What does Apple have to do to re-revolutionize the iPhone?

Lessien, writing on DiogeneX, asks what Apple has to do, not to catch up with things like notifications or cloud services, not to keep up with things like apps and specs, but to truly leap ahead of the competition like.

Apple is as vulnerable as any other company to believing the future is a straight line extrapolation of the present. But eventually the knock-offs will be good enough to fool most people. Solely focusing on incremental improvement is like polishing diamonds. And perfect is the enemy of the good.

I won't spoil her two answers except to say they're good.

[DiogeneX]

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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What does Apple have to do to re-revolutionize the iPhone?

80 Comments

Bigger screen
LTE/HSPA+ chip
Unlocked phone
64 gb storage
dual core processor
capacitive home button
these are minimum requirements for iphone 5
July 1, 2011 release would be quarter 3.

On Apple's side anyway. It depends on what you call a revolution, but one can argue that LCDs were a revolution, GPSs were a revolution, 3G was a revolution, wi-fi was a revolution, cell phone cameras were a revolution, touch screen was a revolution. Those were all revolutionary, they just didn't have a marketing team to brand them as such and to call them magical.

I don't get why people want a capacitive home button. Wouldn't u constantly be pressing it while playing a game? Cause when I hold the phone my thumb lays across the bezel where the home button is

My Pre Plus has a capacitive "home button". I really like it plus the swiping gestures that can be used with it. Also the capacitive "home button" area can contain a notification LED without compromising build quality like could happen with an LED attached behind a mechanical button.

Bigger screen, faster network, processor, graphics, etc, and docking capability like the Atrix to eliminate the need for netbooks / notebooks for large groups of people. Maybe even make a docked screen that is touch-screen. This is where phone tech is going. A computer akin to our desktops in our pockets!

It's great in concept, like Windows on a tablet, but like Windows on a tablet, OS X was just never designed to work in that way. OS X was built for the mouse and click, not the finger and tap.

So Rene...are you saying that if they turned Mac OS X into a touch enabled version...you wouldn't be all over it like syrup on hotcakes and sausage?

No. iOS is iOS. Mac OS X is Mac OS X.
That's like saying Windows is Windows Phone 7...
While started from the same foundation, they both are two inherently different things.

It can actually work quite well as long as you're capable of remembering to use the tap equivalents to the mouse click interaction. The only issue could be with "link" size and that's really the primary reason why a stylus interface is favorable over finger interface for Windows tablets.

Capacitive home button is a very bad idea.
Not only would it mean one could no longer place their thumb on a physical button in order to 'feel' the orientation of the device but one handed operation of the phone would then require eyes in addition to a finger to operate it.
It's a bad bad bad idea.

Um, doesn't one handed operation of the phone require eyes if you're doing anything other than adjusting the volume...
If you're worried about figuring out orientation from touch there are plenty of more OBVIOUS indicators such as the mute, volume, mic jack, 90s era 30-pin port, and of course all corresponding case design accommodation to the device. In fact the home button is probably the least obvious way of telling orientation out of all the other possible ways.
As for not being able to hold the area, that's up to Apple's software design team and how they would program the responses to touching that area. They could do it well or they could end up bungling it like notifications.

Giving out the jailbreak flexibility through official APIs while sandboxing the core system files would pretty much make iOS the best out there by far. This wouldn't, however, "revolutionize" the platform since it brings nothing new.
I think the next revolution can cone through the locksceen. Not sure how or what, but I feel the lockaceen has a huge potential and Apple currently using only 2% of that potential.

Apple has to re-revolutionize the experience and how we interact with the iPhone - and luckily this is what they do best.
Riding on the back of the App Store and having users flipping through many pages and massive numbers of individual apps and folders has run it's course. Apple's got to get out of the quantitative app race and think about convergence. I imagine a UI that draws from many different apps but the apps themselves are transparent while using iOS. It shifts away from "there's an app for that.. except give me a minute to find it.. I know it's in here somewhere." Improving the experience and usability is the key.
Other than less grids of apps dominating the UI, I haven't thought too much about how this would physically look like, but that's for Apple to figure out ;-).

Agreed. The UI is just page after page of apps. There should be core processes and apps add features to those processes. For example, the camera, it comes with HDR but there are other apps that do HDR better, so instead of having these as separate apps, they are in app options. I am not saying all apps have to be like this but the ones that add to the existing core iPhone apps, such as mail, calendar, camera, etc.

