Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) may not have resulted in an iPhone announcement, but it did provide the next best thing: a detailed look at iOS 6.
It won't be released until spring, and will only work on the iPhone 3GS and the models after that, but a lot of iOS 6 will be welcomed by any iPhone owner.
New versions of mobile software (be it iOS or Android) can often be as feature packed and exciting as a new phone model, and frequently kick a lot of new value down to older hardware.
The question is: can we look into the new features of iOS 6 to peer upstream at what Apple's next iPhone might be like? We'll try. Here are our best guesses.
Passbook doesn't introduce much that isn't already available via other apps, but it's Apple's first baked-in commitment to digital ticket/coupon/account consolidation. The ability to add QR codes and other frequent-user cards may sound small, but if Apple can help pull the general public into using the iPhone as a digital wallet, then this could be the first step towards unlocking NFC and other swipe-to-pay functions in the next iPhone.
Obviously, the next iPhone will have 4G LTE. FaceTime will support cellular calls, seemingly just in time for these new 4G iPhones. Will FaceTime also support 3G calls? It should, since Skype already does.
Siri and eyes free: the new Siri
Last year, Siri was packaged as one of the main selling points of the new iPhone. This year, expect an improved, more integrated Siri and eyes-free voice-control integration in certain cars as another new selling point. Some may have burned Siri's lack of responsiveness or utility in the past, but it seems that Apple is set on making Siri indispensable.
Don't underestimate this feature. Apple's move to own turn-by-turn navigation, rather than offloading the responsibility to an app, makes the iPhone (and third-gen iPad) a true navigation device right out of the box. Some of the iPhone's new features, like Siri, have recently been more about software than hardware. Imagine Apple's new TV ads focused on lost people finding their way, and so on.
A larger screen?
Apple's new Maps app has impressive 3D flyover effects that could do with a bigger screen. Maybe this and Safari's new offline reading list feature could point the way to the new iPhone being touted as "better for reading" or "better for navigation". A new screen is well overdue; most of the Android and Windows 7 phone landscape has long since adopted larger displays. Apple would be playing catch-up to the rest of the big-screen phone industry.