What I’d Like to See in the New iPhone

by Hadley Stern May 21, 2009

A Physical Keyboard

Above and beyond anything Apple needs to address the one big flaw in the iPhone for a certain, largish subset of users--the lack of a physical keyboard. This would be backtracking for Apple but Steve Jobs did this before with video on the iPod. What Apple has to do is do something that no one has done before, design a physical keyboard that is neither to large, clunky, cheesy, or awkward while maintaining a full-size screen.

Another way I see Apple tackling this issue is by harkening back to their Duo-dock days with some kind of dockable, optional keyboard. As long as it were sturdy enough this could work. Regardless, Apple needs to do something for this segment of users. Or it could just chose to continue to ignore them, but I think this would be a mistake.

A faster processor to support multi-tasking and multi-modal

The current iPhone is sort of like the original Mac; you can only run one program at a time. Like the Mac this has been fine, because the rest of the device is so damn revolutionary that no one cares. But in the not-so-far future folks are going to want applications that take advantage of being able to talk to other open processes. Not to mention the fact that being able to have multiple applications open and once will lead to fast application switching. And then there is multi-modal. Right now if you receive a call on your iPhone while in an application that application will close. Multi-modal may sound boring but it actually opens up a world of possibilities in terms of utility between the different modes, internet and phone.

Video, video, video

This is a must-must-must have. The iPhone needs to have the ability to shoot and record video as a baseline. Hopefully Apple will bring more to the table with what they have learnt with iMovie and make an application for viewing, editing, and sending video that is the best that is out there. The fact that Apple has been so late to the video game is a shame but if they don't release a video-capable device soon it will just be plain bizarre.


Speaking of video Apple has the opportunity to once again pounce the competition. This time they could do it with video iChat. Technically there will be challenges mostly related to spotty 3G coverage. However on many an occasion while traveling and I done video iChats while connected to 3G using an EVDO card so it is possible. The implications of this are wondrous--a device where you can video chat anywhere. Apart from video chat this also has implications for even better video streaming to the iPhone. Of course ATT could pull a slingbox and force this to only work over wifi. This would be a shame but would still at least get the concept of easy video chatting on a hand-held device into the marketplace.

A better phone speaker

Sometimes it is the basics. Yes we would all love the iPhone to transport us to other galaxies but for now we just need to make a call. Put this in the unsexy but important bucket. The current iPhone's built-in ear speaker sucks. It simply isn't loud enough (this is a complaint I've heard from multiple people). Apple, make it so!

What would you like to see in the new iPhone?


  • Why not just support Bluetooth keyboards in the 3.0 OS? This would work for all existing iPhones, and the third-party market could probably offer a variety of products with different tradeoffs for size vs. functionality.

    RetiredMidn had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 2
  • A physical keyboard is not going to happen. It would require one SKU for every keyboard layout—a nightmare. With the software keyboard, they have one SKU for markets as diverse as Punjab, Iceland, and Nunavut. The software keyboard also allows access to characters that would otherwise not be available.

    Old folks like you and me get crotchety and inflexible with age. We have trouble adapting to newfangled gadgets like this, but if you can get used to an electric icebox, a horseless carriage, and ball point pens, you can use the software keyboard. It’s just fine.

    Hugmup had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 40
  • Hadley, I agree to all with the exception of a physical keyboard.

    I agree with RetiredMidn that all Apple needs to do is unlock the Bluetooth wireless interface. Then any third party like Belkin can configure a keyboard for any locality in the world. It works on Macs, why doesn’t on the iPhone/Touch?

    OK here’s my take. Have you noticed the area around the “home” button takes a lot of real-estate? Yeah, that one. I have been thinking the home button needs to go, move it somewhere else, or replace it with a nifty finger gesture. But since this button is also key to rebooting the darn thing, it must stay a physical button.

    Then the area that is currently occupied by this button can be reconfigured a-la Pre’s gesture pad? or something else entirely. Apple can play “Jonny, you copy, we copy too” game.

    The touchscreen display can also be enlarged, have more pixel resolution, and allows for cinema-like aspect ratios (not just 16:9 or 1.77:1 ratios).

    Robomac had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 846
  • For me the biggest thing would be the multi-tasking.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • I still don’t like the slide out keyboard idea - mainly because it’d make it 1/4inch thicker. And adding a “clunky” factor to the design.

    I do wonder about the feasibility of a tiny MacBookAir. As an example, imagine a much much smaller MacBook Air - so that the screen is the size of a regular iPhone size screen.  You’d have to have a way of using it as a phone while it was ‘closed’ of course.

    I’m leaning towards this also being no good… but interested in others’ opinions. (I’ve said here before that I would like a 9” version).

    Greg Alexander had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 228
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