On Call: 5 tiny things the new iPhone needs

Forget a removable battery, a memory card slot, and a larger display; here are five tiny features the next version of the iPhone needs.

Dear Apple, please fix these small things in the next iPhone. Josh P. Miller/CNET

On Call runs every two weeks, alternating between answering reader questions and discussing hot topics in the cell phone world.

As you've heard many times over, a new iPhone is due from Apple by the end of the year. Depending on who you talk to, it will come in September or October, and it will be a small upgrade or a complete revamp, which means that only one thing is certain at this point: we won't know exactly what we'll get until CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage to tell us.

In the meantime, though, we can pine for what we'd like to see in the iPhone 5/iPhone 4S. CNET's David Carnoy already has posted a master list of the iPhone 5 features we want most, and Nicole Lee has picked out what's still missing from iOS 5 . They both offer great points, and many of these changes (like more memory and better security) are quite plausible, but I'm afraid that a few of their dreams will never come true. Honestly, I can't see Apple ever adding features like Flash support, expandable memory, and a removable battery, so I'm going to leave them off my own list of things that the new iPhone needs. I'll also skip obvious points like a larger display in favor of five tiny software tweaks that could go a long way toward making the iPhone even simpler to use. And, more importantly, I can see Apple actually making these improvements.

Before I begin, however, I need to leave you with one caveat. I'm aware that many of these features are accessible through third-party apps or on a jailbroken phone. Yes, apps are great, but these are features that Apple should put on the iPhone for free. Also, as cool as a jailbroken iPhone can be, it's just not an option for many consumers. Many people don't want to go through a process that can invalidate their warranty or potentially damage their phone, and they don't want to have to do it all over again when Apple issues an iOS update.

Related links
• iPhone 5 rumor roundup
• iPhone 5: 20 most-wanted features
• Apple takes baby steps with iOS 5
• A brief tour of Apple's iOS 5
• iOS 5: What we didn't get
• 8 great iOS 5 tips

'Mark as read' option in e-mail
All right, I know this one is going to make me sound extremely fastidious, but that's how I roll. When viewing a list of new e-mails, I'd love to be able to mark messages as read instead of having to open them individually. The bulk delete and move are great, but those options don't help with messages that you want to keep in your inbox.

Here's why I need this. Before I leave home in the morning, I check my work e-mail so I'll know what to expect from my day. Some messages I answer, others I file away with no reply, and others I keep in my inbox until I have time to consider them. If I don't open each message in that last group (a time-consuming process that takes more than a few clicks), the e-mail icon on the home screen will continue to show that I have new messages. And it will continue to nag me during breakfast and on my commute. If I could clean out all new e-mails at once, I'd feel a lot better.

While we're on the subject of e-mail, I'd also ask for a small change to the unified inbox. Though it is convenient to see all my e-mails in one place, I'd also like iOS to denote whether an e-mail is from my work or personal account (that is, my without opening the message). I don't care how Apple does it--perhaps a colored dot next to the message?--but it would be welcome.

More choice in autocorrect
Though the autocorrect feature definitely serves a purpose, not to mention bringing us the occasional laugh, I'd prefer that it offer more word choices when I'm writing. Yes, I know "choice" and "Apple" don't belong in the same sentence, but a small improvement here would make us even better texters. For example, if I type "rec" on an Android phone, I'll get not only my intended word ("receive"), but also a host of other choices like "received," "record," "recent," "recommend," and "recovery." Windows Phone 7 presents a similar selection. On the iPhone, however, the only choice alternates between "rex" and "EEC." That's fine if you're a dog owner or a European economist, but not so handy if you're trying to ask Mom if she received your birthday card.

More word choices, please. Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

Contacts on the home screen
Sure, the iPhone offers a Favorites menu in your contacts list, but that still requires you to open the list, scroll to your chosen friend's name, and click on it to make a call. With the new iPhone, I hope that Apple will save us a few steps by letting us add icons for individual contacts directly to the home screen. Think about how pretty they'd be with your best friend's photo and how convenient it would be to place a call with just one click! Yes, I know that several apps offer this capability, but I'd rather not visit the app store or pay for the privilege.

A week view in the calendar
Granted, this change is really small, but I'd still find it useful. We have a day view and a month view, but a week view, particularly in landscape mode, would offer yet another way to look at your schedule. BlackBerry devices have long offered it, so I'm glad it's coming in iOS 5.

Shortcut to settings
Admittedly, this last feature is the most unlikely. Though the Settings menu lets you access the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS features, I'd rather have a shortcut widget directly on the home screen that allowed you to turn them on and off quickly and efficiently. Many Android phones have such a widget, after all, so I can't think of a reason why the iPhone shouldn't have one as well. And if it let us adjust the screen brightness with one click it would be even better.

What small features are you hoping to see in the next iPhone? Let me know below.

 

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