What we want in the next iPhone

It's that time again. With Apple gearing up to unveil a new iPhone in the coming months, a steady stream of rumors and leaked images are making the rounds in the blogosphere.

Whether it's called the "iPhone 6" or something else is unknown. But regardless of the name, there are plenty of features we want it to have this time around.

Editors' note: This story was originally published on September 17, 2013, and has been updated several times, most recently on May 16, 2014.

Updated:
Photo by: Eric Mack/CNET / Caption by:

Built-in IR

Both Samsung's Galaxy S4 and S5 have a built-in IR (infrared) blaster, so you can turn your phone into a universal remote, a feature Samsung likes to tout in its ads. So far Apple has kept IR out of its iOS devices, but who knows what will happen if Apple ever launches its much-rumored TV?

Chances of implementation: 5 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET / Caption by:

NFC-enabled

Rumors that Apple would adopt NFC (near-field communications) -- most often talked about in connection with mobile payments, but potentially useful for other things -- have bounced around the past couple of years. But the technology is still a no-show.

Many companies have been dabbling with NFC, and several rival smartphones support it. It has a way to go before it reaches critical mass, however. Apple is likely waiting for that to happen before it adds it to the iPhone.

It's worth noting that in a 2012 interview, Apple's Senior Vice President Phil Schiller said it isn't clear that NFC is a solution to any current problem. "Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today," he said. So it's also possible Apple may never bring NFC to its mobile devices, and instead will continue developing its own mobile payments solution, centered around iBeacon, its Bluetooth 4.0-based location sensing technology.

iBeacon retail deployment has been sparse, but it's starting to get a little bit of traction. Major League Baseball has it in trials at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and earlier this year mobile shopping startup InMarket launched in over 150 grocery stores across the US.

Chances of implementation: 5 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Visa / Caption by:

Better Siri

Apple has so far overpromised and underdelivered with Siri, the built-in voice-control feature, which has been surpassed by Google Now and Microsoft's "digital assistant" Cortana. It improved a little with the iPhone 5S and as part of iOS 7 it got new features, including the option to choose between a female and male voice.

It's still a few generations away from becoming a true personal digital assistant, but let's hope it makes a bigger jump with iPhone 6 and iOS 8.

Chances of implementation: 90 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Apple / Caption by:

Wireless charging

Right now, if you want to charge your phone's battery using inductive "wireless" charging, you have to buy a separate charging sleeve (case) and charging mat for your device.

Qi (pronounced "chee"), a new standard for inductive charging, is pushing to get manufacturers to integrate it into their devices. We've been waiting for more Qi-enabled smartphones to hit the market --- a few, including the Nokia Lumia 920, offer it.

With Samsung's latest Galaxy phones, you can buy a slim Wireless Charging S-View Flip Cover ($70, £55, AU$90) that includes the Qi chip.

And Fone Salesman's new iQi Mobile solution above (it connects to the Lighting port and lives under your non-metallic case) is compelling but slightly flawed because you lose access to your Lightning port. (Note: Ubest also makes a similar product that costs less.)

Ideally, of course, you'd do away with the case and have the inductive-charging chip built into the phone. That way, you'd only have to buy a mat, and you could use whatever case you wanted to use.

We were hoping the iPhone 5S would have some integrated wireless charging component, but it didn't. The chance of it coming to the iPhone 6 are better, but still not high.

Chances of implementation: 15 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Amazon.com / Caption by:

Widgets/customizable home screen

One of the often-cited advantages of Android is the ability to add widgets and customize your phone so you can get to most-used apps, settings, and other useful information more quickly. iOS certainly has some customization and organization options, but they just aren't robust enough.

With iOS 7, we got a new Control Panel that offers quick access to most-used settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Airplane mode (a feature long available on Android models). It's a welcome addition but doesn't necessarily offer the higher degree of customization some users are looking for.

Chances of implementation: 25 percent

Updated:
Photo by: MyColorScreen / Caption by:

Waterproofing

I can't tell you exactly how many people drop their phones in the toilet (or another body of water), but many phones do end up getting water damaged and having to be replaced.

