Report Card: The 20 New iPhone Features Virtually Everyone Wants | iLounge Article

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Report Card: The 20 New iPhone Features Virtually Everyone Wants

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Thursday, June 4, 2009
Articles Categories: Features

For years, Apple’s keynotes and special events were guaranteed to pack big surprises: the company went into near radio silence up until the point at which Steve Jobs took the stage, and absent comments from the company, speculation ran rampant. Who knew just what was going to be announced, upgraded, or abruptly discontinued? Small teams of key Apple personnel, and they weren’t talking. (Well, mostly.)

Most likely to cut down on the crazy speculation and resultant disappointment and stock price drops that followed, Apple has shifted strategies over the past year. Now it’s telegraphing its moves through a combination of advance announcements—iPhone OS 2.0 and 3.0 SDK events, quarterly Conference Calls, and deliberate leaks to certain favorite journalists—in an effort to manage expectations. Should some crazy talk start to spread, say, speculation that the next iPhone will get three times the prior model’s battery life, Apple can unofficially whisper “we’re thinking more like 1.5x” in someone’s ear, or make some oblique comment to financial analysts, and the word will get out.

Like it or not, the strategy has worked, and users have become more accustomed to the sort of incremental updates the company has more recently been offering. But that doesn’t mean these small updates are wholly satisfying, or that they’re enough to win a new purchase from every potential or current user. That’s why we’ve come up with a WWDC 2009 report card highlighting not the next-generation iPhone features Apple has told people to expect, but rather the as yet unannounced ones that people have been hoping for. When the event’s finished, we’ll go back and look at what actually happened.

1. Dramatically Better Battery Life. As noted in our review, the iPhone 3G’s battery life is way less than great—keeping it on or near a charger has been virtually mandatory for people who really use the phone during the day. What people want is a battery that can last at least a full day, dusk until dawn, under normal usage conditions. Apps, push e-mail, and 3G data transfers have become increasingly important over the last year; how will the new iPhone stack up?

2. Superior Build Quality. Once Apple shifted from the classy metallic original iPhone to the plastic iPhone 3G, users—including us—quickly began to notice cracks in their casings, and heavy smudges on the black models. Will Apple make major changes to improve the durability of new iPhones, or leave them mostly as-is?

3. More Reliable Calling and Data Speeds. Apple promised that the iPhone 3G would run at twice the speed of the original, and suggested that it would offer superior call quality. Users in some places saw corresponding improvements; others did not, paid more for their cell service, and sued both Apple and AT&T. Though it varies from country to country, city to city, and even block to block, everyone wants to have stable, high-speed 3G connectivity.

4. No Bandwidth Capping. AT&T has been trying to figure out just how upset people would be if their iPhone cellular data usage wasn’t “unlimited,” but rather capped at some amount with potential overage charges. Will AT&T try to cap bandwidth for its “unlimited” plan? Or offer a capped, cheaper plan friendly to both less data-demanding users and potential 2007 iPhone converts? As our recent poll suggests, without the right data plans, the next iPhone could turn off a lot of people, including current iPhone users.

5. 802.11n. Some users with 802.11n Wi-Fi routers have had to slow their networks down to accommodate the 802.11g iPhone and iPhone 3G. An 802.11n Wi-Fi chip would reduce the need for slower, cross-compatible g/n networks, as well as Apple’s dual-band wireless routers.

6. Turn-by-Turn Mapping. The iPhone had Maps, the iPhone 3G added a GPS dot, and the new iPhone is supposed to have a magnetic compass built in. Great, but what people really want is integrated turn-by-turn direction functionality, included in the OS, excuses be damned. Will Apple finally put the pieces together, or keep passing the buck to third-party developers?

7. No More Broken Accessories. It wasn’t Apple’s fault that the original iPhone put out screeching noises whenever it was near unshielded speakers; the company used this as a justification, however, to create an annoying accessory incompatibility notice that displayed whenever users connected plug-in devices that Apple hadn’t approved.  The iPhone 3G eliminated this sound except when it fell into EDGE mode, but kept the notice; it also created a new category of incompatible accessories—FireWire chargers. Will Apple finally just let users enjoy the items they’ve been purchasing, or is some new incompatibility just lurking around the corner?

8. Integrated or Accessory Keyboard Support. Many business users—and non-business users—have rightly complained that the iPhone and iPhone 3G don’t have the input scheme they really want, specifically physical keys. An iPhone with a slide-out keyboard would have been a gimme, but absent that, an accessory keyboard would be plenty good.

