What the next iPhone really needs: Better battery life

Forget other features: if the next iPhone really wants to make a splash, it should just be more like the latest MacBook Air.

Sarah Tew/CNET

We're on a countdown until the inevitable Next iPhone, a moment that feels far less anticipated than last year. In 2012 we had the iPhone 5 casting a shadow of mystery: a rumored design revamp, the curiosity surrounding the first post-Steve Jobs iPhone, plus overdue features, namely, LTE and a larger screen. This year, we have rumors of slightly better cameras, colored cases, and maybe a fingerprint reader.

So what can Apple do to make the next iPhone a huge hit?

Simple. Give it killer battery life.

The phone market is suffering a bit of ennui mid-2013. "Peak smartphone" has become a repeated phrase, and I've heard my fair share of, "Phones are boring." It reminds me of laptops: those also-useful, also-commodified products that nearly everyone has but nobody feels all that compelled to immediately replace.

You can't make magic forever. Laptops don't produce stupendous feats of technology anymore: maybe phones are just finally going that path, too. But that doesn't mean there aren't certain critical improvements.

The MacBook Air had a pretty minor set of changes this year, so few that it's hard to consider it a "new" laptop. But the dramatic improvement in battery life is a huge selling point. It makes the Air an excellent recommendation.

Android phones with great battery life are out there, particularly Motorola's recent phones: the Droid Maxx , the Razr Maxx before it, and the new Moto X . The Moto X is a classic example of how a phone without cutting-edge specs can win with improved design, battery life, and an extra feature or two.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My wife does one thing with her iPhone more than anything else: she charges it.

I've been using an iPhone 5 for nearly a year, and its overall performance has been excellent -- except for the battery life, which can range from OK to downright challenging. I keep cloud services on and Bluetooth active, and I do my fair share of streaming, but I need to top off the charge at least once a day.

Is that fair to judge my iPhone based on my heavy usage? Well, it's a part of the new phone landscape. There are more gadgets to pair with via Bluetooth and AirPlay, more high-bandwidth streaming services, more location-aware apps. Making a battery great enough to handle the load is a tough task, but Apple has been battery-minded about its laptops and tablets. It's time for the iPhone to make a great leap forward in battery life. On my "what I want on the next iPhone" wish list, it's the only piece in the puzzle that I really need.

It may not be the sexiest move, but it would be a big move in an otherwise slow year.

Read the full CNET Review

Apple iPhone 5

The Bottom Line: The iPhone 5 completely rebuilds the iPhone on a framework of new features and design, addressing its major previous shortcomings. It's absolutely the best iPhone to date, and it easily secures its place in the top tier of the smartphone universe. / Read full review

About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.



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