Samsung made a waterproof version of the Galaxy S4 called the Active and now the Galaxy S5  is also waterproof when submerged a meter below the surface for up to 30 minutes.

Of course, all the ports have to be sealed off properly and the plastic back clipped securely in place. But since the iPhone has no removable back panel, the ports should be the only thing that needs to be sealed off.

Chances of implementation: 10 percent.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller / Caption by:

Upgraded Wi-Fi (802.11ac)

Apple equipped its latest MacBook Airs and AirPort routers with the new flavor of Wi-Fi, but held off with it in the 5S and 5C. Other companies have also introduced routers and networking gear with Wi-Fi 802.11ac, but the technology is only just starting to catch on. It'll take some time for the market to mature, but Apple should add it to its next-generation iPhone.

Chances of implementation: 60 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Ixia / Caption by:

More storage

As far back as June 2010 there was chatter about Toshiba's new 128GB NAND flash memory modules. But currently the iPhone maxes out at 64GB and famously has no expandable memory option. Most people think 64GB is enough. Still, after the iPad went to 128GB, some folks were itching for a 128GB iPhone, even if it would carry a price tag of over $500 (and maybe $600) on-contract.

We didn't get a 128GB 5S (and the 5C only goes up to 32GB), but maybe we'll get a 128GB iPhone 6.

Chances of implementation: 60 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Toshiba / Caption by:

Faster processor, improved 3D graphics

Hey, it's an obvious one, but we've gotta say it.

Apple has consistently improved the iPhone's graphics capabilities with each new iteration of it, and not surprisingly, we've come to expect a performance boost (and would be disappointed if we didn't get one).  When announcing the 5S, Apple said the "superfast" 64-bit A7 chip had a 2x performance boost over the A6 chip found in the iPhone 5 and 5C.

I don't know if we'll get that kind of performance boost from the iPhone 6's chip, but we should see a boost nevertheless.  

Chances of implementation: 90 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Apple / Caption by:

Even better camera

With each iteration of the iPhone, Apple has improved the iPhone's camera. Once again, Apple has enhanced it for the iPhone 5S, although it's still stuck at 8 megapixels.

I don't know if it's so important for Apple to play the megapixel game as Nokia and other companies have. But bumping up the quality of the camera (and continuing to improve the flash performance) is. Also, with companies like Samsung and HTC touting souped-up cameras and Google releasing its Google Camera app with Lytro-like depth-of-field lens-blur effects, we'd also like to see Apple's camera app become more robust.

Chances of implementation: 90 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

Better battery life

We know. We're asking a lot for a phone with a faster processor and graphics chip to also improve on battery life, but the fact is, some people were hoping Apple could really make a statement with much better battery life than that of its Android competitors. True, the rated battery life of the iPhone 5S (and 5C) is slightly better than that of iPhone 5, which is an achievement, considering it offers a 2x performance bump. (Though it may be a little while before we see apps that take advantage of the A7's 64-bit architecture.) But we'd like to see a much more significant leap in the next model (like we saw with the updated MacBook Airs). Plenty of people would trade a slightly thicker phone for better battery life.

Chances of implementation: 30 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

Bigger screen

As consumers continue to gravitate toward jumbo smartphones with roomier screens, rumors continue to swirl that Apple will most likely offer an iPhone with a bigger display in 2014 (I'm betting it will be a 4.7- or 4.8-inch screen -- right about the same size as the Moto X's).

I suspect Apple will offer iPhones in a couple of different sizes, though it may keep the smaller screen size for an existing model like the 5S or 5C and then move to the larger screen size for the iPhone 6.

Chances of implementation: 85 percent

Updated:
Photo by: Eric Mack/CNET / Caption by:

iPhone 6 rumor roundup

For all the latest news on the next iPhone, check out our iPhone 6 rumors round up page, which we update regularly.

Updated:
Caption by:
Hot Galleries

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for a gadget upgrade

Check out these 8 tablets you'll want to bring home for the holidays.

Hot Products