My vote goes to a business feature : with the expected hardware for the next Iphone it's perfectly feasable for Apple to make the Iphone a thin client, replacing company PCs in combination with VDI solutions from Citrix, Vmware,etc...
Apple did capture a part of the business smartphone market thanks to support for Exchange, they can push furthur in that direction, a simple docking station could be sufficient.

well, in general apple software is weak compared to windows operator, i had to jailbreak iphone 4 to enhance the calling, sms, wallpaper, ringtone, notifications...

Better push notifications, a profile management system. The ability to make photo albums from the device. I would also love to see my iphone screen on my TV. There are so many jailbreak tweaks that made me JB although I am not any more as I found it slower and buggy, not to mention the battery draining a lot quicker. A way of responding quickly to texts like biteSMS etc would be amazing. A few to do but that would make me one happy chap!!! I really do not want to go to an Android device at the point of my upgrade so I hope that the bulk of this comes true. It's not much to ask for, right?

Get back on point. She closed with two items, I & C. Interesting commentary but Apple is diametrically opposed to the method that she closes with, "that put you in greater control of the technology". That is where Apple has been blind sided and the future is on the point of becoming the past. If you don't believe me, ask any jailbreaker "why" and think about why Apple has no choice but to be at war with this community. Apple no longer has a brand once consumer has taken back control of their identity. At that point, you're on a bus with a thousand strangers. The one comfort in a crowd of drones, familiarity.

Get together with Google or Microsoft or HTC or Motorola or all of them, buy a large block of wireless spectrum and really turn these machines loose. No limits. Tethering, video, music, books, gaming and who knows what's next. Break the carriers hold on this market and let users do everything they can. Unleash this market completely

"Get together with Google or Microsoft or HTC or Motorola"? Yeah right. Like that would happen. I want what you're havin'.

First...that blog post sounded more like a fan ranting more so than an educated observation and analysis. But I digress...
The things she mentioned will never happen unless Apple has a MAJOR shift in the way they operate. This being because first...not everyone owns a smartphone. Then on top of that not everyone owns an iPhone. So that means their Identity Revolution would have to be a cross platform thing and when have we known Apple to open up something they actually made first (WebKit was already available for people about to use that...and despite the "Facetime is open" we have yet to see the result of that). So yeah they could add features like that...but what if your friends and family doesn't have an iPhone or even smartphone...it becomes little more than a niche feature to go "hey, look at my iPhone" and then quietly slide it back into your pocket.
Next the connectedness...it's basically same story, different medium. Apple would have to open that connectedness up to a myriad of devices and platforms. I mean, I love the thought of AirPlay. It works. But if I have to go out and buy another $100 piece of equipment just to get it to work...that kinda defeats the purpose. Why can't I use what I have already? That is the thought of a lot of folks out there.
In order to "re-revolutionize" the iPhone again...Apple has to mainly revolutionize itself. At some point you become stagnant. And the iPhone is reaching that point. You see Google is even changing some things in order to keep Android fresh or give it a new type of outlook to consumers. I believe Apple can do it...but it's gonna take more than just adding features...
S/N: She says that in the future faster processors and such will not matter. That's partly right and partly wrong. Even Apple knows this. Common sense, you have to have the internals that can keep up with all of the newer features you add, so those things will always be important on the back end. Maybe not to the consumer directly, but indirectly it will. But I say an even bigger thing that needs to be worked on is battery tech. It's nice all these new features and hardware...but we're still partially stuck at the same battery innovation we've been for years...

Big steps could be new technology to introduce that others can't or haven't. For instance, my main thought for the iPhone 4 glass back was for it to be a second touch controlled panel. I think this makes since. Think about it. Why do we want to take away part of viewing this marvelous retina display to always touch it and cover it up. If back was touch controlled it would make gestures easier to use by actually seeing the whole screen that is being controlled. Games would be easier to use by not always having your thumbs on the screen, which is a major reason I'm not fond of detailed games on the iPhone.
Another is smart bezzle, and last is that 3rd dimension of touch screen, pressure, which a few people have talked about recently. This would add so much new depth to apps. There's more new technological advances, but some are so new price is definitely a factor.

That's kinda been implemented already with that horrid phone called the Backflip spits on ground.
And also with the NGP coming out.

Improve call quality !!!! After all it is called iPhone and the call quality is terrible compared to other phones.

There has been no revolution but a marketing revolution. About 20% of americans have smartphones, and of those only 17% have iPhones, it´s basically a niche product. The last revolution we had was the LCD screen, and the revolution we need now is the battery revolution, that´s what´s holding everything back, phones, GPSs, TVs, printers, everything that needs to be constantly plugged or that needs to be plugged every day to recharge. Get those devices free of the power cord. That´s magic, that´s revolution, not a OS that looks and feels like Windows 3.1.

