It’s that time of year again: time for a new iPhone. Rumors of leaked parts ranging from displays, cover glass, and outer casings serve as proof that a new version of Apple’s best selling product will soon be available for sale in the coming weeks. But what exactly is expected in this new version? Read below to find out!
Screen size – Probably #1 on everyone’s wish list is screen size. The 4″ display of the iPhone 5, 5C and 5s has now been deemed too small by most, with sales of screens in the 5″+ category rapidly becoming the dominant smartphone form factor, especially in Asia. There are strong rumors and leaked parts that indicate Apple will be selling two new iPhone models this year: 4.7″ and 5.5″. Almost everyone agrees that the 4.7″ is a definite lock to be announced this year, with a 5.5″ model possibly coming later in the fall.
Increased screen resolution – With a larger screen often comes increased screen resolution as well. Most signs point to a screen resolution of 1704×960, which means even more detail per inch for text, photos, and movies. In addition, features in the iOS 8 SDK called “size classes” will allow developers to create more custom tailored experiences that take advantage of the larger expected screen real estate.
Larger battery – A larger screen means a bigger battery. Rumored images of batteries have also leaked out of Asia pointing to anywhere from a 15-30% increase in battery capacity. While this doesn’t necessarily mean more battery life with the screen on, it should mean more talk time and audio listening for those on-the-go users.
Thinner design – Somehow the engineers in Cupertino keep making their phones thinner and thinner, with a reported shrink from 7.6 mm of the current iPhone 5s to 7 mm of the iPhone 6. Expect also for the new design to follow the same curved back styling as the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display.
Better performance – Expect a new revision in Apple’s “A” series of processors with faster CPU and GPU to keep up with the increase in pixels expected to come with a larger screen. Increased power efficiency comes along with that so the battery life isn’t as greatly impacted.
More memory – Apple typically likes to have just enough memory for its devices, but it does finally seem like time from an upgrade from 1GB to 2GB. This means more apps in memory at once, which leads to less reloading pages in Safari, more background tasks, and an overall more responsive phone.
Faster WiFi – The new 802.11ac WiFi standard has already been out for a year along with Apple’s new Time Capsule. It seems almost certain that Apple will seek to include 802.11ac in the next iPhone. Many might be asking why this matters when their Internet connection speed is likely the bottleneck; however, 802.11ac brings many improvements in supporting more users on the same network in the same area as well as power efficiency improvements which are incredibly important on a mobile device.
“Sapphire screen” – There are plenty of rumors about the possibility of having a “sapphire screen”. Using pure sapphire has the downsides of glass, cracking when dropped from high heights that impact the screen plus it is quite costly. Most likely instead, the next iPhone will have a thin layer of sapphire deposited on some other material to increase scratch resistance while still keeping the phone thin and light while not being too expensive. Apple engineers will have to toe a careful line in order to improve on the Corning cover glass already in the iPhone 5s.
VoLTE – Many people probably don’t know the acronym VoLTE, or voice over LTE. VoLTE is the next-generation voice standard due to replace how phone calls, texts and MMS work on current 2G and 3G networks. It allows for higher quality voice calls, improved battery life, and the idea of “presence” which allows for phone calls to be routed automatically to specific locations (office vs. home) based on your schedule. VoLTE has already been deployed on T-Mobile’s network nationwide, with AT&T and Verizon in final trials this year.
Faster LTE – Though no networks outside of Korea will likely support it, the iPhone 6 is likely to come with the latest in LTE standards, providing upwards of 300Mbps/150Mbps transfer speeds to the device.
Better Touch ID – Sometimes it pays to wait a year. There are also rumors of Touch ID sensor improvements which have a faster acceptance time and lower false negative rate to ensure a smoother experience for iPhone users. Coupled with the new ability for 3rd party developers to use Touch ID in their apps, this should be a great benefit for iOS users.
