In March 2011, Apple finally announced support for full 720p or 1080i HD video output for the iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4G, and iPad 2. However, you need Apple's $39 Digital AV Adapter to send that HD video and audio to a TV or monitor, whereas many Android-powered smartphones offer a built-in Micro-HDMI port that only requires an inexpensive $5 cable to run video to your TV.
Now that Apple's added AirPlay mirroring as part of iOS 5, if you have an Apple TV, you can stream video wirelessly to your TV via Apple TV (what's on your iPad 2 or iPhone 4S' screen is mirrored on the TV). That's nice, but it's worth mentioning that the Apple TV is a $99 accessory.
It's hardly a must-have upgrade, but it would be cool to swipe with your finger -- instead of entering a password -- to unlock your phone. It could also be combined with NFC (near-field communication technology -- see next slide) for making mobile payments.
Image note: Allegedly, Apple has filed some patents related to this feature.
As Apple is expected to upgrade the design of its next iPhone, possibly trimming it down, there's been a lot of chatter about Apple finally moving away from its proprietary 30-pin connector and going with a smaller connector. (The alleged iPhone spy photo above shows a smaller port at the bottom of the device).
A lot of people have been hoping for an industry-standard Micro-USB connector, and, in fact, the European Union has already mandated that Apple provide for it. The only problem is that the EU regulations allow for Apple to offer an Micro-USB adapter rather than alter the iPhone itself, thus neutering the regulation (Apple already offers the adapter).
Oh, and let's not forget that Apple charges a licensing fee for all those Apple-certified speaker docks and various other accessories. I somehow doubt that Apple would let that nice income stream disappear along with the ability to exert some degree of control over the design of those accessories.
So we may get a smaller connector (and port), but I strongly doubt that it will be a standard Micro-USB connector.
Leading up to the release of what turned out to be the iPhone 4S, rumor had it that Apple may have been working on integrating NFC (near-field communication) technology into the next iPhone. This is sort of a bar code replacement technology that would enable your iPhone to act as a payment device (e-wallet) or even a car key.
Since the feature isn't in the iPhone 4S, the odds increase that it'll make it into the iPhone 5. Also, the newly announced iOS 6 Passbook feature, which lets users store and quickly access electronic versions of all their tickets, boarding passes, and merchant cards in one place, may indicate that NFC will be added to the next iPhone.
Currently, on the iPhone 4 and 4S, FaceTime only works over Wi-Fi (yes, there are some ways to get it to work over 3G, but Apple doesn't officially support it). However, Apple announced that with the launch of iOS 6 this fall, FaceTime over a cellular data network will be enabled. Alas, Apple hasn't specified exactly which networks will support it. Will it be a 4G (LTE)-only affair or will it work over HSPA+ and 3G networks?
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.
Companies like Powermat and Energizer make inductive charging products for a variety of smartphones. However, if you could do away with the sleeve and have the inductive-charging chip built into the phone, you'd only have to buy a mat (and you could use whatever case you wanted to use).
Qi (pronounced chee), a new standard for inductive charging as established by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), is pushing to get manufacturers to integrate Qi chips into their devices, and we should see some Qi-enabled smartphones on the market in 2012. The iPhone 5? We wouldn't bet on it, but at some point in the future we think the iPhone will get some sort of inductive-charging chip integrated into it.
With Apple's acquisition of PA Semiconductor, it's been designing and churning out its own CPUs, including the 1GHz A5 processor in the iPhone 4S and the A5+ processor in the third-generation iPad.
Many people thought we'd get the A6 processor with the new iPad -- and that it would be a quad-core chip. But we didn't (the A5+ is dual-core chip). The A6 chip is reportedly a 28-nanometer process, as compared with the A5's 45nm, meaning lower energy consumption and higher speeds.
The faster processor would improve the performance of Siri, the iPhone 4S' integrated voice assistant, as well as a host of other features, such as still and video image capture.
One of the big features missing from the iPhone 4S is next-gen 4G data network support (AT&T is pretending HSPA+ is a 4G network but it's really a 3.5G network).
Apple finally delivered 4G support with the new iPad, but it's worth noting that rather restrictive data caps have been an issue, making the feature less attractive than it once seemed (streaming lots of video will cause you to run up against your cap pretty quickly).
Nevertheless, we fully expect that the next iPhone will support 4G LTE networks. Whether you'll be able to tap into every LTE network around the world is another story. Earlier this year, Apple had to stop advertising the new iPad as a 4G-"capable" device in Australia after it turned out it was incompatible with 4G networks in that country.
Every time Apple puts out a new iPhone, the battery life gets slightly better, so we expect no less from the sixth-generation iPhone. At least on paper, the iPhone 4S offers very similar battery life to the iPhone 4, so this is one area where there's significant room for improvement.
With the iPhone 4S, we didn't get the redesign that a lot of people were hoping for. Well, it's almost certain we'll get it with the iPhone 5. Will it be thinner, with a teardrop design? Look more like the iPad 2? Have a bigger screen?
From our polling on CNET, our readers' No. 1 most-wanted feature is a larger screen.
That said, people don't seem to want the iPhone to get any bigger or lose any battery life. We're hoping Apple can come up with the right balance, but as you can see from this mock-up, going to 4 inches makes a significant difference and is probably the optimal size for a smartphone screen.