Totally right about the battery technology. I would not be opposed to all these companies taking a year off from pumping out phones to everyone taking a year to work just on new battery technology.

I don't know what Apple has to do to revolutionize the iPhone again. I'm a scientist that's not my job. I do know that the arms war of internal components is really getting boring these days.

I think the next big step would be to project on any wall the content of the iPhone/iPad with a projector built-in & a keyboard that will project on a table...

I think this question “What does Apple have to do to re-revolutionize the iPhone?” needs to step back and ask itself why does it need to? The iPhone is just getting started. Heck smart phones in general are just getting started. There are 100's of millions of people in North America (Billions world wide) that are still using dumb phones. The revolution has just starting for them right now moving from button filled tiny screens to feature rich touch screen (can't live without them do everything) devices. You're looking at this from the eyes of the upper 10% and not seeing this though the vast majority of potential users. Relax, Apple doesn't need to own the market to succeed. And there slow pace may make diehards go crazy but its just fast enough to grab hold of all of new customers that want to come on board. And if the fanboys get tired of waiting for the "Next Apple Move" and jump to another platform Apple isn't going to shed a tear. For everyone that has to move on, I'm sure there are 5 more newbie waiting to jump into the fray. Just my two cents

I don't disagree with the premise and feel that improvement in both levels is something would allow Apple to take another leap forward. However, I simply believe that they are motivated to go in a completely different direction or to put it better Steve Jobs want to take the company in a different direction. I don't pretend to know where he's taking it because I believe he's still go some cards on the table that are currently faced down. He could yet surprise us all and show a straight flush.
However, if recent iOS announcements and product launches have been any indication Apple will continue down a path that offers more convenience for their users to purchase something on demand rather than give them something that allow them to be more connected or personal. I see more of the things that leave a legacy for Steve Jobs than refinement which smart, talented developers can do. I don't see this as ego building as much as leaving Apple ready for Tim Cook to take over.
As an iPhone user it sort of bothers me. iOS stopped being about what I need and became more of what Apple needs. I dislike Android for that same reason - that it's a platform dedicated to giving Google what it needs not what I need. Maybe that's why I'm rooting for HP to do well with webOS - because it does more for me than that either iOS or Android do.
As I write this I understand my response is all based on hunches and extrapolations. Apple still has cards faced down and the next one could be the one step closer to that straight flush that reinvigorates the platform and shakes up the market again. Here's to hope.

They would have to really start moving things to the cloud, including phone back ups. Think about it - you lose your phone and can just walk into any Apple store, get another one, put in your password and voila! Your phone and all its important data are back in your hands. I think this is the BIG think that would push Apple way out in front of its competitors. And I believe they can do it. They can make the iPhone a complete stand-alone device that requires no backups and can access far more data.

I don't really see the advantage of cloud backup as long as data plans stay as they are. If we need to resort to wi-fi, we might as well trust our computers with our backup. Ever tried to get 32Gb back from the cloud? You will be spending a lot of time at that Apple store. Don't take me wrong, I love the internet, but I also think that the "cloud" concept is a fad, and an old one at that.

If apple could somehow figure out how bb handles exchange email so flawlessly and put that on the next iphone, That would be a revolutionary step! Seriously that is the only thing holding myself and my coworkers from switching to the Iphone.

I want my next MacBook to be able to snap in my iPhone and use it as an interactive multitouch trackpad with a built-in display while providing internet access to the rest of the notebook.

Apple should just literally research ALL of the popular tweaks and stuff of the jailbreak community, and just implement them all, or at least some. Eventually there will be no need to jailbreak. Then the iPhone won't have to REvolutionize everything, but each model would simply Evolutionize some things, which is really what they actually do.

What does Apple have to do to re-revolutionize the iPhone? Ship a $200 no-contract iPhone.
This stuff from DiogeneX is as pie-in-the-sky as a $200 no-contract iPhone, but a $200 no-contract iPhone is within the realm of possibility this year if Apple wants to. A a repackaged iPhone 3GS could hit that price point. The two things suggested by DiogeneX are not clear to me.
Connectedness? Wasn't explained in the article.
Identity? She talked about this more but doesn't say what it is.
My interpolation on these two terms:
The phone will have a smart agent (man, I'm old) capable of synthesizing the inputs from the from the device (location, weather, personal info, usage habits, etc) and will be able to do what for you, exactly? It'll be like having a secretary who knows exactly what you want, when you want, and remind you of it when needed? It'll automatically download podcasts, music, video, news that you like and will suggest things you may like. Apple will call it Apple Genius Extreme!
Dentist appts, kid things, schedules, what have you, will all be automatically input into your identity through connectedness? I don't have to input an appt in my calendar. When the dentist assistant inputs the appt in their computer, it will automatically push to my calendar? The smart agent will then remind me of it in the way I would it?
This doesn't re-revolutionize the iPhone as it has nothing to with the iPhone. It's a software (client and server) thing. And a long long term thing.
For iPhone, Apple will continue its trajectory of premium value products. In the face of commoditization, there is always a nice in the market that appreciates quality products. Apple is currently the king of this. Maybe it won't be them forever, especially if Steve Jobs isn't CEO or the product man at Apple, but they aren't as weak or blind as she purports.

