After reading Zac’s opinion piece on how the iPhone SE could actually tempt him not to upgrade to the iPhone 7, I realized that I hadn’t even begun to think what Apple could do to get me to want to upgrade to an iPhone 7. Overall I’ve been happy with the iPhone since its iPhone 5 iteration. It was the device I felt Apple really hit its stride with the hardware. I only upgraded to an iPhone 6 because I wanted a better camera and needed more storage space, but the larger form factor was a serious drawback for me. So what could possibly make me even want to upgrade from my current iPhone 6 to another phone later this year?
Now, of course I realize the discrepancy in even bringing this up. How could you know you don’t want to upgrade when nothing has even been officially announced? That’s just it though. I don’t know what’s going to be in the iPhone 7, but I also don’t know what more I could want from my phone. I loved the iPhone 5 design, and the iPhone 6’s camera is great enough for me to use daily. I didn’t really care about battery life at that point (even though I frequently carried a mophie juice pack plus around just in case), because I had to understand that the battery tech in Apple’s iPhones has never been particularly good.
None of the hardware upgrades in the latest revisions were “revolutionary” to me, but I was never one to upgrade just for the next big thing. I always upgraded because I was able to justify the upgrade from some need or additional benefit the device would bring. 3D Touch is a great example; I like 3D Touch, and really think it will be successful if more and more developers work towards building creatively on it. Though, in its current state I just don’t see it as a reason to want to upgrade my device.
After some time breaking it down, and not being able to come up with a good list of potential iPhone 7 upgrade temptations, I realized I could take a look at Apple’s biggest competitor: Android devices. After some research I decided on a few hardware specific upgrades I would love to see in an iPhone 7. I don’t imagine all of these to be built into a single device for this year’s iteration, but a mix of at least two from the list below would be great. Building these features into the iPhone would not only bring it up to its competitors’ levels, but also make the iPhone feel a tad bit “fresher”.
I’ve never been one to care about waterproofing/water-resistance in phones. I’ve only had one incident in my entire life where a phone got wet and destroyed. I just find it strange that phones have been able to go on so long, without coming with some form of marketable water resistance built in. Having a water-resistant phone may not be a priority in my life, but it sure would add a small peace of mind while I’m washing dishes.
I love listening to podcasts while cooking or cleaning in the kitchen. Sometimes I need to jump back just fifteen seconds to catch a missed phrase, and in those moments I love having my Apple Watch. As I use my Apple Watch less and less, I’ve taken more care when touching my phone’s display with wet hands and I’d love to remove that worry even if it only comes up once a day or so.
I’m a fan of the way Samsung’s Galaxy S7 handles its protection against water and would love to see that implemented into a future iPhone. I’ve even grown to love their ridiculous Galaxy S7 commercials, although I’m not too sure I trust that I could spill an entire bottle of champagne on my phone and still have it function.
Home button integration directly into the display
Apple has introduced more and more features into iOS and their devices that have slowly pushed the need (but not convenience) of the home button away. Honing in on three major functionalities seen in the past few years, we can tell that Apple is at least toying with the idea of removing a physical home button. Specifically the features include the 3D Touch behavior of invoking the multitasking switcher, and how you can activate Siri.
With the iPhone 6s/6s Plus, Apple introduced the ability to use 3D Touch at the edge of the display to “pull in” the multitasking interface. This removes the need of having to move a finger down towards the bottom of the device and then double-clicking a physical button. Because of the iPhone 6s’ M9 motion coprocessor, Siri can now be activated using Hey Siri even on battery power.
The only major functionality I can think of that still relies on the home button is when taking screenshots. Even that behavior can be replaced by simply making it so that a screenshot can be taken with a combination of the sleep/wake button and a volume button.
With this slow fade of the home button, the precedent appears clear for Apple to introduce some form of removing the physical home button. TNW reported last year about a technology that would allow fingerprints to be read through Gorilla Glass. A month prior, reports had come in that Apple was working on a similar idea already. The question then arises how would iOS understand that a finger is attempting to press on the display to launch an app, to activate Touch ID, or to simply “press” the home button. Luckily with 3D Touch’s introduction, Apple already showcased a way that the display can detect different points and levels of display pressure.
Adding on to that, building a home “button” with Touch ID directly into the display opens up the phone to having an even larger display without having to physically increase the phone’s size. The home screen dock as we know it could move lower down, introducing enough room for even another row of icons, while still keeping everything in a nice reachable range.
A worthy camera upgrade
When I moved from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6, the biggest benefit I saw was the camera upgrade. For a long time Apple had been ahead of the game with cameras in their mobile devices, but nearly everyone seems to be catching up (if not surpassing them) now. Even Justin Bieber has compared the latest iPhone and Samsung cameras head to head, and felt the latter was better.
The introduction of 4K video support was nice, but didn’t feel like a significant improvement. It felt more like “the next step”, instead of a leap into the mobile camera world. I’d love to see better low-light support, and better contrast handling. I don’t know what is but with the iPhone 6, even when using manual controls in third-party apps, I notice the contrast can get all out of whack depending on the lighting of the scene.
Always On Display
This is a “small”, but definitely important feature I’d like to see. I don’t always wear my Apple Watch anymore, so it’s been easy to miss notifications as they come in. I’d love for Apple to bring in some form of an always-on display. Whether through OLED or another creative mean, having a display that can quickly tell me the time and what’s going on with my phone would be great.
I always question how much battery life it takes whenever I pull my iPhone 6 out of my pocket, turn on the display, only to turn it off a second later. I don’t need the full display to show me everything, I just need to see if there is anything new worth taking action on.
LG G5’s intelligent always-on display is a great example of this. While it is “always-on”, it knows to disable itself when set face down on a table, or within a pocket. It’s a small feature that I would get an extremely large use out of.
Ridiculously great battery life
This final one really just feels like a cop out. I long for the day that I can use my iPhone for at least a day and half straight without having to worry about charging it. I own an Anker iPhone 6 Battery Case, but I tire of having to worry about charging that or even holding on to it.
While understandably consumer-level battery tech hasn’t seen massive scales in innovation lately, I’d still love to see Apple come to some sort of solution. I’d much rather have the battery life increase, versus the phone possibly getting any thinner at all. Android devices really nail the battery life nowadays, and Apple just continously looks like they’re struggling to even maintain the previous year’s stats.
What did I miss?
The iPhone’s been around for nearly a decade now, and while it helped raise all mobile phones to a new level, it’s starting to feel like it’s lagging behind. I don’t really expect that Apple would choose to introduce any more than one of these items in the list into the next iPhone, but I can hope.
Whenever I think about a new product and whether or not I would even want it, I’m reminded of Henry Ford’s quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Steve Jobs also publicly seemed to align with this when releasing products.
What about you? What features would the next iPhone have to have to make you really want to upgrade?
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