iPhone 6: Four things we need, but may not get

Maybe the new iPhone 6 will be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that doesn't mean Apple still doesn't have a lot of basics that need fixing.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

I live in a mixed household. I use a Samsung Galaxy S5, my wife uses an iPhone 5s. Half of my friends use Android phones, the other half use iPhones.

The iPhone 6 may be bigger, but will it be fundamentally better?

So, I know both worlds. Unlike some knee-jerk smartphone fans, I can see there's a lot of good in both major smartphone families. And, I can also see that it looks like the iPhone 6 will have lots of neat, new features.

Here's my fundamental problem with the iPhone. Over the years I keep seeing the same old blunders appearing over and over again in the iPhone line and its supporting software. So, excuse me if I can't get as excited as some people do about the iPhone 6 and its top-of-the-line 5.5-inch display. For me to really excited about iPhones, I want Apple to once and for all take care of the following issues.

1) Better Security

My colleague Larry Seltzer is inclined to give Apple a pass for its iPhone security. And, it is true that by making the App Store a walled garden you'll find far less crapware and malware on iPhones than you will on Android or Windows phones.

That said, I don't trust iCloud, which is the iPhone's default backup for all your files, photos, contacts and the kitchen sink. It's not just me. Christopher Mims of the Wall Street Journal said that security experts were "aghast that Apple has long left users of its iCloud backup service for iPhone so vulnerable." (paywall link)

They have reason to be. Apple's iCloud security failure was incredibly stupid. Sure, Apple's done a good job of patching iOS itself and keeping the bad apps out, but without good cloud security none of that means much. Frankly, besides this latest security foul-up, I've found iCloud to be easily the most annoying of all the popular consumer cloud programs. There's always something going wrong with it. 

The iPhone is just the visible tip of the Apple iceberg and unless the entire system is secure, it's still vulnerable to disasters.

2) An end to Wi-Fi woes

For as long as I've known people who owned iPhones, I've been trying to fix their Wi-Fi problems. You think it would be simple. All iPhones in a given model are identical, they all run basically the same operating system, but somehow with every major and minor upgrade there comes a new wave of Wi-Fi connection problems.

Just do a Google search on "Wi-Fi Apple iPhone problem" and watch the discussion threads march down your screen. I don't understand how this can happen since Apple controls the entire Wi-Fi stack on its phones; but it does, and I'm sick of it.

You might think that the soon to be released iOS 8 would fix this once and for all. It hasn't. Several of my friends are using the beta on their phones and I've been using it on my 5th generation iPod touch and guess what? We've been having trouble.

Oh, and by the way, if your business is using media access control (MAC) filtering on your Wi-Fi network to help keep out intruders, iOS 8 randomizes your MAC address so you can look forward to have trouble logging into your office network. This is one of those "mixed" blessings. On the one hand, MAC randomizing helps make you harder to track when you're using public Wi-Fi access; it also does make using some business networks much harder.

3) Better battery  life

This time — No! Really! — Apple promises that the iPhone 6 will have an all-day battery life. Yeah, and I believe I can buy the Brooklyn Bridge for a buck seventy-three.

Apple was forced recently to announce an iPhone 5 battery replacement program because some phones came with bad batteries. I won't be shocked if the new, larger iPhone has even greater battery life problems than its forebears.

This isn't an Apple conspiracy to get you to buy new gadgets. It's just that Apple has never done a great job with its batteries and we keep expecting more than Apple has been able to deliver.

The good news is there are many things you can do to get better battery life from your iPhone. The bad news is you have to jump through so many hoops to get better battery life.

4) Fix iTunes or kill it

There may be a more annoying program on the face of the Earth than iTunes, but I'm not sure what it would be. What's that? ITunes isn't part of the iPhone? Isn't it though?

True, you no longer need to plug your iDevice into iTunes before it will work, but iTunes is still Apple's do-everything media player, app and media store, and a sync manager. And, whether I run iTunes on a Mac or a Windows PC, I find it growing ever slower with every release and more prone to crash. This in turn makes it ever harder to keep my iGadgets and my media files in sync with each other. In theory, iCloud and iTunes Match should make this a non-issue. It hasn't.

Someday I hope to have all my media co-ordinated among my PCs, Macs and iGadgets but, PC/Mac-centric iTunes isn't the answer. If Apple is serious about the cloud as the universal glue for their devices and your information, they need a cloud-centric application. Of course, Apple also needs to get iCloud working properly to make that happen. They'd better do it because iTunes needs to be replaced.

To buy or not to buy

So, Apple, fix those problems and I'll consider buying an iPhone.

Nah, who am I kidding! I hate the idea of being locked into one company and that's exactly what Apple demands of its customers. But I would, at least, be a lot more tempted than I am now.

As for those of who are salivating already for a new iPhone, I can't stop you, but if your security proves shaky, your Wi-Fi out of order, your battery life short, and you still have trouble syncing your computers and phones, well, welcome to life with an iPhone: Same as it ever was. 

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