Thinking Out Loud: What does Apple have in store for the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6?
Apple’s iPhone 5 is less than two weeks old, yet for some strange reason we feel like it’s been out for months already. It has a taller screen so you can see more apps. Wonderful. It also has 4G LTE so you can upload photos faster. Amazing, but phones have been doing that for years already. The new iPhone is just so … boring because it’s such a safe and predictable product.
That got me thinking, what’s Apple going to do next year to wow us? And what about the year after that?
If we take a look at the iPhone 3G, the successor to that device, dubbed the 3GS, looked exactly the same, but it came with some tweaks under the hood. It’s the same story between the iPhone 4 and the 4S. So when the iPhone 5S comes out next year, assuming Apple is going to call it that, you can expect it to look like a perfect clone of the 5. It’s an uncomfortable truth that many of you are going to try and reject, but history has shown that the only way Apple can continue to ship millions upon millions of smartphones every week is to recycle the same physical design.
Now the aluminum frame in the iPhone 5 makes NFC nearly impossible to implement, so you can forget about tapping to pay for things in 2013. All Apple can really do next year is improve the software. They need widgets, something that’s been a part of Android since the beginning of time. They also need a better way to multitask, because double tapping the home button is not only inelegant, but no one really figures out how to do it until the feature is demoed to them. What iOS 6 really needs, however, is some sort of settings pane that makes it easier for consumers to replace the bundled applications.
When you click on a hyperlink in iOS 6 today, Safari opens up. When you click on an email address, Mail opens up. Make no mistake, that needs to change in iOS 7. The ability to set default applications is something we’ve been doing on our personal computers for decades, and something we’ve been able to do with Android since the birth of the platform. Now yes, we know iOS is all about simplicity, making things easier for users, and crafting a bulletproof system, but every year that iOS keeps looking like iOS makes Apple look that much more fearful of trying something new.
Looking even further out, the iPhone 6 is where things potentially become really interesting. Apple’s going to introduce a new design, there’s no doubt about that, and we think it’ll feature an even larger screen. The physical footprint of the iPhone 6 will stay the same as that of the iPhone 5, but the home button should finally be put on a chunk of ice and pushed out to sea.
How exactly is all this going to work? Take a look at the recently announced Motorola RAZR M for Verizon Wireless, better known as the RAZR i in Europe and Asia. That phone is 123 mm tall and 60 mm wide. The iPhone 5 is 123 mm tall and 59 mm wide. Why is it then that the Motorola device has a 4.3 inch screen, while today’s iPhone has a 4 inch display? The RAZR M takes advantage of the new user interface introduced in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Home buttons become useless since everything is drawn by the operating system itself.
As for the materials that’ll make up the iPhone 6, earlier this week there were rumors that Apple was requesting some carbon fiber samples. Think about how many problems that would solve. It’s light, so it’ll be easier to get away with using a larger display and battery inside a new iPhone. It’s strong, so it can do a better job at surviving drops. And most attractive of all, it’s easier to shape. Whereas a piece of aluminum has to be cut by a machine, carbon fiber is simply injected into a mold, just like plastic.
We might not know too much about the next two iPhones today, but we do know that the next two years of smartphone evolution are going to make the previous two look downright pathetic. And that’s a good thing.