10 Features Apple's iPhone 4G Must Have

NEWS ANALYSIS: The iPhone is standing atop the mobile phone space, but consumers and enterprise customers are hoping for more from Apple's next iteration of the device. Here, eWEEK takes a look at some of the features the new iPhone should have before it hits store shelves later this year.

As summer gets closer, the entire tech industry is waiting to see what Apple will unveil for its fourth-generation iPhone. Apple has already shown what it plans to do with the iPhone's software going forward, but when it comes to the actual iPhone hardware, the company has been tight-lipped, allowing tech pundits to speculate on what may or may not find its way to the product. Because of that, several people are making predictions on what the fourth-generation iPhone will offer. Some industry insiders stick with easy predictions, like a front-facing camera, while others say Apple will totally revamp the iPhone's design.
In either case, what Apple has planned for the iPhone this summer remains unknown. However, that won't stop us from highlighting some features the next iteration of the iPhone should offer. The iPhone 3G and 3GS are fine products in their own right. But they do need to be improved upon.
Let's take a look at 10 features that the next-gen iPhone needs.
1. Apple's aluminum design
As the iPad has shown, Apple can make its familiar aluminum design work with a mobile product. Some have said that the aluminum backing on the iPad is hindering its WiFi abilities, which might make Apple think twice about an aluminum iPhone. But whether or not that's true is decidedly up for debate. Apple's design decisions over the past few years have brought it to an all-aluminum strategy. A nice, aluminum finish on the iPhone would be a welcome addition.
2. Front-facing camera
It might sound like the obvious choice, but a front-facing iPhone camera is a must-have. The biggest hardware issue with the iPhone right now is that users can't point the iPhone towards them and snap a picture without reaching around the device to do so. It's a pain. Plus, with the potential ability of having a Webcam chat with the iPhone, a front-facing camera would be a necessity. Years ago, offering a single camera on the back of a device was fine. But that's standard nowadays. If Apple wants to push its products forward, delivering a dual-camera iPhone is a great first step.
3. A flash for that camera
Try snapping a picture with the iPhone in a dark room or at night. Notice anything? Yeah, there isn't a flash, which means it's practically useless at night. That can be fixed without a hitch in the next iteration of the iPhone. With the addition of a flash, the iPhone can finally be used as a camera alternative all hours of the day and night. It might not sound like a big deal to some, but for the vast majority of teenagers and twenty-somethings using the iPhone, having a fully functioning camera in their hands at all times is a nice option.
4. A better mic
Trying to have a conversation with someone over the iPhone's speakerphone can be difficult. In my experience with the device, I've been forced to hold it close to my mouth just so the person on the other end can hear what I'm trying to say. A better mic with some noise-cancellation technology could go a long way in improving the iPhone's appeal. Such an addition is especially important to enterprise users who sometimes rely on a device's speakerphone to get through the day. The better the mic, the better the speakerphone, the more the device might appeal to enterprise customers. It's a win-win for Apple.
5. An improved display
The iPhone's display is beautiful. It's fully capable of displaying videos in high fidelity, making it one of the best displays in the mobile market. But that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be updated. Speculation abounds that Apple is planning to offer an improved display with higher resolution to make video and other content look even better on the device. It's certainly not the most important feature Apple should be bringing to the iPhone, but anytime a new display can be added to a device without any major change in price, it should be done.

For a look at iPhone OS 4.0 unveiling, please click here.

6. Better battery life
The iPhone's battery life is surprisingly good when one considers how poor the battery life is on some of the competition, like the Palm Pre. At the same time, it's not good enough. It's understandable that Apple would have some trouble with the iPhone's battery life, considering all that it does and all that users do on it, but the company needs to deliver better battery life in the next iteration of the device. Steve Jobs doesn't need to double the iPhone's current battery life (although it would be nice), but a 25 percent to 50 percent increase should satisfy most current iPhone owners.
7. A flat back
It's a small gripe, but the iPhone's current back just isn't all that convenient. The next iteration of the iPhone should feature that aluminum backing discussed earlier, but also offer a regular flat back. For most people, sitting the iPhone on a desk is standard practice. But with its current design, users need to worry about it more than they would with a standard, flat back. It's not a major issue, but a flat back would make the iPhone a bit more secure on a table. And considering how expensive that is, some folks might want that extra security.
8. Even more storage
One of the best things about the iPhone is that users can store content, like music, podcasts, television shows, and movies on the device. The only issue with the iPhone is that sometimes, folks who have loads of songs and video can't get all their content onto the iPhone. Going forward, Apple should offer more storage in its smartphone. Since storage costs are dropping at a significant rate, Apple should be able to increase the storage on its iPhone at an affordable price. Sorry, Apple, but 32GB just won't cut it anymore.
9. Tethering
Tethering might not be an Apple issue, since AT&T is still dragging its feet with tethering coming to the iPhone, but it's a must-have in the fourth generation of the mobile phone. Part of the reason why the enterprise is still sticking with BlackBerry devices is the ability to use the BlackBerry as a modem on employee laptops. The importance of tethering cannot be understated. With it, enterprise users will know that as long as there is a 3G connection available, they can use the iPhone to be productive while sitting in an airport, or while stuck in traffic. If Apple does anything over the next year, it needs to apply pressure on AT&T to get tethering on the device.
10. A fully operational iPhone OS 4.0
When the iPhone 4G ships, it should be running Apple's recently announced iPhone OS 4.0. So far, no one has gotten their hands on the revamped software, but it looks to be a major improvement over iPhone OS 3.0. A key component in the new software version is multitasking. Finally, iPhone owners will be able to run applications simultaneously, rather than be forced to close an app to get to another. As nice as that is, it better work well on the iPhone 4G. Consumers might want several different additions to the iPhone, but without the improved software, it won't have the same appeal. If Apple wants the iPhone 4G to be successful, a fully operational iPhone OS 4.0 is a must.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...