What I want next -
Me - Siri, find the nearest gas station.
Siri - Turn right ahead.
Me - Siri, get me two tickets for "Unknown".
Siri - Is that the movie, "Unknown"?
Me - Yes
Siri - Do you prefer a certain theater?
Me - Yes, that theater on Main outside the Belt.
Siri - That would be the Regal Cinema 30.
Me - That's the one.
Siri - 7:00 or 9:15?
Me - 9:15.
Siri - OK. I have your tickets. Would you like dinner reservations?
Me - Yes, isn't there a German restaurant close to there?
Siri - German? I had you pegged for Italian. Rudi's is .7 miles from your theater.
Me - Yes, that sounds good.
Siri - OK. I have your reservations, at 7:30. Anything else?
Me - No, that's it for now.
Siri - Have a good evening.

Something like googles widgets. People will say they copied android maybe get sued but they do it anyway

Re "identity" I am in complete agreement. And if iPhone succeeds at this, it will be a revolution. My most recent article on this was:
http://brianshall.com/content/we-interrupt-website-special-bulletin-push...
However, I do not believe the author fully explaisn what he means or what the importance of "connectedness" is. Particularly the difference between Apple having an Apple TV device, say, or Apple making its very own television. At what point does Apple's need for "control" dead end at low margin devices and markets? Perhaps if he had a suggestion of how Apple could revolutionize one type of connected device and retain control and somehow capture the profits, as they did with smartphones, that would help. Good stuff, nonetheless.

I was actually thinking about this yesterday. iOS is in need of a ground up rewrite. I was thinking about if 5 was the right place for it or if apple would wait for 10. I am leaning towards 10 being the rewrite but let's face it now is really the time.

No battery. Let's look into Tony Starks Arc Reactor technology. Oh and what the hell. Let's throw in a site to site transporter.

Rene, her points are good, but they're too vague to act on.
"Identity is deep personalization and the near-complete elimination of interface."
She says that social networking isn't enough, and hints at Siri as a "Knowledge Navigator of the 21st century." So does she mean voice recognition + AI as an interface? (Would be great.) Plus a background process constantly tracking what you do and making recommendations like Google + Amazon recommendations? (Could potentially be extremely annoying and spammy.)
"Identity and connectedness are about turning consumer technology into a self-reinforcing ecosystem that is broader than apps and content."
Agree. But this isn't an Apple-specific weakness. No technology company is there yet.
I think she's touching on Apple's concept of using NFC to tell identify your iPhone to any Mac near you. All your "stuff" is on Apple's servers. You sit down at a Mac (or future Apple thin-client product or actual HDTV set), and it automatically and securely logs you in. Voilà - instant personalization without needing to actually download much to the machine you're using.
Some of the software components are already in place. Apple Remote Desktop could show you your personalized Desktop on any machine you're at. Siri could handle voice commands on machines that don't have a mouse and keyboard (again back to HDTVs). Lion's app autosave feature makes it possible to resume from wherever you were the last time you logged in from somewhere.
That's the way Apple rolls. Test future technology in public, in relatively innocuous ways. Then put it all together, do a few tweaks, and boom: a quantum leap.

This list of comments isn't future-thinking enough for me. How about ideas like a 3D user interface or a 'retina screen' that knows where your retinas are actually looking? These are the kinds of revolutionary changes we should be wishing for/expecting.

They need to embrace the JB community! That will truly put them in the forefront and open up the possibilities of the iPhone.

Coming from an htc inspire I would love the iPhone to have widgets and a better notification system.

I would be overwhelmed if it had the following:
8 MP Camera
Dual-Core 1GH Processor
Revamped notification system (EVEN Windows Phone 6.5 had better notifications)
4 Inch Screen
HSPA+ 21 Mbps with 3G/4G Bands 850/900/1700/1900/2100
Different customizable homescreens for work and personal use