Another September, another iPhone event. As the years have passed, the announcement of a new device has become less and less thrilling. Do you remember when the first iPhone came out? That was exciting! We realized the dream of a mobile computer — we learned about apps! Sure, the most recent generation of the iPhone is many, many times better than the original (lol at how crazy app icons look and how giant text font size was!), but each time a new device is presented, our wonder at it is lessened. We are simply jaded by the availability of technology.
So what, exactly, would Apple have to introduce at the September 7 iPhone event to recapture some of that awe factor? What new software or hardware feature would be able to curry some wide-eyed fascination?
Shea Serrano: This might, in some kind of way, through some kind of prism, from some point of view, with some amount of haze, sound ridiculous, or possibly ignorant, or possibly stupid, or possibly offensive, but: I like internet fight videos. I find them very compelling. They are sometimes sad, sometimes furious, sometimes vicious, sometimes hilarious. So if you ask me, “Shea, what’s the no. 1 thing the new iPhone could have that would make you purchase it the very first day,” the answer is easy, because it’s the same wish I’ve had for going on four years now: I want a feature on it that will let me insert a fight clip via Vine (or a fight clip via Instagram) and then that feature locates the full video on the internet. There’s nothing I dislike more than watching just six seconds of a fight. Where’s the context? Where’s the build-up? Where’s the character development? Do you know what’s better than a six-second fight clip? A seven-second one. Or an eight-second one. Or nine seconds. On and on. So give me that. Give me a feature that hunts down the full videos from which Vine (and Instagram) clips have been taken.
Ben Lindbergh: Realistically, there’s nothing Apple could do to convert a dyed-in-the-wool Android lifer like me. Unrealistically, though? A nuclear-powered iPhone, forever freed from its tether to the wall, might make me consider the smartphone switch. Explain this to me: We can use radioactive decay to send a space probe out of the solar system and keep Mark Watney warm while he snacks on pooptatoes, but we can’t use it to save Siri?
[Googles some science stuff]
OK, so maybe that makes sense: We’re running out of the proper plutonium, and radioactive material is somewhat safer (and less regulation-restricted) in space. Plus, you try telling the marketing team that it has to push a product whose power source has a half-life. Still, there’s some precedent here: We used to use nuclear-powered pacemakers, and nuclear battery technology has advanced since then. Making it safe, small, and affordable enough for a mass-produced phone would require some serious resources, but Apple has time, money, and the ultimate motivator: a montage of every scene from Steve Jobs in which developers do their best work after being bullied and berated.
Sure, the prospect of a phone that never needs to be charged sounds far-fetched. But not as far-fetched as, say, using an iOS device as an external hard drive without downloading an app. That’s science fiction.
Chris Almeida: A headphone jack.
Molly McHugh: This is so hard. I am so worn out by the iPhone cycle that it’s incredibly difficult to think about a feature that would get me waiting online at midnight to order a new model. (I will not be ordering the new model anytime soon; my 6s is going to hold out for at least another year, thanks.) I don’t need a bigger screen or a dual camera. Honestly, the only thing I can think of that would really change my world has more to do with carrier data plans. Offer me some free video and music streaming policies and you’ll have my attention!
That’s how boring this has gotten.
Alyssa Bereznak: How many good iPhone owners of the world have found themselves six tabs deep into a “iphone water damage” Google search, frantically searching for a box of rice in their cupboard? Too many! There are over a billion Apple devices actively in use, and each day they are threatened with a watery death, whether it be by monsoon, toilet-drop, spilled beer, or someone’s friend thinking it’d be cute to push them in the pool. If Apple spent less time developing stuff like selfie shortcuts and more time safeguarding its fragile devices from an element that covers 71 percent of the planet, we would all be a lot less broke from replacing iPhones. Not to mention, the company could have also saved an early draft of The Life of Pablo. And I don’t want to hear any of that Jony Ive–esque “but it would compromise the beauty of the design” nonsense. Both Samsung and Motorola have made water-resistant phones that look very nice. It is possible. So please, Apple, make it happen.
Victor Luckerson: I want double the battery life. There is such a thing as “great enough,” and the iPhone reached that plateau with the 6. The camera is capable, the screen is vibrant, the apps are snappy, the device is mind-bogglingly thin. I’d be fine with a device that had identical capabilities and double the battery life (make it thicker if you must — the iPhone 4s was a thing of chunky beauty). All the whiz-bang features in the world are worthless when your phone is doomed to be an aesthetically striking paperweight if you forget to charge it for a single night. We didn’t used to live like this. You had to make a concerted effort at irresponsibility to drain an old flip phone. I get that the iPhone is doing a lot more than a Razr, but the device also has been around for nearly a decade now. How about providing an experience that won’t leave me cautiously scouting outlet locations half the time I’m out? That would be revolutionary.
Kate Knibbs: So I moved to New York last year, and every time I have a visitor come to town, and we walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or wander around SoHo, they ask me about all the buildings. “Is that the Empire State Building?” they ask. “No,” I say, but I don’t know which building it is. I am silenced by my own ignorance of urban architectural history. It’s horrible.
What I’m saying is that there should be a Shazam for buildings. If I could point my phone at a building and then my phone would identify the building and tell me a colorful anecdote from its history, I’d be thrilled, and also a very impressive tour guide. So if the new iPhone had an app that was only exclusive to that particular phone, I would definitely be inclined to buy it.
Other than that, my phone has a nice camera and gets all the apps, so I don’t really care about upgrading.