I genuinely enjoy using iPhone hardware and iOS, and Apple's phones have been my phone of choice since iPhone 3G. However, I have never been more open to purchasing an Android phone. This is due in large part to: how I use my phone today, the availability of very good Android hardware that may better fit my usage style, and how good Android OS has become. With this in mind, I've been thinking about a few non-negotiables, that if absent from the next iPhone(s), would push me toward an Android phone.
SCREEN (SIZE & PIXEL DENSITY)
Over the years, my phone usage ratio for 'reading and texting'/ 'speaking', has shifted from about 30/70 respectively, to about 85/15 today. Therefore, screen size and quality is the big non-negotiable - the area where my envy is at its height. Currently, I use an iPhone 5. The retina display is good at 326 ppi and makes reading text on screen way less of a chore than before its inception.
But have you seen some of the larger display Android phones?
In a word, some are 'stunning', sometimes bearing resolutions or pixel density that dwarf that of the iPhone’s retina display. Displays on the Nexus 5 (5” 1080p HD/445 ppi), the HTC One M8 (5” 1080p HD/441 ppi), and the Samsung Galaxy S5 (5.1” 1080p HD/432 ppi) don’t just look great, they look incredible. Going forward I’ll refer to these phones collectively as Nexonaxy - one of which is likely to be my first Android phone if I make the leap.
I admit it. I used to tease every one I knew with a Galaxy Note, or even a Nexonaxy sized phone for "essentially carrying an LCD TV in their pocket" (my go-to line). Now here I am riddled with jealousy. This is by far my biggest must have. I won't get a new iPhone unless it has at least a 5” screen. I'm a bit more flexible on improvement to resolution, but will not buy any phone where there is a decrease pixel density from iPhone 5.
My second contingency is battery life, which is a natural byproduct of a larger phone chassis. My iPhone usually lasts through the day. However, this is due in large part to my cars charging dock. I've noticed that when I travel outside of my own automobile, which usually also increases phone usage (podcasts, web surfing, and office software), battery life becomes a bit of a concern. I've read reputable reviews that suggests the iPhone 5s’ battery life is slightly worse than that of iPhone 5; this is a deal breaker when purchasing my next phone. I would like to see a significant improvement in battery life - at least a day and a half, even for a power user. A larger phone chassis means the potential for improvement is there, and a lack thereof may result in a check in the Nexonaxy column.
One of the questions, a person who only reads a portion of this post may ask is: "if you have all these complaints about iPhone why not get an Android or Windows phone?" One Answer is iOS and Apple's ecosystem. I've been purchasing iTunes music for many years. I've purchased tons of Apps. Although syncing to a computer is currently days-of-future-past type stuff, OS X is still my main operating system. As such, like millions of other people I'm tied to the Apple ecosystem. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and I chose to be. Over the years Apple’s operating and eco systems have been safe, very stable, and highly efficient. Therefore, improvement (design & functionality refinement, stability, lessening user interaction delay etc.) to iOS isn't a deal breaker for me in the same way screen size and battery life are. It's more of what seals the deal.
I'm rooting for Jony Ive to make iOS 8 the best version ever, while controlling my expectations. Ive's a brilliant designer, but iOS is obviously more than interface "design", and even if it was only about design, so far some usability/design elements leave a lot to be desired. For example, have you ever counted how many times you have to touch your phone in the messages app to call to the person you are currently texting? It's too many. Since iOS 7 mostly implements visual changes as opposed to code base changes, it is puzzlingly that it is not as solid as iOS 6. I think I would qualify as a 'power user'; I use iOS heavily, daily, often for productivity. I've noticed a few chinks in its armor, and I'm hoping/expecting iOS 8, to be as stable as iOS 6. This seems like a fair expectation - maybe bring back Scott Forstall from swimming in his Scrooge McDuck money bin. Maybe have us, the Apple consumer apologize to him for Maps? Ok, that may be wee bit much.
The point is, we can't all always get along, and agitation can be a good thing. In law school my study group often prepared for the more brutal exams by arguing almost to blows about some arcane legal theory. Our final product (in-class exams, briefs etc.) was all the better for it, and our grades often reflected that it was well worth the animosity. I rant to simply say that iOS has little room for error. Google's Kit Kat is really good... even if the edible chocolate candy product isn't.
