Fifth Generation iPhone Predictions

By James Mowery

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Expectations for the next generation iPhone are, as always, higher than ever. Consumers seek more innovation with a phone that pretty much already does it all — it is the benchmark for computing on the go. Yet Apple has to convince users to fall in love with it all over again in 2011. What could they possibly have in store?

Okay, so convincing fans of Apple products to purchase another Apple product shouldn’t be too difficult. Apple has long implemented expected upgrades and dropped the price $50 or $100 of older models for many years now, a formula that, after checking Apple’s stock price, appears to be working quite well. But the iPhone 4 was a serious upgrade to respond from competition like Android, which is growing fast. Some might say that the drastic changes weren’t expected. And some also weren’t so thrilled.

Unfortunately, the iPhone 4 received a negative reception (no pun intended) when it first hit the market. The first issue being an alleged design issue with the antennae design. Many users reported a significant decrease in signal strength when holding the phone in the lower left corner. Apple was quick to defend the design, but they also shipped out covers to negate the issue as well.

That issue alone is probably going to call for a new antennae design, which I believe will lead to a whole new phone design altogether, along with many other drastic hardware changes too. So let’s dive right in, shall we?

Antennae Redesign

Changing the antennae design will likely be a case of rethinking the way iPhones are created. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in antennae design, but the internal antennae will likely be shifted to a different point on the phone for the sake of not giving the phone any noticeable weak spot like the iPhone 4 had. Of course, there will always be ways to obstruct a phone’s antennae, so there isn’t any magic solution to this issue. However, I’m sure Steve Jobs doesn’t want Consumer Reports (along with everyone else) to have something to complain about yet again. Maybe Apple will make an effort to invent something new just to make fun of the media for all of the ruckus with the iPhone 4.

Radical New Design

Because of the new antennae design, however, I think the next iPhone will also be on the receiving end of yet another new design. The iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 changed drastically, with the iPhone 4 receiving a simpler shape with harder edges, which was a drastic change from previous iPhone designs. So what better time to play with the design again?

Envisioning a new design is difficult, though. We already know that Apple represents simplicity and sexiness — what is more simple and sexy than an iPhone? I won’t claim to know, but if there is any person who does know, I bet it is Steve Jobs. Personally, though, I wouldn’t mind seeing the iPhone in a slightly larger form factor.

Better Camera

Another thing that could be expected is an improved camera for taking photos and recording video. Now I’m not sure if it is even technologically possible for the A4 processor to pull this off, but I would love to see 1080p video recording available in the next generation iPhone. But with rumors that the next iPhone processor will be capable of 1.5 GHz speeds, it might actually be possible. Either way, it would be yet another revolution in mobile devices. Of course, still photography would get a huge boost in optics and megapixels as well. At the end of the day, though, I think that the real area of innovation could be in 1080p video recording.

Battery Life

The last issue on hardware will probably be the one that Apple prides itself on: battery life. The iPhone 4 is already impressive in this department, but there is always room for improvement. You can expect some modest improvements in battery life.

And while there are probably things I missed and some things I might get totally wrong, I think that is about what we could/should expect from the hardware side of things. However, there is even more ways to innovate on the software side of things.

iOS

Apple’s iOS is already truly remarkable, with more and more devices supporting it as the times progress. But it could be better. Things like voice control, navigation, e-mail, and others can all use their tweaks for improvement.

With Apple’s acquisition of Siri — a service which acted as a virtual personal assistant for users — it would be expected that Apple will take advantage of said acquisition to make voice controls a serious component of iOS. Considering that Google has really made strides in offering users more controls with their voice on Android, I expect Apple will have an even more impressive response in the future.

Then there are built-in applications that could use an overhaul. Mail, Maps, Safari are all do for improvements to keep up with the competition. This all becomes even more interesting as Apple reduces its reliance on Google’s services. Then again, maybe these applications (and more) are set to go even higher than anyone could have imagined…

The Cloud

Another thing we should be watching for is Apple’s cloud computing ambitions. With the company’s commitment to building a data center in North Carolina being put to the test, the question of what exactly the company intends on doing with this facility is up in the air. However, I have some ideas.

The first is the most obvious one, where Apple creates a streaming music platform for iTunes. It’s clear that there is money to be made here, and with Apple’s purchase of Lala, the intent is quite obvious. But that is only the beginning. Maybe Apple could be planning for a video streaming platform, just like Amazon’s Video on Demand service. Maybe Apple could also be looking into a cloud-based application and development platform, similar to Windows Azure. Nothing is certain, but all of these are certainly in the real of possibility.

But iOS also could become the focus of Apple’s cloud computing expansion. There is the potential for online storage being offered in place of local storage on iOS devices (similar to the premise of Chrome OS). There could be efforts to have applications rely more heavily on the cloud, presenting Apple with the opportunity to create applications for iOS that live entirely in the cloud instead of on the client device. And then there is also the possibility that the next generation of iOS will be completely different in that it is no longer a software-based platform — instead it could be completely cloud-based. That might be extreme, but that’s why we love Apple. The possibilities are truly endless on the software side.

But the one last factor that we have not yet considered is what mobile networks will have the opportunity to serve the next generation iPhone.

4G/LTE

AT&T will almost certainly still be serving up the iPhone to customers in the future, but will there be a 4G/LTE version? It’s really not certain, and Apple probably isn’t too concerned about the network technology because the places where 4G/LTE networks are making an impact are still very limited in relation to the rest of the country.

But another serious question (and one that I have personally been pondering) is whether or not the iPhone will make an appearance on another network besides AT&T. The most mentioned possibility is the iPhone ending up on Verizon. This makes sense for reasons that should be obvious — better network coverage, more potential buyers, potentially improved network reliability. However, we can’t forget about the likes of Sprint and T-Mobile.

What is stopping Apple from signing agreements with every major carrier in the U.S.? Nothing! Perhaps Apple could shock the entire country by offering its phone on every carrier. This probably lies more on the dream than reality side of the equation, but you never know.

About James Mowery
James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist, entrepreneur, and Apple enthusiast who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable, Techi, and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.

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