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Be honest, the latest phone is a little underwhelming, no? 

I mean, a slightly thinner, longer, design? A new connector? A new mapping app? Come on, Apple, even dorky old Nokia had wireless charging and mitten-friendly screens. 

I’m not knocking the iPhone5, honest. It’s probably still the best smartphone out there (especially if you’ve already downloaded a bunch of non-free iOS apps), but with so many other big hardware and software companies greedily eyeing a slice of the smartphone market—and trying to conjure up mobile devices that’ll dazzle and amaze users—I think Apple needs to go after some bigger innovations and ideas.

Here are a few that things the Cupertino wizards could consider when they start drawing up plans for the iPhone 6, or 7.

A Predictive Personal Assistant

Sure, Siri is far from perfect, and she gets easily befuddled. But Apple should keep pushing the idea of a voice-activated intelligent personal assistant—towards software that not only responds to your needs but tries to predict them.

Say you’re running late for an appointment. Such an assistant, with access to all of the information collected and stored on your smartphone, might email the person you’re scheduled to meet to send apologies in advance. Or say you just made dinner plans with a friend. Having listened in to the call, it might show you a few restaurant reservation slots as soon as you finished the call.

It’s a concept that both academics and industry experts see as having huge potential (see “Where Speech Recognition is Going” and “Three Questions for Patti Maes”) and it could transform the computer interface as we know it. And you can see that it’s starting to gain some traction among software makers (see “Getting Your Phone to Give you a Hand”).

Better Batteries

Battery innovation has been painfully slow and, meanwhile, devices are getting more powerful and power-hungry all the time. We’re still subjected to regular and lengthy plug-ins just to keep our devices running and, while undoubtedly convenient, wireless charging hardly seems like a real game-charger (see “Wireless Charging—Has it’s Time Finally Arrived”).

Completely new battery chemistry could be the answer. Apple might take a close look at the solid state batteries developed by Ann Marie Sastry’s startup Sakti3 (see “Solid State Batteries”). Although still some way from commercialization, the technology promises to significantly boost battery density and prolong the amount of time power-guzzling mobile devices last between charges.

Cloud-powered Software Streaming

Faster wireless networks make it possible to artificially boost the power of a mobile device by offloading processing power to the cloud.

The approach has been pioneered by OnLive (see “Cloud Streaming”), which offers ways to play advanced games and run other computationally-intensive software on a tablet computer by having all the hard stuff take place on a remote cloud server.

Amazon also uses this technique, to a small degree, with the Web browser on its Fire tablet (see “Amazon Fire: A Cloud-Powered Contender”). It could enable Apple to change the rules of the game and make its devices more powerful without having to pack ever faster, and more power-hungry, processors into them.

Mobile TV

The trusty television is ripe for a revolution and Apple quite obviously has a plan in that area. But perhaps this could include bringing live and on-demand TV to the iPhone as well as the living room. As well as being able to program and control your television with your smartphone, it’d be cool to be able to watch your favorite shows on the go.

As wireless networks get faster, Apple might even exploit its wireless reach to cut out those pesky cable guys. Heck, with its cash reserves, it could even afford to buy a wireless carrier if it needed to deliver in order to focus on delivering content over the air. 

..

What do you think? Do these make sense, or should Apple do something else? Let me know what I missed in the comments below.

7 comments. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Computing

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