Apple will announce its next iPhone this week, but it has lots of work to do just to catch up.
There’s no doubt that the Apple hype machine is whipping itself into a frenzy ahead of this week’s reveal of the iPhone 7. Apple itself will use plenty of breathless prose to describe its new superphone, but the reality is that there’s plenty of work to do adding to the iPhone simply to offer features found on other phones.
Apple’s very late to the wireless charging party, but the key specifications for wireless charging are very well understood and widely deployed across a range of Android and Windows Phone devices, and have been for years. Wireless charging won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it can be very useful, and it’s such an easy feature to add to what’s meant to be a premium phone.
Water Resistant Body
Drop your iPhone into water, and it’s going to die unless you’re exceptionally lucky. Apple’s said to be doing away with the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and maybe this is a route to offering actual water proofing, as distinct from water resistance. We’d certainly hope so as many premium Android phones such as the Galaxy S7 are fully waterproof.
Developer NFC access
Apple is notably not keen on the idea of offering up the NFC radio found in the iPhone to the big Australian banks, citing security concerns. Maybe they’re right, and maybe they’re not, but what about the other uses for NFC, such as simple device pairing to headphones or initiating data sessions? Apple lags well behind Android here, where even the mid-range phones offer NFC connectivity with no strings attached for developers.
More colour options
Apple loves gold, whether it’s rose or yellow, as well as grey and white options, but that’s about it. It’s been down the colour path before with the iPhone 5c, so there’s still a colour swatch somewhere in Sir Jony Ive’s otherwise spotlessly white office somewhere. Why not open up to other colours, Apple? Plenty of your competitors do.
More internal storage
Memo to Apple: It’s 2016, and 16GB does not cut it any more. Either open up the iOS platform to external microSD, which gives users choice and significant cost improvements, or make 32GB (or preferably 64GB) the new low water mark for iPhone storage. Samsung toyed with sealed storage in the Galaxy S6, but the S7 was a much better phone for letting you up the internal storage at will.
Improved Speaker System
This one should be a no brainer. Apple spent $3 billion on Beats audio, so why not incorporate it directly into your phones for some really impressive audio? Competitors such as HTC have had really good (for mobile) Boom Sound speakers, so this should be an easy inclusion even if you do cut out the headphone jack.
Brighter, Higher Resolution Screen
Apple coined the term “retina display” for what was in its time a really impressive screen on the iPhone 4 and its successor phones. It has both diluted the meaning, if there ever was one of the term, given the 272×340 Apple Watch display is apparently “Retina”, and the iPhone 6s has a “Retina HD” display, but in the meantime the screens on competitor phones have leapt over it in brightness, clarity and resolution stakes, offering screens with massive improvements. It’s time for Apple to join the party.
Better battery life
Apple’s iPhones are premium devices, no doubt. But they’re premium devices that have long had the worst battery life of any given premium smartphone generation, and the iPhone 6s generation was no different. Even the larger battery in the iPhone 6s plus couldn’t compare to the battery life of devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 or Huawei Mate 8.
Camera technology is where smartphones in the premium space really differentiate themselves. Apple’s cameras have generally been decent but haven’t hit the heights of competitors such as the Leica-developed dual lens Huawei P9, or LG’s mixed wide and regular lens G5 smartphone. iPhone users love taking photos, but it would be significant if Apple can take the true lead in this space, rather than just following.
It won’t take long for the first iPhone 7 to hit the ground, and if Apple hasn’t done significant work in strengthening the glass on its new smartphone, the unlucky owner will be facing a significant bill. Several models of competing phones feature either strengthened glass, or in the case of Motorola’s Moto X Force, what it calls a “shatterproof” screen. If that’s too hard or too heavy, Apple could take a page out of Huawei’s book and offer a single-time screen replacement gratis with what is undoubtedly going to be a premium priced phone anyway.
Apple did lead the way with a fast fingerprint scanner, but in terms of biometric authentication, it’s been either met or beaten in that arena. Iris scanning for authentication is still relatively rare in the smartphone world, with devices like the Galaxy Note 7 and Microsoft’s Lumia 950 featuring the technology. Apple could do worse than make it even easier to unlock your phone with your face.
Apple’s devices benefit from fixed configurations that make it easier for iOS developers to eke out every last drop of performance. Still, Apple’s been noticeably reticent to particularly push up the RAM offerings in its iOS devices. If it wants to really redefine premium phone performance, increasing the RAM over previous phone generations would be an easy way to do that.