5 ways Apple can refresh the iPhone

Chase Bonar
 from Winter Springs, FL
Published: May 19, 2013

Many are quick to judge each successor to the iPhone without giving it a fair chance. History has taught that Apple is on a biennial iPhone refresh cycle, but that doesn't mean an iPhone 5S can't surprise us. Better yet, what if Apple unveiled a completely redesigned iPhone at their Worldwide Developer's Conference next month? Well, I'd be surprised.

As we currently stand, Apple presumably has their hands full in delivering a product that truly raises the bar. Whether from a hardware or software perspective, the next iPhone needs to be good, real good. But what is good? What would differentiate it? What would surprise you if a new iPhone was announced this year?

It's likely the next smartphone bearing the Apple logo needs to bring a feature which sets it apart from its predecessor, like Siri did for the iPhone 4S, and how 3G connectivity evolved the original iPhone. Yet in this day and age, it's rather strenuous to continuously hope and wish for the next innovation when time and time again OEM's update their tech at their own rates.

So, what can iPhone do to surprise? Here's a few things that could shake the branches of the Apple tree.

Increased durability

If you've been paying any sort of attention to the mobile realm this year, you'd notice many big names addressing durability in their devices. Samsung is reportedly working on devices bearing the "Active" moniker. Sony's push for dust and waterproofing in the Xperia A, Xperia ZR, and Xperia Z are also options for those who live an active lifestyle and prefer Sony's designs. An update by Patently Apple outlines the possibility of a waterproof iPhone in the future, but whether or not it proves valuable to consumers has yet to be determined. However, if Apple pushes it as a standard in its smartphones, other OEM's will want to react, and it would easily set the next iPhone apart from its predecessors. Just don't forget Sony has been into durability for quite a while, and Samsung isn't too far behind in the endeavor either.

A larger display

The "large display argument" has truly gotten old, but it would surely surprise me if Apple actually reacted to it. The Web experience is much more rewarding on a larger screen no matter how you hold your device. Does Apple need to make its display larger for the sake of change? No, but a screen size between 4 and 5-inches would be a welcome addition and might even put the "large display argument" to rest. Now, wouldn't that be nice?

An update to iOS

Sure, an update to iOS is due, but that doesn't mean it still can't surprise. I recently called Apple's next version of iOS a necessity, but not one of true importance to Apple's devices. Yes, it would be nice to have a completely new theme to iOS, or the addition of features akin to Live Tiles, or widgets. But Apple doesn't want to risk its Ace in the Hole: simplicity. Those who appreciate their software for what it currently offers as opposed to what it doesn't accounts for a wide audience of loyal iOS fans. Does Apple really need to change iOS? No. Should they? Maybe. Will they? Yes, and rumors suggest it's going to get "flatter."

Added thickness for battery life

Apple has led the aesthetic appeal of smartphones beginning with the iPhone 4 with glass on both sides, and the iPhone 5's splicing of anodized aluminum between glass and chamfered edges. But if the next iPhone was thicker and retained a certain level of aesthetic appeal, I'd be a happy camper. It doesn't seem too wild a suggestion seeing Apple's iPad Mini 2 might also grow in width. I'd appreciate a larger battery with additional thickness. Set the standard for battery rundown to equal five days of constant use on a single charge. Redefine acceptable battery life. That would demand some respect in my book. 

An unprecedented design element

When the original iPhone came out, it's 3.5-inch display was unprecedented on a mobile phone as was a full-fledged Web browser. Seeing that the experience of Apple's iPhone hasn't changed much over the years suggests that there are no truly ground-breaking design elements left for the Cupertino company to implement. Objection!

We've seen Sapphire displays nearly eliminate display scratches as outlined by my colleague Anna Scantlin. There have been multiple patents filed by Apple and Samsung for a curved display. Apple is also experimenting with the idea of a double-sided smartphone according to Patently Apple. Virtual buttons on the backside of a device could make their way into a future smartphone as I've outlined in a previous editorial. Would any of this surprise me? Absolutely. Does it sound necessary? No. Can any of these additions be considered ground-breaking? Maybe.

Bear in mind, these are meant to be wild suggestions. We've complained of similarity between Apple's devices to no avail meaning we're ready for significant change. If that's the case, expect the unexpected, and have an open mind. The state of mobile is perpetual and always redefined to include new features. But what does that mean to you? What truly unprecedented feature would you like to see in the next iPhone? What would make it legen-(wait for it)-dary? I'll be reading your comments below!

Image via Crackerpie.