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Imagining the iPhone 5: What will it take for Apple to set the bar yet again?

imagining the iphone 5 apple announcement september 12

Full Coverage From Apple's 9/12 iPhone 5 Launch EventThe last couple of weeks have brought a flurry of new device announcements. We’ve had the Galaxy Note 2, the Galaxy Camera, and a surprise line of Windows 8 releases, including the first Windows Phone 8 device, the ATIV S, from Samsung. We’ve had a new line of Nokia smartphones running Windows Phone 8 and trumpeting amazing camera capabilities (shame about this), wireless charging, and augmented reality mapping. We’ve seen the new super-charged Droid Razr family from Motorola, the first fruits of its labor since the Google acquisition. Amazon rounded off the week with its new Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, an improved Kindle Fire, and the impressive 7-inch and 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD tablets.

When the dust settles it will be Apple’s turn.

The Apple event is set for Wednesday, September 12 ,and there’s a clear hint in the invitation that the main event will be the iPhone 5. Of course, that’s what everyone has been expecting anyway, and the rumor mill has been grinding on this one since before the iPhone 4S. So what can we expect from the mighty Apple? How is the new iPhone going to beat the latest competition?

Samsung just announced that its Android flagship the Samsung Galaxy S3 has sold 20 million units in 100 days. Apple will want to best that, and it would prefer to do so by selling a lot of iPhone 5 units, rather than by securing a sales ban on the S3 (although it is pursuing that strategy too).

Here’s what we think is in store.

A big display

The 3.5-inch display on the current iPhone is starting to look awfully small compared to the competition. Those sales figures for the Galaxy S3, which sports a 4.8-inch display, suggest people want bigger screens. Every major manufacturer is jumping on the “bigger is better” bandwagon, and they aren’t scrimping on the resolution either. Big HD screens are becoming the norm.

Rumors are universally backing a bigger screen, and the general consensus is that it will be somewhere above 4 inches. Why not really push the boat out and go for a true HD display that blows the competition out of the water? How about a 5-inch display? If it was thin enough with an edge-to-edge screen, then it wouldn’t be too big. It could even have an optional iPen and steal the Galaxy Note 2’s thunder. Maybe that’s going a bit too far, but think of the kudos Apple enjoyed because of the Retina display. It needs to hit the same heights again.

A sexy body

This is a given. The new iPhone has to spark desire in the eye of the beholder. Even Apple-haters should be harboring some secret fantasies deep within about getting their hands on that slim, perfectly formed design. We can expect the svelte factor to be top of the list. Thinner looks better, and it’s more comfortable in the pocket. Apple has always gone for thin in its products, so you’d expect it to shoot for that coveted “slimmest smartphone” title for the new iPhone.

imagining iphone 5 tim cook apple september 12 announcement

A gorgeous design is about more than just being slim, though. If Apple really wants to step things up, it needs to release something truly eye-catching. How about ditching the physical button and pushing the screen closer to the edge? Or something really dramatic, like a translucent iPhone, or some level of flexibility? A taller version of the same old design won’t be turning heads. We need to see something new.

Battery power and wireless charging

Motorola bet big on battery power with the new Razr line, including a 3,300 mAh battery in the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD, which is enough to power a small space station. Nokia went for wireless charging in the Windows Phone 8 line-up, for casual convenience. Whatever way you look at it, more power is in demand, especially with 4G LTE networks spreading.

The new iPhone needs enough power to get through a busy day without requiring a recharge. It would be a good idea to offer wireless charging as well. A combination of a long-lasting battery and wireless charging would be a real incentive for prospective buyers. A same-sized or only slightly bigger iPhone battery would be a disappointment, because it would probably represent a reduction in the amount of use you could get between charges, especially if 4G LTE and a bigger screen are featured.

Capturing life’s precious moments

Smartphones have already pushed dedicated point-and-shoot cameras to the back of the closet. All the top smartphone manufacturers are now trying to move towards supplying genuine DSLR alternatives. Most people are happy with the high-resolution shots they can capture with their smartphones, and onboard tools and filters are making smartphone cameras ever more attractive. They’re even making a play to replace video cameras with true HD video recording, and a host of features that would have set you back a small fortune in a dedicated device just a few years ago.

iphone camera apple september 12 announcement iphone 5 imagining

Apple has provided good quality iPhone cameras in the past, but the iPhone 5 needs to step things up again. The competition is fierce. We could see a jump to a 12-megapixel camera, but what may prove to be just as important are the onboard options to make editing and sharing as easy as possible. Microsoft is making a lot of noise about its WP8 “lenses” app, and the latest Nokia camera specs are impressive. Many of the Android smartphones on the market now have higher spec cameras than the iPhone 4S, but then Apple has always gotten more out of its hardware and the iOS platform is the richest in terms of photography apps.

Tech specs

The specifics of the new iPhone processor won’t matter to most people as long as it offers a silky smooth experience. Support for 4G LTE seems inevitable. Apple should really adopt NFC as well, because mobile payments are getting a big push, and that’s not a market it will want to be left out of. Strong rumors of a new dock connector are really about making space inside for other components. The jump to 1GB of RAM also seems likely.

Doubling up? What’s the wild card?

In the recent trial against Samsung, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, said of the iPhone “Each new generation sold approximately equal to all previous generations combined.” If Apple expects that trend to hold up with the iPhone 5, it needs something else, something to really wow people, a wild card.

Can the new Apple maps provide something special? Will it bring augmented reality into the mix? Are we going to see dramatic improvements to Siri? What is the killer feature that will drive iPhone sales? Because if we’re just talking about a bigger screen, a specs tweak, and the addition of LTE, how can Apple claim the new iPhone is on the cutting edge?