Think Different: What a New iPhone Needs to Be

As has become typical, numerous rumors are circulating about a new Apple iPhone and a new version of iOS, which isn’t surprising since June and the World Wide Developer Conference are looming. Since speculating about Apple’s plans has become a popular sport — even if Tim Cook says nothing new’s going to hit the stores until fall — I’d like to join the fun.

iPhone apps window display at Apple Store in San FranciscoThe consensus seems to be that an iOS 7 release will coincide with the launch of a new iPhone, and that the phone will be named the iPhone 5S, following the pattern of the iPhone4 and 4S. What seems to have been forgotten is that the most significant change from the iPhone 4 to the 4S was the addition of Siri, hence the “S” in the model name.

However, I don’t see anything like Siri — or any new feature beginning with the letter S — being included in the new iPhone. My opinion is that the new version will have a form factor that’s very similar to the iPhone 5’s, which means it sure won’t be called the iPhone 6.

That said, I do see two possible, significant new features: An expanded Passbook that allows purchases via Near Field Communications, and/or an enhanced video-streaming capability.

Some companies would market an expanded Passbook as a security feature (which, by the way, would make the name iPhone 5S reasonable). Traditionally, Apple has downplayed security as a feature. Its message has been that both MacOS X and iOS are constructed on UNIX, so security is built-in. Since wars have been waged over the truth of this statement, I, for the record, am not now saying it is or isn’t true, just that this is how Apple positions its operating systems.

Since Apple’s been into video delivery for years via iTunes and AppleTV, I could see it expanding the video-streaming capability on the new iPhone. I’d like to see this not in a new version of the already bloated iTunes, but in a standalone streaming application.

What I Really Expect

Given Apple’s history, what’s most likely is an iPhone 5 extension to indicate wireless purchasing or enhanced video streaming, something like an iPhone 5+, iPhone 5P, iPhone 5V or even iPhone 5i. (Personally, I like iPhone 5i. It just sounds right.)

Then, there’s iOS 7. The addition of NFC would require a number of enhancements to iOS. For example, for purchasing via Passbook to be supported, there’ll need to be changes so  apps can access the capability. Those would probably be in the form of a new framework, much as In-App Purchasing was implemented via the StoreKit framework.

If enhanced video streaming is added, iOS will need some under-the-hood changes. As the terms of video delivery are dictated by content providers — a very neurotic bunch, when it comes to protecting their content — it’s unlikely Apple will be able to expose much of this capability to the app-development community.

With iOS 6, it’s a given that devices with new screen sizes will be released regularly. To make is easier for developers to adapt their apps to screens that haven’t even been released yet, Apple introduced Autolayout. Unless you’re an iOS developer you’ve probably never heard of it, but if you are, you understand that it’s difficult to use and prone to crashing. (The most obvious problem is that any new xib files created in a project automatically have Autolayout enabled. This causes the app to crash on any device running iOS 5.) So, improvements to Autolayout are needed. There’d better be significant ones in a new iOS.

Will there be an iPhone 5i? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.