and the average point and shoot camera. Rumors suggest Apple will use the same sensor as the iPhone 4S, but rumors have a habit of proving false when Apple releases a new iPhone.
If Apple really wants to put an end to point and shoot cameras, they also need to focus on a better set of software features. Many new Android smartphones can take photos while shooting videos, take panorama photos and shoot many photos at once in burst mode.
Apple could also make use of iPhone connectivity options to allow the use of an iPhone or iPad as a remote viewfinder and shutter for the iPhone.
Extraordinary Battery Life
Battery life remains one of the biggest limitations for mobile devices. 4G LTE smartphones use much more power, leaving users of many 4G LTE smartphones in search of power outlets by late afternoon.
Apple has an advantage in this area. Apple makes the hardware and the software for the iPhone from the ground up. Apple could build a more efficient operating system to optimize battery life on the iPhone 5. Software optimizations routinely deliver better battery life for customized Android smartphones, but Apple has the resources and the ability to build efficiencies into the iPhone 5 right out of the box.
Additionally, Apple has the supply chain intelligence and the cash to outbid competitors for the new 4G LTE chips which are more power efficient and in short supply. It’s unlikely Apple will be the only company using a version of the new Qaulcomm 28 nm 4G LTE chip, but they could be the first to deliver it in bulk.
The inside of the new iPad is mostly battery, with a small circuit board for the components. By packing in a larger battery, even at the cost of a bigger device, Apple could ensure that the iPhone 5 lasts all day, even with 4G LTE.
A taller iPhone, like the mock up shown in the TechnoBuffalo rendering below, would allow Apple to pack a larger battery into the iPhone.
Apple may stay out of the quad-core smartphone race, opting for a more efficient processor that sips power, contributing to longer iPhone battery life.
iCloud set the stage for keeping the iPad and iPhone in sync, but the real magic has yet to happen.
Imagine using an app on the iPhone, say editing a photo in iPhoto, and resuming the same state, including the tools open and the ability to undo changes, on the iPad.
Apple could also make iCloud better, building in the ability to share game saves and app data across devices as a standard feature for developers. The current version is a good step, but if a developer has to choose between implementing iCloud and tweaking gameplay, the obvious choice is gameplay. Apple could fix versioning problems and make the sync a default iPhone and iPad feature.
Another feature would be the ability to take calls on the iPad if the iPhone is across the room. iMessage already allows users to respond to most text messages no matter which Apple device they are using, and a phone app that ties into the iPhone’s number would be a handy feature.
Tighter Mac Integration
Apple needs to deliver tighter integration between the new iPhone and MacBooks. The iCloud service and apps like Reminders in OS X Mountain Lion show the beginning of this, but there’s still a lot of room to grow.
Third Party tools already allow users to use their iPhone and Bluetooth to lock and unlock Macs and PCs when a user leaves or enters a room. Apple should build this functionality right into OS X and iOS 6. Many HP notebooks already include the ability to use facial recognition and Bluetooth connectivity on the iPhone and other devices to unlock notebooks.
Tighter integration also includes better remote access to the Mac. The LogMeIn app allows users to remote control a Mac from the iPhone, but the experience is poor on a small screen. A better solution would use iCloud to deliver access to all the files on a Mac, but open them in iPhone apps. Obviously this wouldn’t work for every file, but with time, app developers could tap into a new API that allows users to accomplish more on the iPhone 5 and on the new iPad.
Two iPhone Models
Apple could release a larger and wider iPhone this fall with the same resolution. This iPhone Jumbo, would still deliver a Retina Display, but the larger screen would provide bigger keys and larger text for users who find the small tap points and keyboard on the iPhone troublesome.
The larger iPhone could use the same processor as the iPhone 4S, to keep costs low, while the iPhone 5 maintains the smaller 3.5-inch display and gains a new processor with better graphics support.
Check out the latest iPhone 5 Rumors.