With the huge amount of interest in the new iPhones, rumors are rampant about their features. We’ve heard from industry and stock analysts, tech bloggers and other followers of Apple, reporting on rumors from insiders at the manufacturing plants, accessory companies, and component suppliers.
The interest is well-founded. It’s been three years with no significant external changes to the iPhone. This is the tenth anniversary of the introduction of the first iPhone, and the competition – notably Samsung and Google – have made significant strides in offering competitive products. Most importantly, the iPhone represents almost two-thirds of Apple’s sales.
I thought I’d take a different approach in speculating what’s ahead. As a product design consultant, but, more importantly, as a product reviewer that examines many products throughout the year from the perspective of the customer, I’m going to offer what I think customers would value the most and cause them to upgrade. In other words, what new features do iPhone users really want.
The top item on my list for improvement is a longer battery life. I’ve talked with dozens of iPhone owners, and the number one complaint I hear is the need to recharge their phones to get through the day. I carry an iPhone 6 with a recently replaced battery in an Apple battery case and often run out before dinner time. Granted the newer models have a little more capacity, but still not enough to match the increased use of phones for the many new activities we do. Apple has erred on the side of thinness at the expense of battery life, and I hope they’ll fix this major weakness.
My second priority is the display. Apple has not improved its resolution and basic design for the past three years and has fallen behind the competition, particularly Samsung. I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S8 from AT&T side by side with my iPhone, and invariably I’ll reach for the S8 when I want to do any extensive reading of email or Internet content. The display on the S8 is much higher in contrast and sharpness, and the characters appear to float on the surface of the display rather than sit below it.
Third is the form factor. Anything Apple can do to provide a greater display area in a physically smaller package is a benefit to the user. More text on the display means less scrolling. Samsung has accomplished this by eliminating the bezels along the sides and going to a more elongated display that results in a significantly larger display area in the same overall package size.
Fourth is durability. If Apple were only to offer a phone that could survive a 36-inch drop onto a sidewalk and a long dip in the pool, they’d be well ahead of the Samsung S8, that’s one of the most fragile of phones. It’s all glass construction is as fragile as a Riedel wine glass. We’re already seeing added durability on some Lenovo Motorola phones and Samsung’s Active models.
I know Apple will do a great job with the ID as they always have. While a great ID can wow us, as the S8’s ID wowed me, it’s something that becomes a little less important after the initial excitement wears off. I’d much prefer an ID that incorporates the important functions noted above, than one that compromises those features for design sake.
Lastly, one of the most important customer features Apple offers is its superb customer support that none of their competitors can match. If you’re near an Apple Store you can often get service while you wait and get a wide range of assistance at no cost from well-trained, attentive employees.
But increasingly often you need to wait several days to get an appointment with the Genius Bar. I’d like to see Apple offer an even higher level of service, particularly for those that are not near an Apple store: deliver a replacement or loaner phone to your home in 24 hours or less, much like Amazon can do with an order.
I’ve left off other features that others are actively anticipating and even wishing for, such as wireless charging, facial recognition, embedded fingerprint readers, and curved displays. That’s because I don’t think they matter as much to the customer as they do to those of us that cover technology. People learn to sign in one way or another and give little thought to it once they do it a few times as long as it’s secure. Wireless charging is a minor convenience that becomes less important with a longer battery life.
I have no idea whether Apple will do any of these things, but for the sake of providing what most benefits their customers, I hope some of these features will be included.