*** UPDATE ***
I have made 2 additional posts on this subject, refining my predictions and adding reasoning to my assumptions.
My most recent post updated - Feb 23rd 2010:
Second most recent post updated - Jan 25 2010:
*** UPDATE ***
The iPhone is easily the best phone you can buy, even with the introduction of new spiffed up Android phones (like the droid) for me the iPhone is still hands down the best. The UI is clean, fast and intuitive. The web browsing is still best in class. And the app store just puts the icing on the cake. Every other smartphone on the market is still playing catchup, and its been 2.5 years since its introduction. For example the droid just got a multitouch browser a couple of days ago.
With that said, what is gonna be in next years iPhone - for 2010 ? With the 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0 alot of gaps were filled, including copy paste, mms, video, voice recognition, and the compass. Well where does the iPhone go next ? Im gonna try to answer that question. As the event gets closer (probably sometime in june) i hope to have a fairly accurate list.
Since there is no official name for the new iPhone, im gonna refer to it as the 4G iPhone.
This is gimme, the iPhone NEEDS flash. Right now, there arent alot of phones with flash support, so its not like apple is behind the curve. But if it wants to keep its 'Best in class web browsing' title they are gonna need to implement it.
Heres an excerpt from the iPhone OS wikipedia page concerning flash:
The iPhone OS does not support Adobe Flash, and Flash movies on web pages cannot be viewed in Mobile Safari. Although Adobe has two versions of its software, Flash and Flash Lite, Apple views neither as suitable for the iPhone. Apple's argument to the public thus far has been that full Flash would be too cumbersome for the iPhone, while Flash Lite would not provide a worthy experience for users. This has been critiqued as the Goldilocks argument.
A problem with Flash for Apple is that it is a virtual machine with a just-in-time compiler. Apple's SDK prevents any software on the iPhone from downloading or running external code. What Adobe has done in their CS5 release for the iPhone is to create a static compiler that allows developers to compile their flash programs into apps that can run on the iPhone. This would allow many games to become apps, however prevents web interfaces such as Hulu from working on the iPhone.
Unofficially, some Flash video sites can be viewed by using a jailbroken iPhone with certain third-party applications. However, it results on extremely low frame rate due to the lack of memory bandwidth and CPU speed for Flash JIT execution. Another reason is the general lack of optimization of Flash for the iPhone OS, which can be seen in several benchmarks of Flash in OS X. 
Recently, Adobe has posted a notice on the Flash download page when viewed from an iPhone, claiming that it's not possible to have Flash on the iPhone because:
“Flash Player not available for your device. Apple restricts use of technologies required by products like Flash Player. Until Apple eliminates these restrictions, Adobe cannot provide Flash Player for the iPhone or iPod.”
Running flash is very cpu intensive, and the iPhone is already not well known for its battery life, so either from the inclusion of a better battery or improved hardware, the new 4G iPhone should get flash.
I speculate that this would only be supported on the 4g iPhone. and that earlier models would not get this enhancement.
To play devil’s advocate: Although I feel like this feature is a neccessity the iPhone is still the best smartphone on the market, so although it would be a great feature, apple doesn’t need to do too much to get people to buy iPhones.
Improved iPhone OS:
The current iPhone OS is AMAZING, i mean think about how the iPhone has been on the market for almost 3 years, and IMHO it still has the best UI . Of course it helps having your own Operating System, that is well known for its snappy UI, Quartz or Core Graphics deserves a lot of credit for this.
I besides the specific UI changes that apply to features mentioned below I dont see a full UI overhaul happening for the next iPhone. the current UI works well, it does leave a little bit of customization to be desired, which is why the only big UI change i see happening is the ability to apply a background image for the springboard. These would come from a preloaded set of images, or ones that are in the Photos library. The OS would most likely apply a transparency affect to the image and then overlay it to a black background, this would be done to improve readability of the springboards pages.
Themes/Personalization: this is another thing that is in the unlikely category but would be a welcome addition. Id imagine a few default themes, the rest would be purchased from the app store. When this topic is brought up some people mention changing icon images, this would only work for first party apps, if changing third party app icons was allowed it would screw over developers big time.
