cnet | Every year in September, Apple holds an event to announce the next iPhone. And with the iPhone 11 (or whatever it’ll be called) looming near, it’s time for Apple to step up. iPhone sales fell 12% in the fiscal third quarter, more people are trading in their iPhones for Androids, and rivals like Samsung’s Note 10 and 10 Plus are packed with an abundant amount of compelling features. The iPhone doesn’t need a radical redesign, but for Apple to really make the next one a success, it’s going to need at least seven improvements and updated features if it wants to remain competitive in this increasingly crowded phone industry
Better battery life
The iPhone XS brought significant improvements to the battery life over the iPhone X, and the bigger iPhone XS Max lasted 17 hours and 23 minutes in our looped video tests in Airplane mode. Though that’s a solid time, phones like the Galaxy S10 Plus and Huawei P30 Pro last 21 and 23 hours respectively. Compared to the top phones with the best battery life, there is a lot of room for improvement for the iPhone.
Luckily, iOS 13 is expected to make app downloads and launches, including FaceID faster and more efficient. But Dark Mode could help, too. When displaying black screens and menu pages, an OLED screen uses less power which in-turn could, in some small way, help keep the battery from draining too quickly.
The next processor, likely named the A13, could also help improve battery life, especially if as expected, it’s more efficient than last year’s A12 processor. But what I want to see at the 2019 Apple keynote is for Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing, to show a slide for the iPhone 11 that reads, “30% longer battery.”
Papa needs a brand new screen
There is absolutely nothing wrong the OLED displays on the iPhone X, XS and XS Max. But with Samsung’s HDR10+ displays on the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, Note 10 and 10 Plus, and the OnePlus 7 Pro with its high-refresh rate, Apple needs to step it up.
It could be as simple as improving the brightness and color gamut on the next iPhone screen. Even better, Apple could bring Pro Motion to the iPhone. Pro Motion is Apple’s branding for its high-refresh rate display in its iPad Pro line. The screen refreshes 1.5X to 2X faster than a regular phone or tablet display. The result is that everything looks crisper and animations render buttery smooth. If rumors are accurate, maybe there will be an iPhone Pro. And perhaps the word “Pro” stands for Pro Motion display.
Include a fast charging cable and power brick
Since the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X were released, you can fast charge the battery to juice it up faster. But that requires you to buy a $19 USB-C to Lighting cable and a $29 18-watt charger. It would be an easy win for Apple to just include these in the box at no extra charge. Especially since many people already have the old USB-A to Lighting cable and 5-watt charger. Seriously, we’re already paying $999 for a phone.
Add a better selfie camera or two
Sometimes it feels like the selfie cameras on phones are an afterthought. The one on the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max is okay, but could be so much better. The new iPhone needs a higher resolution front-facing camera that would improve detail and image quality. And please let’s bring selfie video capture up to 4K resolution. I know there are some people who don’t want to see every imperfection in such detail, in which case they could always record at a lower resolution.
It would also be smart if instead of having a fixed focus front-facing camera to have a selfie camera with auto-focus like the one found in the Galaxy S10. This would ensure you’re never out of focus. But the ultimate improvement would be Apple adding a second wide-angle front-facing camera like ones on the Pixel 3 and LG G8. Imagine having two cameras to FaceTime with?! Basically, the front-facing camera on the iPhone needs to get closer in quality to those on the rear.
Upgrade rear cameras and image processing
Since the iPhone 4, Apple has always had a solid camera system on the back of its phones. But in recent years, phones like the Huawei P30 Pro and Pixel 3 have surpassed the iPhone’s photo abilities, especially in low-light. While there are rumors that the iPhone 11 will have three rear cameras, hopefully, any new cameras will have larger sensors with larger pixels to absorb more light.
Apple needs to add some sort of ‘Night’ mode similar to those on the Huawei and Pixel which take multiple photos and merge them together to improve the image quality and exposure. Of course, one of my favorite things about camera effects like Portrait Lighting mode on an iPhone is how you can see a preview of the effect before you take a photo. Perhaps, Apple’s night mode would work more like its Pano mode where you see the photo build as it’s captured and processed.
And speaking of new modes, if the iPhone 11 does have three rear cameras, I’d be curious to see what kind of things Apple decides to do with them. LG has a triple shot mode on its V50 phone that can take a photo with each of its three rear cameras simultaneously with a single shutter press. There are rumors that Apple’s triple camera will be able to fix framing errors. For example, if you accidentally cut someone out the frame, the iPhone could use data it captured with the ultra-wide camera to “repair” the missing person.
Then, there’s video. Currently, the iPhone records the best video of on any phone and yet it would be great to see Apple take things further. That could be adding a Portrait Mode for video like the LG V50 and the Galaxy Note 10 which are pretty much a mess, or even add something ridiculous and video centric like an Alfred Hitchcock dolly zoom effect.
And lastly, in regards to both photos and videos, the Smart HDR in its current form on the iPhone XS is very heavy, especially the way it pushes color temperature and saturation to some truly artificial places. The next iPhone is in need of a more balanced Smart HDR.
One thing that is often taken for granted is the huge leaps Apple makes in processing power for the iPhone year-after-year. If there were awards for the most valuable part of the iPhone, I’d give it to the A-series processors.
Apple has to once again this year release a processor that’s not only more powerful than the A12 Bionic but one that is more efficient. The iPhone XS A12 Bionic processor is already a couple of generations ahead of those found on the newest Android phones, but any ways to make the iPhone 11 more efficient will go far in helping improve that battery life. It’s all about that battery. Also, A13 Efficient has a nice ring (OK actually it doesn’t).
The iPhone needs a better name
Apple simultaneously came up with the coolest name for a phone and the worst one when it released the iPhone X — pronounced “ten” not “ex”. Yep, Roman numerals don’t really work for the iPhone. It’s confusing and makes me think of the Super Bowl or an outline I’m writing for a term paper.
I hope that Apple returns to something simpler. Perhaps just call the new phone: iPhone. And if there’s a more powerful version, call that one the iPhone Pro. Let’s stop this Roman numeral business.