With the iPhone 6 ready to launch, here's what it needs to succeed

Apple's latest smartphone will be out the doors later this month. But for Apple to succeed it has to appeal to both consumers and business customers. Here's what it has to land with, in order to take off.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
Image: CNET

We have a time, and a place. We don't have the new iPhone 6 yet, but it's on its way -- with its debut set to launch later this month.

Apple on Thursday sent out invites to the media confirming the (previously rumoured) event on September 9. We're expecting to see for the first time the new smartphone. We may also get our first peek at the long awaited wearable, dubbed "iWatch" by pundits.

Apple watchers see this latest launch as the most anticipated release in years. Not least because we're expecting an overhaul to the device's design, but it's also widely slated to be the thread that ties Apple's future yet-to-be-launched ecosystem together.

Why? Because whatever else Apple has up its sleeve, the iPhone will be the single point that brings your health wearable, dubbed the iWatch, and your home automation -- as well as other devices considered part of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution, like bathroom scales, thermostats, and even your car.

At more than half the company's first quarter revenue, Apple is more focused on keeping the iPhone refreshed than any other device it has in its roster. At its last earnings call, the company's iPhone gravy train began to wane.

Here's what Apple has to get out there in order to appease the masses.

A larger, slimmer, more robust design

Image: ZDNet

The iPhone 5s took its inspiration from three iterations before it -- starting with the iPhone 4. Although some improvements have been made (think "Antennagate"), the design of the iPhone 6 is expected to have a similar feel to the iPhone 3GS.

It's not that Apple has stopped innovating, but with much of the same design over four device versions, something has to finally give.

Expect a redesigned device, without Apple going all-out on something crazy, like LG did with the G Flex's curved display. Apple needs to keep things fresh without going overboard. But there's no doubt we'll see something larger in size than the iPhone 5s, perhaps even slimmer and stronger. There have been reports that the iPhone 6 may land with a sapphire screen to make the display less vulnerable to bumps and scratches.

All-day battery life -- this time for real

No matter which way you use your iPhone, many have complained of poor (or less than optimum) battery life. Particularly for business users out of the office, on assignment, or in the field, your smartphone keeps you connected to what's going on at the office.

Battery life has always been a problem for iPhone users -- even when you're running the latest stable version of Apple's iOS software. While most users want their battery to run all day, come rain or shine, more often is the case that by lunchtime your iPhone is back in the dock, charging up for the remainder of the day. That's even sooner if you're a heavy user, or you're in an area with an underdeveloped cell infrastructure.

Apple recently announced an iPhone 5 battery replacement program. Though not every device has suffered, and is not said to affect later iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c devices, it shows even the more recent smartphones have struggled with keeping their power for the full day.

Expect some improvements to the iPhone 6's battery life, but until we see it in person, we won't know how big of a deal it will be.

A larger, but not oversized screen

Apple's screen sized bumped from the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5. And the iPhone user base was better for it. Adding less than half-an-inch to the device's height, a world of new possibilities opened up for those who browsed, emailed, messaged, and video-called on the go.

And while other mobile manufacturers have made the jump to "phablet"-sized devices, Apple has fallen behind. But after months of leaks and rumors, there's enough to suggest that a new sharper, brighter, and larger display will make its debut with the iPhone 6.

Among the latest reports, 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman -- a reliable source of pre-release Apple news -- suggests a new sharper 1704x960 resolution display is in the works. This would give a resolution density of between 356-416 pixels per inch, significantly higher than the 300 pixels per inch limitation of the human retina.

Meanwhile, Apple pundit John Gruber suggests two-sized iPhones may arrive next week, saying there is "too much smoke... for there not to be a fire." He reckons we could see a 4.7-inch display with "double" the Retina resolution, and a 5.5-inch display with three times the resolution of the iPhone 5s.

Recent Apple v. Samsung documentation showed the company was pushing for a larger device to compete with the larger "phablet" range of devices, notably from its main Korean smartphone maker rival.

The key issue here is the "holdability" factor. Can one reasonably hold the new iPhone -- even the 5.5-inch device, comfortably in one hand? Sans a physical keyboard (which Apple would never do, unlike BlackBerry which made its name with its smartphone keyboards), many still text and email with one hand. Can Apple find the size sweet spot without upsetting the masses?

Health and connectivity

Finally, the software. Apple's next iPhone is a tale of two parts: the physical handset, and the software that comes with it.

iOS 8 is packed with a number of new features, building on the successes of iOS 7. Don't expect much to change visually, but it does land with a few productivity punches that aims to make life easier in a number of ways.

Three of the major features are:

Health: One of the major breakthroughs reportedly on deck for the new software is a health-oriented app. It's part of a major push by the Cupertino, Calif.-based company to get into health and fitness tracking. It's reportedly set to include bloodwork, heartrate monitoring, blood pressure -- metrics that have yet to be added to any smartphone -- and other activity, including nutrition intake. Apple has already made some strategic hires in the medical field to fill roles in this division. How this fits into a highly anticipated smartwatch remains unclear -- or if we'll see an "iWatch" wearable this year also remains under wraps.

NFC for mobile payments? The latest reports point to near-field communications (NFC) landing in the next iPhone. Apple missed the beat on NFC, often used for making wireless payments in cabs, coffee shops, and other retail outlets. But with a rumoured software wallet landing in the next version of iOS 8, it's looking increasingly likely that Apple will finally make its debut in the next-generation smartphone. Wireless payments may not benefit most business customers much, but it could help in keeping track of those minor expenses one makes throughout the week.

Touch ID improvements: It's also expected that the fingerprint software will improve significantly, after receiving additional features and updates in the latest iOS 7.1.1 update. The biometric technology may open up to other in-built Apple apps, such as iTunes and authorized mobile payments partners.

Image: CNET

Will it appeal to the enterprise?

At this point, at any point a new iPhone is in the works, the enterprise gets a little giddy. But over the years as Apple has begun to wake up to the growing base of enterprise customers -- particularly the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) users -- the iPhone maker has increasingly had to, and aimed to appease its unintended customer base.

There are a number of improvements for the enterprise customer in iOS 8, which will land when the iPhone 6 is launched, including better mobile device management (MDM), encrypted backups, greater enterprise Wi-Fi support, and complex passcodes.

But most business users won't even use these features. They're for the back-end. At the end of the day, so long as the device itself works well, runs smoothly, lasts for the full day, and comes with the benefits to improve both our home and work lives, Apple's next iPhone should be a success.

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