Honestly if i was asked to bet on any of these changes i wouldnt, but they would be nice to have.
So where can they improve ? I think multitasking is one area, although i still dont think that they will have full blown multitasking since its a huge power drain.
A conservative implementation would be to have multiple apps running, but when you move away from an app, it goes into is 'sleep' state (the state you get when you lock, and then unlock your phone with an open app). And then when you go back to it, the app wakes up.
A more liberal implementation (in terms of battery life, cpu cycles), would be to allow certain threads or portions of the app to run in the background. Im not sure how this would be implemented, but i could see it being broken down into a few different categories. For example an app could continue to communicate using 3g/wifi, it could play music, it could access GPS/compass, or it could just be running cycles on the cpu. If this is the case i would speculate that during the app approval process the 'background' portion of the app would be extensively tested, and profiled. And it must meet strict criteria before approval.
The liberal approach is different than just having the app do 'whatever' in the background, it would need to register threads with the OS that do specific things.
If apple does do any type of multitasking a limit on the number of apps running will certainly be implement, sort of like in Safari it only allows a certain number of pages to be open at once. I see the same type of interface for multitasking.
There is currently a great looking multitasking app for Jailbreakers called multifl0w that isnt too far off of what I imagine the multitasking looking like.
Better lock screen:
Right now the lockscreen is pretty useless, it gives you date time, and battery life. I think they should at a minimum allow stuff like calender events, email inbox, missed calls, and texts to show up on the lockscreen. These are all first party apps so apple should have no problem optimizing them, and making them work 100%. Eventually they could expand the functionality to allow other 3rd party apps to display info on the lockscreen, sort of like how they included push notifications for OS 3.0 apps.
I know that texts and phone calls already show up as Modal dialogs, but having them in a list as well that showed more than just what has happened since the last unlock could be useful. It should also have list items go directly to its corresponding app.
Here are some renders of a jailbreak app that implements the type of lockscreen im talking about:
This is an idea ive had for awhile, and it came to me after for the bajillionth time I was told by one of my friends ‘you have to get this app’. Start with a bluetooth handshake to your friends phone, and he can drag the ‘sweet’ apps to your phone. Im not suggesting you get the app for free, instead when you open up the app it takes you to the app store page to buy/download the app. This way next time you see your friend he can just pile on all these sweet apps ‘you just have to check out’ and then when you get the time, you can read their descriptions at the app store, no searching involved. Similar to how Safari lets you put bookmarks on the homescreen.
File Management/Document Generation:
The iphone can already display pdf’s and Office Files (docx, xlsx, pptx), why not allow editing ? Obviously it wont be as rich as a desktop application, but simple edits would greatly increase productivity for business users. I know that blackberry has Docs2Go, and im sure this is one reason why they still have attract large percentage of business users.
Apple has an office suite, albeit not as good as MSOffice, but they still have the core technology to roll out a simple app for editing documents.
Along with this type of editing would have to come some file management. It sucks that you have to email everything to yourself to view it on the iphone. Just let me drag and drop files through the itunes interface, or setup a folder on my Mac to automatically sync with the ‘Documents’ folder.
Overhaul the Email App:
From the email app I should be able to pick multiple photos, and files to attach when sending an email. If they implement the file management stuff this would integrate nicely.
There are ton of other tweaks that people have mentioned in other blog posts, personally the mail app is fine for what I do, but im sure that a lot of other issues people have mentioned will get fixed.
I know that a lot of people have been wanting this feature, personally I don’t mind going back and forth, but I could see myself using a unified inbox if it became available.
First check out this video:
I wouldn’t call this an Expose feature, in my opinion that would be the coverflow multitasking. This reminds me more of spaces, which I am a huuge fan of. Id really like to see this feature.
Bigger Screen ? (not likely):
At first I thought this was a good candidate for being included in the next iPhone, mainly because it would allow apple to sell more HD video from their itunes store. But then it occurred to me that they probably want people to enjoy HD video on their rumored Apple Tablet which will be better suited for that experience anyways.