9. Joypad Support. The iPhone is now a gaming platform. If Apple’s not going to add a proper joypad and buttons to it, it needs to permit third-party developers to do so. Step one is to provide a concrete set of APIs for game developers that joypad manufacturers can rely on so their products work with all games, not just those that adopt their particular protocols. Step two is to provide the controller itself or a reference design.

10. An Improved Main iPhone Menu. Scrolling through page after page of app icons is a pain—everyone with more than three pages of apps or bookmarked web pages knows this. Folders would be an easy way to organize key icons, but more radical changes are possible, too. While they’re at it…

11. An Improved Splash Screen. The iPhone and iPod touch’s “Slide to unlock” screen is great for displaying a single photo, but there’s no good reason it couldn’t provide at-a-glance access to calendar and weather information, as well as indicators for new emails or other messages.

12. Improved Still Camera Performance. The iPhone’s camera does better at shooting far-away objects than ones that are up close, and doesn’t do a fantastic job with color rendition. There are strong hints that this will be improved in a new iPhone, with an autofocusing lens; what will happen with its overall performance, resolution, and color accuracy? Will iPhone 3G or 2007 iPhone users benefit from any software changes?

13. Video Recording. Being able to shoot, store, and send video clips would be fantastic—assuming that 3G-transmitted clips are not so size-constrained that they’re only useful as short snippets. Like improved still camera performance, this seems to be a lock for the 2009 iPhone, but we’ll be anxiously awaiting the specifics, as well as news on whether prior iPhones get anything here.

14. Video Conferencing. As concept art and many discussion forum posts demonstrate, users have wanted to use video iChat in an iPhone since before the original model was officially announced. A front-facing camera would be required, and would probably need to be protected in some way from facial smears. Could this bezel herald a change, is it a fake, or is Apple just playing with other components of the iPhone’s hardware?

15. Direct-to-iPhone Video Downloading. Sure, you can transfer videos over to your phone from your computer using iTunes, but what if your flight has been delayed and you suddenly find yourself with a couple extra hours to kill? The ability to grab a new movie or a few TV shows to pass the time is a no-brainer, and could potentially boost sales of video content on the iTunes Store. It’s a win-win, except of course for cellular providers’ networks.

16. Wireless Syncing. With either 802.11g or n, wireless connectivity speeds are fast enough that a hard line connection to iTunes seems unnecessary, if not downright cumbersome. For a company that’s long been known for reducing cabling and clutter, it’s time to let users cut the cord.

17. A Higher-Resolution Screen. When it was introduced in 2007, the iPhone’s 480x320 screen was a marvel. In 2009, it’s pretty much standard fare, and quickly being overtaken by higher-definition pocket displays. It’s time to step up and match the resolution of phones such as the HTC Touch Pro 2, which sports a 480x800 screen, a move that would finally take advantage of the DVD-quality videos iPhones and iPods have been storing for years.

18. HD Content Support. iTunes users currently need to maintain two copies of iTunes Store HD videos: one that plays on the computer, and one that plays on the iPhone. Letting the iPhone play the same HD videos found in iTunes would make watching on-board HD content worth the extra space it requires.

19. More Storage Capacity. iPod touch units come in 8, 16, and 32 Gigabyte capacities. iPhones have been constrained to 8 and 16 Gigs. Dare we hope for app- and video-filled iPhones to hit a 64 Gig maximum? Of course, but most likely, Apple won’t go higher than 32.

20. True Multitasking. Even Apple knows that its Push Notification service is no replacement for the ability to keep multiple apps open at once. But if multitasking is implemented in a limited fashion—think 3 or 4 apps open at a time—it would be a godsend for many users, and bring the iPhone up to speed with new competitors such as Android and the Palm Pre. Seriously, would you rather have this or a digital compass?

There are, of course, plenty of other important things that could wind up playing a role in the next iPhone: a lower price, even wider network compatibility, more impressive 3-D graphics, and Nike+ support. Which features would be in your top 5? We’ll be watching for your thoughts as WWDC 2009 inches closer next week.

[With contributions from Charles Starrett.]

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Comments

1

iLounge, dare we hope for a single one of these marvels you have described here. If Apple is “light years ahead” then all of these should of been on the original model!

I consider the excuses of “accessibility” and “usability” over used. If Apple does not pull its cyber socks up on Monday they could lose out to the other companies, fast approaching the same levels of quality because of Apple’s example.

Funny, Apple itself may be the end of Apple. I sincerely hope not.