SILICON & CAMERA
Currently, Apple has a 64-bit desktop class processor shoehorned into iPhone 5s and iPad Air. It would be great if next iteration was even more of a power-sipper (perhaps a 20nm move from the current 28nm). However, I'm not concerned with an increase in CPU performance - the iPhone 5S and iPad Air fly. Similarly, 2Gb of LPDDR4 RAM would be nice, but my iPhone 5 is still pretty smooth. Needless to say, I'm just not worried about specs when it comes to Apple's phones. No current generation iPhone has been a slouch compared to its competition - quite the opposite. I’m convinced that many Android fanboys who point purely to tech specs as a reason to shirk the iPhone, would stop doing so if they used a current generation iPhone for a day. They would at least move to other (perhaps more legitimate) reasons to avoid the iPhone.
Continuing the theme from above, my iPhone 5 camera is still pretty good, and the iPhone 5S camera carries significant improvements. After taking a few photos on a 5S, I'm fine with any camera in iPhone 6 so long as there is no regression from 5S. Similar to most people, I have no need for a 20 mega pixel space hog image capturer - I only plan on purchasing a 64Gb phone folks. A little more control, if you are knowledgeable about photography may be a welcome improvement for some people, but not for me. The stock iPhone settings are excellent. I am much more concerned with photo management or post point and shoot improvements.
Immediately, I would like to see increased iCloud storage at the free level starting with the next iPhone. Storage parity or mirroring[i] may not be a reasonable request as devices reach higher capacities since Apple’s business model is sufficiently different from Google’s. Still, 5Gb of storage is just too little. I was just in Gmail where I saw this message: “4.76 GB (31%) of 15 GB used”. Yes, we now have 15Gb of storage included with a free Google/Gmail account. It would be great if Apple matched Google's efforts by including at least 15Gb of storage with the purchase of any iOS device.
Additionally, control over iCloud and usefulness could be improved. Simple modifications could go a long way. For example, smarter albums from within which you can take pictures would be a huge improvement. One way this could work is by having a "turn on iCloud" prompt (toggle or the like) when you go to add a new album; perhaps placed in the same dialog box in which you are asked to "enter a new Album name". Taking photos from within an album where iCloud was turned on could trigger auto-backup-to-iCloud. Think of taking photos from within your “Baby pics” album and knowing they're safe. Anything taken in an album without such a setting would of course only be stored locally.
Alternatively, a highly efficient version of Faces could be used, where iOS stores pictures of certain people automatically or once set. If well implemented this could be a great feature. Imagine your phone recognizing your wife or child, and automatically backing up that photo. Then consider that Siri over time knows your close relations and can be used to not only tag your wife and others as contacts, but also recognize their contact pictures, and automatically back up to iCloud pictures you snap of certain people. If done well, this would be quite a useful feature of iCloud. It would be really cool if an album popped up along with contact information when I say: "Siri, show me my wife".
The space grey iPhone 5S is beautiful. The iPhone 5C feels great to hold. I hope Apple can combine these two attributes perfectly for iPhone 6. Additionally, shaving off a few millimeters off thickness will make the phone look that much more refined, but iPhones are still frontrunners in chassis design in their current iteration. Of course I would love to see some type of self-healing ultra light and durable liquid metal chassis. That is likely but a beautiful dream, as I have a very strong feeling we'll be seeing liquid metal first used by Apple in their impending watch. Checkout the video below and tell me that you do not feel the same.
All in all, my must haves if I am to purchase an iPhone 6 are: (1) a bigger Screen, without decrease in pixel density, (2) true all day battery life even for a power user, (3) improvement of iOS stability to at least that of iOS 6[ii]. We’ll see what happens, I’m overdue for an upgrade.
i. Storage parity or mirroring is matching your iCloud space with the whatever capacity your iOS device comes with. For example, if you purchase a 64gb iPhone, your iCloud storage would also 64gb at the free level.
ii. Improvement to stability is not quite a "must have" so much as it would seal the deal, since iOS is still quite stable and I am well locked into the Apple ecosystem (by choice).