It appears that 2016 is going to be a seminal year for Iphone.
Not only is 2016 expected to be the first year where growth in Iphone sales does not increase, we have seen the release of a smaller four-inch Iphone SE (where for the first time Apple’s Iphone line will feature three phones, not merely keeping around older models for a lower price point). Now we are expecting to see the Iphone 7 released around September, which may even result in four different phones, as there are rumours of an even larger phablet than the current Iphone Plus model, a possible Iphone Pro.
But what would I like to see for the Iphone 7 release?
We are expecting to see a phone that doesn’t markedly differ in outward appearance from the Iphone 6 and 6S (in much the same way as the Iphone 5, aside from a screen size increase, didn’t differ too much in design from the Iphone 4 and 4S).
There will be some design changes, but from the rumour blogs, the appearance won’t be overly different, especially after a year that saw the change from the Iphone 5S to the Iphone 6. It does appear that Apple will be removing the analogue headphone jack, forcing us to either go Bluetooth, have a Lightning connecting headphone set, or have a converter.
We’ll get the usual processor increase, possibly a RAM increase (which I consider important—see below as to why), and naturally improvements in camera performance.
It is this latter item that is on the first of my wish-lists: the camera. The rumours have suggested a dual-lens system, which allows a range of different camera effects to occur—amongst them having multiple focal lengths in the same image, and better performance in low light and multi-light situations—possibly in the Iphone Plus (or Iphone Pro) models as a point of distinction. But there is one area in particular I’d like Apple to make some a profound change: zoom.
One of the major ways smartphone cameras differ from even most point-and-click ones is the lack of an optical zoom; all the zoom function in smartphone cameras is digital. This means rather than using all the pixels to capture a narrower field-of-view, what digital zoom does is zoom in on those pixels covering that narrower field. Consequently, a digitally zoomed image will have a lower level of quality to it than an equivalent image that has been taken with an optical zoom.
Apple does a bunch of great software improvements to compensate for this. As a general rule, it is the software that makes an image great, not merely the number of pixels. This is why Apple has maintained a lower pixel count than most smartphone manufacturers, but yet produced better photos for the most part. However, at a certain point you run up against the constraints of physics.
For instance, Apple introduced optical image stabilization into the camera of the Iphone 6 Plus, where previously digital image stabilization had been present (and still is in the 6 model).
The dual-lens system may allow for a zoom function somewhere between an optical zoom and a digital zoom, where the dual focal lengths can be manipulated to produce a zoom effect. But regardless of how it is done, I think this is something that Apple really could put effort into as a point of differentiation.
There are third-party optical lens attachments that you can naturally purchase that, amongst other things, have optical zoom. But, to be honest, how many people want to fiddle with such things on a regular basis? Apple put quick access to the camera on the lock screen for a reason.
My second wish for the Iphone 7 is something that is quite a departure from prior Iphone development, development that includes such things as progressive camera improvement to include zoom. It’s inspired by something that, believe it or not, comes from Windows Phone.
When Windows 10 was launched, Microsoft released a number of products alongside it. These included such things as the Surface Pro 4 and the new Surface Book, both of which are excellent machines. They additionally released a couple new phones, one of which was the Microsoft Lumia 950.
Among the features of the Lumia 950 was the ability to (via a rather ugly dock) connect the phone to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. When the phone detected the dock, it ran a version of the desktop Windows 10 (I say a version, due to the fact that not all desktop apps could run as phone versions, and you were restricted as to what you could install on the phone—primarily, it was Office you could run).
However, this got me thinking, what if we could do this with an Iphone 7 Plus?
But rather than running IOS expanded to the screen of the external monitor (which would be silly, as most external monitors are not touch-compatible), the Iphone would detect the dock, and turn on a copy of OS X—the operating system that runs on Macs—that is stored on the phone.
Given the current maximum disk space on the Iphone is 128 Gbyte, there is space to have OS X stored and running (though I would say 256 Gbyte would then not be out of the question, especially since Apple this week released a 256 Gbyte option in the new 9·7-inch Ipad Pro). I would recommend that RAM be increased, too, which would be possible as a marker of difference on the premium Plus (or Pro) models.
But, just imagine being able to arrive at your office, plug your phone into the dock, and have a fully functioning version of OS X available to you as your PC? A fully functioning computer that you can keep in your pocket, in small purse, in a jacket, transitioning from location to location without the need to bring multiple devices with you. You will be bringing your phone, so why not make it the only thing you need bring?
Now, naturally, this machine wouldn’t be anywhere near as powerful as a MacBook Pro, or even a MacBook Air, but it could be equivalent to the 2015 MacBook, for instance, or at least in the ballpark.
It would also allow Apple to perhaps address an identified issue in OS X.
OS X is a “mature” operating system. It gets tweaks, appearance and feature improvements now in each release, but the days of the rock-your-world OS X release is behind us. The current iteration, El Capitán, is very and refined. The dynamism in development and boundary-pushing is in IOS, and particularly the IOS App Store. A lot of IOS apps are now arguably better than their OS X equivalents. And one of the things IOS apps can’t do is run on OS X.
But what if they could?
I’m not talking about an IOS emulator on OS X (though that might be an interim option certainly), but rather have the ability to run IOS apps natively on OS X, with tweaks that allow it to function better within OS X, in much the same way as different versions of IOS apps run on the Ipad and Iphone. It would really inject some needed energy into OS X.
A phone that could do so for you, to really be your one-stop shop for your computing needs, would be a point of massive difference for the Iphone.
Apple would certainly design a less ugly version of the dock than Microsoft did at least.
Do I honestly expect Apple to do this with the Iphone 7? To be realistic, no, I don’t. It’s too radical a development, but it could be something they could do in the Iphone 7S. And it is something I would like, and use.
The future of computing is portability (power users aside), as the success of smartphones, tablets, and ultra-portable laptops attest. Such a thing could certainly be in Apple’s bailiwick.
Though Apple, could I also ask for an OLED screen on the Iphone 7? Always on live-updating widgets on the lock screen that OLED would allow for would be amazing.—Sarah Bickerton
See Sarah Bickerton’s review of the 2015 MacBook here.