Plus it would bring in a whole new host of problems with backwards compatibility for applications and whatnot, so overall I see this as very unlikely.
This on the other hand is a gimme. The screen already looks great, but its getting outdated. Im sure that by now the screen they are using in the 3Gs is getting inexpensive, so why not upgrade to something newer. Apple likes to highlight things like this in their product releases; imagine “The new iPhone has a 50% brighter screen, with 30% better color vibrance” whatever that means. But really it just makes sense. With oled screens getting cheaper, I think a screen upgrade is due. Ive been reading that OLED isnt quite ready for mainstream so that might be out of the picture, but if they could make it work it would look amazing.
Front Facing Camera (?):
So this has been one of those features that has been in the rumor mill for awhile. Theres no doubt it would be an awesome feature. For the most part it would make them first to market with a true video conferncing cellphone. I can just imagine the curtains are drawn and what you have on the big screen is steve job’s face staring at you from the screen of an iphone. This could be the ‘Big’ feature for the new iphone. The one must have features that makes you go from yea this is sweet to ‘I will sell my first born’ to get this phone. Since the first iphone I don’t think they have really shown a must-have feature that could be as groundbreaking as a front facing camera.
Apple likes to be ‘The First’ for stuff so why not ? Well lets get into the technical details.
So I asked myself ‘Why would they NOT include this in the new iPhone?’ The obvious answer is ‘The Network Stupid’. We all know that ATT is struggling to keep their network afloat. And were just talking regular iphones let alone video streaming ! Well what if they just allowed video conferencing while connnected to wifi ? That sounds fair, it would make it more of a business tool because at the office your gonna have fast wifi, and video conferencing would be useful. Welll whatif ‘another’ carrier got the iphone that had a better network *cough* Verizon *cough* Ahh now that front facing camera makes a lot more sense. ATT’s exclusivity contract is due to run out sometime in 2010, so even if we don’t see a Verizon iphone until september, the hardware is already in place, Verizon would just have to flip a switch.
The more I think about it, the more I see this feature coming in 2010. With the introduction of the new Macbook pros a few years ago, iSight cameras came standard. With the exception of the Mac Mini and Mac Pro, all new Mac models come with an iSight camera, so they definitely take personal video seriously. It would increase the cool factor on the iPhone significantly.
Heres an article over at gizmodo that supports the idea of the iPhone getting a front facing camera. The author clearly supports the idea, but comes to the conlcusion that apple wont put in the camera because they wont need that feature to sell more phones. I agree that apple doesn’t need the feature, but I believe that we will get the camera for the reasons I mentioned above as well as the similar arguments mentioned in the article.
New Case Design:
This seems like a gimme. The 3GS did essentially nothing to the exterior appearance of the phone. They cant go another year without a aesthetic change. They WILL change the case design. Personally id like to see some Unibody construction. Lots of aluminum. That’s one thing I missed in the 3g/3gs that the 2g original had. The new macbook pros with unibody construction look amazing, absolutely stunning. I love how all of the led indicators for ‘sleep mode’ and battery life are totally invisible unless they are lit up. This is accomplished with tiny holes in the aluminum. Imagine having a hidden LED indicator for the front facing camera when it is on/off, like they do on the current MBP’s. Of course with aluminum, we could see different anodized colors.
Just looking at these renders for this phone, i think these could be similar to what we see in june. This first one is missing the front facing camera, but besides that looks pretty realistic.
Duhh, every year they introduce a model with new memory, so why not this year? Most likely 32gb and 64gb. Maybe a 16gb budget model, basically what the 3g iphone is now.
Heres a short list of the features i mentioned and my predicted likelihood.
- More memory
- Better screen (maybe OLED)
- New case design
- Flash Support
- Better Lock screen (home screen)
- Overhaul the Email App (Unified Inbox)
- Front facing Camera
- Application Sharing
- File Management/Document Generation
- Springboard Expose/Spaces
- Bigger Screen
- Themes and Wallpapers for Springboard