World phone – A larger device means more room for antennas, allowing for greater support of international LTE networks in a single device. This means that you could take a phone meant for the US on Verizon and have it work at blazing fast speeds in Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Seoul, London, and Paris. It may also finally be possible to have a single phone work on all four US carriers, a feat that has yet to happen with any phone ever!
“Always listening” – A new feature in iOS 8 is “Hey Siri,” which allows for an iPhone plugged into power to always be listening for that command so that you can interact with your phone completely handsfree. However, there are other devices like the Moto X with similar capabilities that can do this all the time. Chips with specific purposes allow for new functionality without constantly draining your battery. Apple always likes to put in one new hardware feature that best showcases what the phone can do and having “Hey Siri” work all the time seems most likely in the next iPhone. The trend now is to have dedicated chips with specific purposes for new functionality without constantly draining your battery. I’d also expect completely voice driven input for apps to be somewhere on the horizon…maybe in iOS 9?
Better camera performance – Every year, the iPhone increases in camera performance whether from better software or hardware to remain the best in class. It’s a given that Apple will want to squeeze even more performance from the iPhone’s camera through better camera algorithms and better sensors.
HEVC video playback – Most people probably don’t know what “HEVC” stands for, but it’s extremely important in the world of video. With the looming onslaught of 4K video, the HEVC codec is moving to replace the current H.264 codec and offer up to 50% bandwidth savings. That means instead of Netflix sending you 720p video, you can get 1080p instead. It also means that YouTube videos will load over cellular connections even faster without chewing up your data cap. With more efficient video transfers, network congestion can be decreased, meaning increased internet speeds for everyone connected to a tower. And then there’s the next point…
4K video playback – Probably less important given the screen resolution, but with Airplay, projecting 4K video to another device like say, a next-generation Apple TV, would make for a great upgrade to Apple’s current offerings. Since all of Apple’s iOS and Apple TV devices share the same CPU chip, 4K playback on a phone might also 4K playback on the Apple TV (eventually). And the Apple TV is in sore need of an update!
Better battery life – While a larger battery is almost certainly guaranteed, better battery life is harder to predict with a larger screen and faster processor. It’s all too easy for those things to consume whatever battery Apple includes in the next iPhone. As stated before, tasks which do not involve the screen being on like listening to music or talking on the phone will definitely increase in longevity. Web browsing, video, and gaming are more tricky to predict. Apple is unlikely to decrease the battery life compared to before, but if you needed something like the Mophie Juice Pack to get you through a very long day, you may need a new model to go along with your new iPhone.
Mobile payments/NFC – Much has been said about Apple’s stance towards NFC, preferring instead to use Bluetooth as a communication protocol between devices. However, it’s important to note that when discussing mobile payments to replace credit cards, Bluetooth’s range of operation of 30ft becomes a liability due to the potential for hacking. NFC instead has a much smaller range of ~4 inches that only works when the screen is on, ensuring security of payment information. That’s why the consortium known as EMV (EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa) have instead stated that all payment terminals must be equipped with NFC by October 2015 in order to not have fraud liability default to the merchant. This means that in order to include a mobile payment solution, an NFC chip and antenna need to be included in a phone to meet financial payment standards. Whether this happens in 2014 with the iPhone 6 or 2015 with the iPhone 6s is anyone’s guess, but sooner or later, the iPhone will have NFC.
32GB standard – Apple has been selling the same base 16GB configuration model since 2009 with the iPhone 3GS. Meanwhile, apps have gotten larger with Retina images, Universal apps, 8MP photos with burst capture, and 1080p video recording. The price of flash storage during this time has cratered, costing a mere fraction of what it did back then. A good sign of people rejecting smaller storage capacity devices is how the iPhone 4 8GB hasn’t been selling as well as Apple had hoped in places like India, especially when microSD cards allow for tremendous expansion of storage on competing platforms. Will this be the year Apple finally gives us more storage for the same amount of money?