Posted by Alan on June 4, 2009 at 12:15 PM (PDT)

2

can’t always get what you want:

1. maybe.  Probably better battery but not “dramatically” better.

2. Maybe.  My guess is a more “rubbery” feel instead of the smooth plastic.

3. not really Apple’s call.

4. Expect lower priced plans with capping from ATT

5. Would love to see it but don’t expect it.

6. Nope. Apple’s been pretty clear that 3rd party turn by turn only

7. Count on broken accessories for some time.  Its the Apple way smile

8. Never.  Apple put a stake in the ground with the virtual keybaord.  They wont back down (unless or until they release the rumored “iPad/Apple Netbook” then I see perhaps allowing bluetooth keyboard connectivity).

9. Nope. See # 8 above.

10. Nope.

11. Nope.

12. Yup - but you’ll have to buy a new iPhone.

13. See # 12 above.

14. This would be the killer app for the iPhone to add and justify the purchase of new hardware.  Love to see it, not counting on it soon.

15. Yup.  Next week.

16. Agreed but not counting on it yet.

17. Coming but not yet.  Expect to see more resolution when the apple iPad/netbook released next year

18. Nope.

19. Learn to love 32GB for now.

20. Aint happening.  Again,  Apple has been pretty clear about why not.

Posted by Dan Hamilton on June 4, 2009 at 12:24 PM (PDT)

3

I’ll take all 20! :D

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on June 4, 2009 at 12:41 PM (PDT)

4

21. And a pony!!

Honestly, I tire of all of the lists of features that are “no brainers” that somehow stupid Apple hasn’t implemented.  Heaven knows how they have grown so much, and banked so much cash, with all the failures they have.

You call these things that “virtually everybody wants” and most of them wouldn’t sway me one way or another.  And I’m an iPhone developer.

Example:  I use both Blackberry and iPhone extensively.  I’ve used copy/paste on the blackberry about 4 times this year, and maybe missed it once or twice on the iPhone.  Not nearly the “must have” that everybody rants about.  Nice? absolutely.  But surprise!... Apple already has hit the mark pretty darned well…

Posted by Joe Bagadonuts on June 4, 2009 at 12:44 PM (PDT)

5

Whilst I understand that the iPhone user community is quite diverse with regard to typical daily use patterns, I would have to think there is a large enough constituency of business uses to warrant placing WEEK VIEW for Calendar somewhere in the top 20… or maybe its just me smile

Posted by MacSteveT on June 4, 2009 at 1:21 PM (PDT)

6

I think, unless there’s a big surprise on Monday, that I might hold out for 64GB.
I love my current iphone, and if it’s not 64GB in the new one, which is looking very unlikely, I might just wait and see how great the 3.0 update does for it. I think I could easily hold out until after xmas time before upgrading to a new phone. Maybe by then it will be clearer whether it will be a long wait before the max is 64GB.

But you bet your ###, if it releases with 64GB I will be in line the day it goes on sale.

Posted by ~ruindpzzle in san diego, CA on June 4, 2009 at 1:23 PM (PDT)

7

Great points.

A much faster camera startup time would be appreciated.

As well, the ability to view “My Maps” from Google. What’s the point of planning points in an area you’re planning to visit if you can’t view them in the Maps app?

Posted by Ryan Feeley on June 4, 2009 at 1:25 PM (PDT)

8

Nike+ support!  I don’t care about much else.

Posted by SumIdiot on June 4, 2009 at 2:16 PM (PDT)

9

I want #10 (the improved home screen) VERY badly. I DO expect to see this happening either in 4.0 or in an October or November 3.1 or 3.2 update. I’ve learned that pretty much whatever feature the iPhone/iPod touch lacks, it’ll come eventually. (e.g. copy/paste, spotlight, widescreen apps, APP STORE) So I really think that #s 3,5,6,9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 19 will happen by August 2010. If you’re reading this article after the date above, please reply to this comment to tell me how I did! smile

Posted by TylersPage on June 4, 2009 at 2:37 PM (PDT)

10

While turn by turn is “3rd party” everyone seems to be forgetting that ATT is THIRD PARTY!!! And they also offer GPS on par with the big boys, with even more features do to constant update ability.
Plus, with a full GPS app, the built in compass suddenly becomes pretty freiking amazing

Posted by kbizzle on June 4, 2009 at 5:28 PM (PDT)

11

How about bulk email delete function or better still, a junk mail filter.

Also, stereo bluetooth support would be very nice.

Finally, cut and paste between applications is on my wish list.

