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Dear Apple: What we want to see in iPhone 4.0, part 2

While the next iPhone is expected sooner this year than in past years, and the hardware design has most likely long since been finalized, it's clear that plenty of you have your own ideas of how you want the next-generation iPhone to look and work. With that in mind, even though the next iPhone's hardware may be a done deal, let's hope Apple uses your suggestions in a future iPhone (or, if they use these suggestions in the upcoming one -- congrats, you guys are genius-level industrial designers!). Remember, these suggestions and desires don't necessarily align with the ideals of better battery life and 3G call performance... it's a wish list, not an engineering manual, and we do realize that reality can easily get in the way of the perfect design.

Just like last time, because there were so many suggestions, I needed to whittle them down. To do that, I tabulated how many times a feature request was made. If more than 40% of you mentioned it, it made it into the letter. A lot of you want to hear the one-off suggestions so I'll add an extra letter onto the series at the end of its run to address those.

Remember, this letter deals only with iPhone hardware. If you made suggestions about any of Apple's built-in apps (Mail, Maps, Stocks, Calendar, etc) you'll see those in the next letter.
Without further ado, I present your letter to Apple:

Dear Apple,

While your hottest competitor
isn't off to the best start, that could change on a dime. Most smartphone users, it seems, use the same apps. So what differentiates the phones? Well, the OS and the hardware. We already addressed the OS. Now let's talk hardware. Here's what we'd love to see:

1. Status indicator light.

90% of us want this. Some of us think a series of green dots (ala the MacBook's battery indicator lights) that flash when we have a new text or voicemail message would be cool, while some of us want a pulsating light like the sleep light on a MacBook. A few of us even think an illuminated Apple logo that pulsates when we've missed a call would be novel. While you may laugh at the last suggestion, it illustrates the fact that we're dying for a status indicator light in some form.

2. A new design casing.

90% of us think the 3G and 3GS are starting to look their age (and hey, in tech, a device that hasn't changed looks in 18 months looks ancient). We want a thinner casing – approaching iPod touch thinness, if possible (a tough request, we know, considering how much room the radios take up in the iPhone). We also want the new iPhone casing to have a look that mimics the industrial design of the aluminum unibody finish on the MacBooks – in other words, we love this mock-up Gizmodo did.

3. Front-facing camera.

80% of us want a front-facing video chat camera. Why? Because 80% of us believe we are good-looking enough that the people we talk to want to see us. It might also be good for conference calls: turn the iPhone to its side and see up to three people on your screen at once.

4. LED flash.

Yeah, 75% of us believe the iPhone blows at taking low-light pictures. It's not exactly unreasonable to ask for a flash on phones nowadays.

5. 5MP+ camera.

70% of us want a new 5MP camera (or above) to go along with that new LED flash.

6. OLED display.

70% of us think the iPhone's 320x480 screen is a little too dainty for today's standards. We want a higher screen resolution to make our text and games pop and we think that higher res should be 480x800 on an OLED display for its clarity, thinness, and battery saving abilities.

7. 64GB storage.

We've downloaded over 3 billion apps. Add those to the video we're now recording on our iPhones, in addition to all our songs and photos, and one thing becomes obvious: 32GB doesn't seem enough anymore. 60% of us ask that you plop 64GB of flash RAM in the next iPhone.

8. 802.11n.

We're dying to have Wi-Fi syncing, but we realize that 802.11g might not be fast enough. 50% of us want faster wireless so we can sit on our couch and sync the latest photos and videos we took with our iPhone to the computer in the den.

9. RFID.

Why? Besides some pretty cool near-object-based interaction, imagine the next iPhone eliminating the need to carry car keys or credit cards. Key fobs and 'smart' credit cards use a type of RFID called Near Field Communication. NFC consumes very little power, so it's attractive to add to mobile phones. Instead of using our keys to enter that new Prius, imagine just having the doors auto-unlock when we get in range of our car, or by launching an app.

Better yet, let us leave our wallets at home. What if Apple teamed with Visa or MasterCard? We download the Visa app and use it to review our purchase right on the screen, then we simply swipe our iPhone at checkout and we're on our way. And we're sure you guys at Apple wouldn't mind take a half percentage point of every transaction too (from the credit card companies, not us!). You've already redefined the music, movie, mobile, and (soon enough) publishing industries. We think the credit card companies could use some Apple ingenuity as well.

10. Multi-touch casing.

This one seemed like a long shot until recent rumors, but 40% of us would like to see some Magic Mouse-type love applied to the iPhone. The iPhone has a lot of surface area that isn't the screen. What if this currently un-utilized area could be transformed into a multi-touch surface? Imagine each side by the home button and speaker slit as a multi-touch area. When playing a video game in landscape mode, this new multi-touch surface could be used as physical buttons for some games, saving the display from your fingers and allowing you to see more of the action on screen.

So there you have it: our suggestions for future iPhone hardware. But we're not done. We've got a lot to say about the iPhone's built-in apps. So get ready, and thanks for listening. You'll be hearing from us again soon.

Sincerely,

The loyal readers and iPhone owners of TUAW.


TUAW Readers: The next letter will be published one week from today, on Sunday 1/24. We'll be telling Apple what we want from the next iPhone's built-in apps. So if you have any suggestions for the next version of Mail, Calendar, Messages, Phone, iPod, Photos, Camera, Stocks, YouTube, Maps, Weather, Voice Memos, Notes, Clock, Calculator, or Compass (whew!) email me at tuawiphone [at] me dot com (by mid-day, Friday, January 22nd at the latest)!

A big thanks to the 1500+ of you who contributed to this article. 'White iPhone' credit: Rodolphe Desmare.

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