Apple revealed its sixth-generation iPhone Wednesday, and for many, it landed with more of a hollow thud than the fireworks and cheers of iPhones past.
Apple’s not out to create another revolution with a phone filled with never-before-seen tech. It’s understandably playing it safe. This is a mass-market product, after all. Still, there are a number of features we wish could have made it into the iPhone 5 and that we hope Apple will implement in the near future so that we can fall in love all over again.
The Live Tiles feature is one of my favorite things about Windows Phone OS. The constantly updating tiles relay information like what’s next on your calendar or what a contact’s most recent tweet or message to you was, or even just rotate through your photos. They’re subtle but addictively useful.
Apple could have its own take on this with icons that updated dynamically The built-in music app, for instance, could show album art for the current track. The weather app, might show current weather and temperature based on your location. For the calendar, a graphic showing how many appointments you have that day. Subtle, tasteful, and still decidedly iOS (widgets, a staple of Android OS, for instance, would be an abomination for Apple’s), yet they’d be a useful way to make that larger iPhone homescreen shine.
Can’t blame Apple for not including this feature in 2012, but it sure would be nice to be able to toss your phone into a purse or onto a counter and never have to think about plugging it in to charge. This, again, is an interesting feature of some new Windows Phone handsets: the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820.
Perhaps in 2013 or 2014, after Intel, for example, begins embedding wireless charging into its notebooks and smartphones, we’ll see Apple add this feature. But if the company had included this in the iPhone 5, it could have also made extra money selling a wireless mat accessory for the phone to charge on.
Siri can handle simple requests, such as giving you information, letting you dictate messages, and, soon, opening apps for you. But what if Siri developed more of a mind of her own?
Most of us fall into regular routines, and that includes our phone and app usage. Maybe you wake up in the morning, check your email first thing, then hop on Twitter or check Flipboard. After work, you open up Wired, The New York Times, or The New Yorker. And before bed, you spend some quality time with Netflix.
It would be compelling if the iPhone learned your behavior and began preemptively opening your usual apps for you at the usual times. And it doesn’t seem too far fetched to imagine it being included in the OS one day: Apple places a very heavy focus on the usability of its products, and upgrades to iOS generally focus on making the operating system more intuitive and easier to use.
Facial or Gesture Recognition
We know Apple has patents on it. Facial or gesture recognition is another usability enhancement that would have upped the iPhone excitement factor.
Samsung’s got facial recognition already, but there’s an opportunity for Apple to implement it more fully — and more successfully. Yes, it could be used to unlock your iPhone. But it’d also be great for locking or unlocking specific apps (keeping prying eyes out of your email, for example), or for letting you access Siri without pressing a button.
Gesture recognition, on the other hand, could come in handy if you’re just feeling lazy — a flick of the finger sideways to turn a page in Instapaper, awave to start or stop music without opening a music app or even turning on your iPhone’s display. I think there’s more utility for the iPad on this front, but it’s something that would still put some wow back into the iPhone.
The glass back on the iPhone 4 and 4S is a recipe for breakage, and the 3GS before that was uber scratch-prone. Apple minimized the glass issue by wrapping the rear of the iPhone 5 in brushed aluminum, but what if instead of regular old aluminum it was something virtually indestructible? The display glass too — an iPhone that doesn’t scratch, crack or chip?
If Tim Cook had stepped onstage and thrown the iPhone 5 onto the ground, pounded on it with a hammer, then picked it up unscathed, we’d be beside ourselves. But after all the chips and shattered screens, we’d be impressed if he had merely dropped it onto its glass-clad corner and it didn’t crack or chip.