Posted by Dan Zimmerman on June 4, 2009 at 5:54 PM (PDT)

12

there is a video app, just jailbreak the phone and u got a video camera

Posted by marc smith on June 4, 2009 at 6:41 PM (PDT)

13

...remarkable how many of these are available with a jailbreak.

Posted by shawn on June 5, 2009 at 12:48 AM (PDT)

14

Ya estoy desesperado por el lunes. I can’t wait for Monday. Yo nunca he tenido un teléfono, pero como ahora voy a la universidad, pues tendré mi primero. I’ve never had a phone, but because now I’m going to college, I’ll be getting my first one. Y quiero que sea iPhone! And I want it to be iPhone!

Posted by iLly on June 5, 2009 at 6:19 AM (PDT)

15

21 (adding at 10 and 19), unliited apps installig (limited onl at it’s memory usage), instead of this ridiculous 9 page and/or 144 apps installing limit. If I have 400 apps, I want to install it all. Alphabetic order of our apps, not even talking about folders, is a minimum expected.

Posted by Pedro on June 5, 2009 at 8:15 AM (PDT)

16

Haha, Jeremy, it made me laugh that the image for this article used your much-hated marker font. Sometimes it does seem appropriate, but often there are better choices.

Posted by urbanslaughter on June 5, 2009 at 9:01 AM (PDT)

17

How about some simple usability features for users!

1)  The ability to change the volume / sound of incoming mail messages (I sure can hear it when mail comes in on CrackBerry)

2)  Mail notification (ala SMS) when an incoming mail message arrives

3)  Allow PUSH mail from more than two accounts (.Mac and my ONE IMAP account doesn’t cut it)

Posted by Mike Erickson on June 5, 2009 at 11:58 AM (PDT)

18

What about a louder speaker? When I’m in a place with a lot of people, I can’t hear who I’m talking to through the through the phone or on the speaker phone.

T-mobile has a phone out with a good strong speaker. Why can’t Apple, ‘top of the line, precedence setting’ phone that it is, install a speakerphone that is more appropriate? Versatility is great. What about Useability?
Come on Apple. You made a fan out of me. I have Microsoft and Cisco certs as a Network Administrator and previously didn’t know much about Apple. But now, after my first and second iPhones, and now a Mac laptop, you’ve earned my loyalty. Please consider a feature we could all use.

Cordially,
RS Foltz

Posted by Ron on June 5, 2009 at 12:05 PM (PDT)

19

First, I agree 100% with one of the items—the need for a folder, tabbed system for grouping apps (think ZLauncher from ye old Palm days).

But my wish list focuses on improving the software that gets used daily, e.g., the Personal Information Manager (PIM) apps that come with it (or don’t come with it) and making the on-screen appearance more eye-catching and pleasing.

So, Apple, how about improving the basic functionality of the calendar?  This is 2009 and the i-devices are still behind the Palms of 10 years ago!

For example, there should be a snooze option for event alerts.  Also, when you unlock the device, the alerts should stick around, not vanish into thin air.  How about an accordion style calendar display?  How about tap to edit rather than an Edit button?  How about sensible repeat options (e.g., X number of days or weeks)?  How about alerts that can be set to go off at the time of an event?

How about a to-do app with integrated agenda?

While we’re at it, how about an overhaul of the dismally boring 19th century looking interface?  Even the Palm from 1998 has a modern, clean, appealing look to it.  The date picker, scrolling list picker, etc. on the i-devices are all bland, with the grey background and blue trim lacking any sizzle, pop, or appeal.

Finally, don’t get me started on the tap, go to another screen interface.  One ends up wading through screen after screen of choices.  The Mac, followed by Palm, menu system works brilliantly and showed be incorporated into the i-devices.

Posted by astroman33 on June 7, 2009 at 4:41 AM (PDT)

20

The new iPhone cannot contain more than 32GB of RAM at this time which I believe will be inside it. The next Touch can and will have 64GB. I’m hoping for a 64GB iPhone and 128GB Touch next Summer 2010.

Posted by FutureMedia on June 7, 2009 at 3:35 PM (PDT)

21

#20
Keep hoping. It’ll take Apple til 2011 to get the iPhone to 64, if not longer. And same goes for the 128 GB touch.
Oh and, even PCs don’t have 32GB RAM. It’s called a 32GB SSD.