“iPhone Air” – Even the name “iPhone 6” isn’t set in stone. Since last year the “iPad 5” turned out to be the iPad Air, there’s a good chance this device could be the “iPhone Air” given its thinner profile and iPad Air like design. Plus, at some point, a numbering system for a device that comes out ever year eventually falters and it is time to switch things up.
Improved FaceTime camera – Given the prominence of “selfies” in 2014, improving the front-facing camera with higher resolution and better low light support would go a long way towards making the next iPhone a huge success for Apple. Already, there are phones with 5MP front-facing cameras which take much better pictures than the iPhone 5s. Though Apple is never one to follow others, expect to see some improvement in this area.
Optical image stabilization — (Also known as OIS) This involves putting a camera lens on tiny little micro motors that counteract a phone’s constant movement, allowing for sharper pictures, especially in low light situations where using a Flash either wouldn’t help or isn’t allowed. It’s been rumored only to come to the larger 5.5″ model, but it’s anyone’s guess.
4K Video recording – Assuming the iPhone does get the ability to decode 4K video, it sure would be nice to have some 4K content, right? And what better than capturing it directly from the phone itself? It might not compete with what Hollywood has to offer, but it would give something to showcase on the Retina Macs Apple has been selling since 2012.
Barometer – I know what you’re thinking, “Why the heck would a phone need a barometer?”. Well, its uses extend outside the typical pressure measurements for weather apps. A barometer can help accelerate the time it takes for a device to get a GPS fix on your current location by eliminating places where your phone can’t be (if the pressure is close to sea level, you aren’t in the Rockies). Similarly, with iOS 8, developers have more accuracy in determining your current location down to the current floor of the building you are on, which a barometer can help with altitude corrections.
Not Likely/Not Happening
Cheaper – The iPhone has never been a “cheap” phone with Apple always focusing on a premium experience for its customers. In fact, there have been rumors of Apple increasing the price this year to cover the cost of having a “sapphire” screen. Expect the same $199/$299/$399 pricing structure we’ve always seen from carriers here in the United States.
Better speakers – It’s always a challenge to not just maintain speaker quality but improve it while making a thinner device. As such, those hoping for dual front-facing speakers to the level of the HTC One M8 may be a tad disappointed.
MicroSD slot – Time to look elsewhere folks. Apple makes its money on storage upgrades and they aren’t killing their golden egg!
Removable battery – After 7 years of iPhones, it’s probably not going to happen this year either.
Physical camera button – This one would actually be pretty cool as a way to instantly open up the camera app, but it doesn’t look like it’s in the cards either.
Micro USB – With Lightning, we’re probably never going to see the bulky micro USB 3.0 connector on the iPhone. I don’t think anyone is asking for this either.
OLED display – While Apple has stuck to LCD technology for every iPhone, at some point, Apple may eventually adopt OLED displays given its even thinner profile (aka more battery), deep blacks, better contrasts, and more vibrant colors. Unfortunately, the only major supplier of OLED displays is Samsung, and Apple has done everything in its power to be less reliant on its most bitter rival.
Multiple colors – Given that Apple needs to manufacture tens of millions of iPhones on such short notice, adding multiple colors to the mix has always seemed like a ‘no’ due to the logistical nightmare it creates. Introducing a new color has always created a headache for Apple (white with the iPhone 4, gold with the iPhone 5s) that they’ve never quite managed to launch smoothly along with a new phone model. It’s a no for 2014.
Haptic feedback – This is unlikely to come directly from Apple as they prefer to present the user as few options as possible, but it may be possible from 3rd party keyboards in iOS 8 assuming Apple allows it.
In conclusion, this year is going to be very big for Apple, hopefully bringing many desired features to current iPhone owners who have been pondering the switch to Android as well as Android users who claimed the iPhone was too small for them. All signs point to Apple announcing the product on September 9th, with pre-orders starting later that Friday the 12th, reviews coming out the following Tuesday the 16th, and sales starting September 19th in most major Tier 1 countries.