Opinion: How the iPhone 5 isn't just about the phone

By Jonny Evans

The iPhone 4S maintains the Apple [AAPL] tradition of hitting the consumer satisfaction sweet spot, despite which iPhone 5 speculation continues to whirl. Here's five future-focused features I'd like to see inside the next Apple smartphone. Oh, and the future of mobile isn't just about phones, it's about homes. Be ready.


[ABOVE: ADR Studio's tasty mock-up of what the iPhone 5 may look like.]

A faster quad-core processor

In a sense processor speed doesn't matter too much just so long as your device does what you want it to do. However, as mobile devices hit the enterprise and app developers look to deliver ever-more sophisticated solutions as they follow the inevitable path toward PC replacement, a new processor is inevitable. Pleasing some critics the A6 chip seems set to be a quad-core device, and you can expect better graphic performance too. Now you have the performance, what you gonna do with it?


[ABOVE: Magic feet -- one day all consumer electronics will recharge without wires.]

Wireless charging

Apple already allows for wireless sync with iTunes, now it's time the company looked to enable wireless recharging, too. In this it will follow an illustrious line of products, most recently (today, in fact), including Mobee Technology's Magic Feet range of Mac wireless peripherals.

Introduced at CES today, this inductive charging solution for Apple peripherals such as the Wireless Keyboard or Magic Trackpad will soon be joined by other devices.

These are likely to include solutions with which to wirelessly recharge your iPhone or iPad. All you need to do is pop the things on the inductive charging mat.

With Apple also holding patents for inductive charging, don't be surprised to see Cupertino introduce this "feature" within a future generation of iDevice. Will we see the fabled solar recharging system too? With Al Gore on Apple's board it makes sense the firm will continue to find ways to become greener.

LTE and NFC support

I've said before that the reason LTE isn't in the current generation iPhone is because the standard just isn't ready. It's like this: beyond a handful of US geographies, LTE hasn't been fully deployed as yet. This changes this year (though some key markets including the UK are behind the curve), which may open the door to LTE support in iPhone 5.

Similarly NFC support could feature in this release. Why? Once again you just need to think about it -- we already know that Siri usage has doubled the data bandwidth iPhone users are munching on. Introducing yet another data-hungry solution demands there's sufficient mobile bandwidth to back it up. This comes with the big bandwidth promised by LTE, though potential purchasers should be warned that carrier implementation and data charges may become a concern.


[ABOVE: Thanks to Patently Apple for this incredibly revealing report.]

Better security

The iPhone will be an iWallet. At present if you lose your phone you can erase data held on it, but that's not enough. After all, if all your wealth is accessible via your device you want to make certain it ends up being even more secure than it is in your bank, your wallet, or the Android App store. Fortunately, help is coming in the form of an incredibly sophisticated security set-up Apple's been quietly developing as reported by Patently Apple this week.

2012 will be a big test for security. All mobile OS vendors should understand just how important it will become as personal and corporate data moves into the cloud for access from a pot-pourri of mobile devices. Any vendor who isn't prepared to put the work in to develop and guarantee rock-hard security should be seen as criminally irresponsible.

Apple's solution will be to use a combination of facial recognition, biometrics (potentially) and a split device security reminder system, development of which is being led by one of Apple's most senior minds, Bud Tribble.

The secret here is password recovery -- you won't get the full password reminder via a single device. If you lose your phone the thief has no chance of figuring out how to get your password, because you'll need another device to get the whole thing. This is pretty hard to explain, but do read the Patently Apple report to get a handle on it.

Because it is patented, this security will be a unique OS feature setting Apple's solutions apart from others. Apple's security will be Kryptonite, others, well, others won't be.


Serious Siri

Siri will hurt Google's search dominance and will change the way we interact with all our objects, not just our iPhone. If the system takes off, then it isn't too hard to imagine Apple producing connected domestic devices controlled -- even remotely -- by your voice.

Home lighting systems, washing machines, even your coffee pot all seem likely recipients of this kind of solution. Indeed, I'm hearing of some early examples of products of this kind at CES 2012.

That's just the start. Eventually you'll be able to use your iPhone and Siri to control these objects remotely. Your Apple television (which I'm pretty certain will wipe the floor with the sundry similar devices currently being rolled out at CES) could even become part of your home security system: motion detection to capture unexpected movement in your home, snapping video of the miscreants for dispatch to your iPhone and passing along to law enforcement.

I'm imagining things here, but can you see any good reason why the popular Find My iPhone feature shouldn't be extended to other Apple devices, including your iSight-equipped Apple TV?

Outside the box. Inside the home

Rest assured, in a relatively short time Apple won't just be in your den, it will be all over your home. That's the Machine-To-Machine (M2M) gold rush we're going to see become a major industry trend this year.

I can't see Apple lagging behind the curve on this one, as its insanely great customer satisfaction levels could transform the company into a consumer electronics giant with feet in multiple segments which absolutely dwarfs anything which came before. (And is probably why Samsung-the-new-Sony is battling Apple tooth and claw with everything it has, bar originality).

So that's it for today, five things to think about: Capability; Simplicity; Futuristic technology; security and control. It's a little like the Jetsons or Star Trek when you think about it. Though from an air traffic control point of view it's probably still quite a good thing the world's 7 billion people don't have jet packs yet. I'm still dreaming of a Harley, myself.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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