Posted by Jimmy on June 8, 2009 at 3:09 AM (PDT)

22

#16: It actually doesn’t use Marker; it’s a font called Handwriting - Dakota.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 8, 2009 at 7:43 AM (PDT)

23

Well, now that the WWDC address has come and gone, let’s examine this list again to see how we fared:

1. Battery life purports to be improved, but “dramatically” is not the modifier. I’d say “marginally.” YMMV, of course.

2. Build quality will apparently, frustratingly, be the same.

3. “Speed” was the emphasis of the keynote today. Whether it will come to bear is anyone’s guess, but I guess Apple DID hit the mark here on its end. AT&T;? The same virtues and drawbacks will remain.

4. No word of bandwidth capping. Thank God.

5. Didn’t happen. 802.11n seemed like a logical step up, too.

6. Turn-by-turn didn’t come up today. The only navigational news was the Tom Tom partnership, and details were scant.

7. On the accessories front, the lack of a cosmetic revision at least means that there shouldn’t be any need to ditch old cases/chargers. Or so it would seem…

8. Nary a word about keyboard support.

9. See #8 re: joypads.

10. No improvements to the main menu, and this is frustrating. I have five or six pages of apps. I’d love a way to organize these on screen and to facilitate finding my preferred apps rather than just moving the icons around.

11. Not a word about an improved splash screen. Loved this idea, Jeremy, and was really upset that Apple didn’t seize upon the opportunity to make it more than the perfunctory wallpaper/clock combo.

12. Improved still camera? They did nail this, or at least you would have to say that all signs of a better camera are in place. Still no flash or optical zoom, but I guess that’s nitpicking on my part—good to see that they at least focused on beefing it up after completely neglecting it in the 3G.

13. Video recording is here! But only for 3GS purchasers? Just plain aggravating. Jailbreakers have enjoyed video capture on the 3G, so it’s absurd that the feature isn’t backwards-compatible. So this is a half win, half fail, to use the parlance of our times.

14. No front-facing camera means no video conferencing. This is a real shame. Definitely a feature that should’ve been at the forefront of the design team’s plans, and instead it appears to have been totally overlooked.

15. Direct downloading of video, audiobooks from iTunes = huge improvement. Glad it’s going to be a part of the 3.0 OS, too. My biggest complaint is that this will obviously curtail battery life significantly, but hey, you want to get an episode of “Family Guy” on the road, you gotta make sacrifices, right?

16. Wireless syncing remains a pipe dream. I’d love to see it happen, but I won’t hold my breath on this one at all.

17. Same ol’ screen, unless you count this “arsenic-free” business that they were touting today as a sea change. It’s disappointing that the resolution hasn’t at least jumped to 720 x 480. That’s not out of the realm of reality, is it?

18. HD content is a long way off, IMO. We’ll see, but I don’t think it’ll hit an iPhone model for at least a couple of years.

19. Up to 32 GB on the top end. That was expected, though, and I guess cynics will say that at this stage, a 64 GB model should’ve been introduced.

20. Multitasking seems to be out the window on this one, although Apple’s excuse will be, “Hey, the iPhone 3GS is FASTER now, so it’ll be more seamless to move from app to app!” Maybe that’s true, but I think everyone wanted something on par with what the Pre is promising.

Posted by Flippy Hambone on June 8, 2009 at 12:58 PM (PDT)

24

So let’s see how Apple did:
1. Sorta, kinda (except not at all with regards to 3G talk time and browsing)
2. No
3. Sorta 2x faster HSPA, if AT&T;ever builds their network to support it
4. Yes
5. No
6. No (3rd party only)
7. Yes?  Won’t really know the ugly truth until release day.
8. No
9. No
10. No
11. No
12. Yes
13. Yes
14. No
15. Yes
16. No
17. No
18. No
19. Yes
20. No

Posted by Dyvim on June 8, 2009 at 1:00 PM (PDT)

25

This news is at the least, disappointing and mildly reassuring at best for the “next generation iPhone” movement. However, I consider the incremental changes evidence that a true next generation iPhone model is on the horizon, with SOME of these requested features installed. (When Apple needs to wow to secure future device upgrades)

For now, Apple must be enjoying their App Store successes and are nervous to upset the balance by introducing complex and significantly more advanced hardware, further broadening the compatibility of the platform.

Lets hope that CDMA (?)/higher speed model is being left for Verizon next year and that carrier exclusivity is at least broadened in 2010.

For now though, Apple has no need to dramatically improve the “best smart mobile device” on the market. It has performed the next logical business decision - to improve the accessibility of its products.

These smart business moves using its head may lose customers interest - who constantly want creations from Apple’s (and Steve Job’s) heart.

Posted by Alan on June 8, 2009 at 1:29 PM (PDT)

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