OPINION: Assuming the rumours are true, we already have a pretty good idea of what Apple's new iPhones will look like and what their key features will be.
But I'm still hoping for a few pleasant surprises.
According to the rumours, Apple is slated to unveil two new iPhone models at its media event this week: a flagship model dubbed the iPhone 5S and a less expensive model called the iPhone 5C.
The iPhone 5C will be made of plastic and come in a variety of colours. The iPhone 5S, meanwhile, will resemble last year's iPhone 5, but will come in one additional colour - gold - and will include a fingerprint reader that owners will likely be able to use to secure their phone or make payments without needing to enter passwords. It will also likely have a faster processor and better camera than its predecessor.
I'm eager to test both phones and, as an iPhone user, am excited about iOS 7, which will come installed on the new phones. I'm also interested to see how Apple uses the new fingerprint reader.
But I'm also hoping against hope that Apple has made some more mundane improvements to its phones - or at least has upgrades on the schedule for next year. Here are some things I'd like to see:
❏ Better battery life. Apple promises 8 to 10 hours of talk time or internet use on the iPhone 5, but I find it hard to believe that anyone really gets that much. My iPhone 5 rarely makes it through a day without needing a charge, and if I play a game or two or use its turn-by-turn navigation feature, it typically needs to be recharged much sooner than that.
Theoretically, I could get better battery life by more actively managing my phone, such as turning off the Bluetooth radio when I'm not using it or shutting off its push-mail feature. But much of the appeal of the iPhone is that it's supposed to make such things simple, and I don't want to have to figure out what will extend my battery life. Apple ought to do that for me - or offer a device whose battery truly can endure an entire day of use.
Apple's rivals have already figured this out. Motorola's new Moto X, for example, promises up to 24 hours of use.
❏ Bigger screen. This is something that almost certainly won't be a feature of either of the new iPhones. I'm hoping, though, that Apple will include it in the iPhone 6.
True, the iPhone 5 had a bigger screen than its predecessors, but it's still much smaller than those of its rivals. That means it can't display as much information and graphics, and text can be smaller and harder to see.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of jumbo phones; I generally agree with Apple that it's important to have a phone that's easy to use with one hand. Samsung's Galaxy Note, with it whopping 5.5-inch screen, fails that test. But many of the larger-screen phones are about as thin as the iPhone and only slightly wider, making them much easier to handle than the Galaxy Note.
And phones with larger screen typically have an added bonus: room to fit a bigger and longer-lasting battery.
❏ More storage space, less cost. I asked for this last year. Here's hoping Apple finally listens.
Apple has offered the past four iPhones in at least two basic models: a 16-gigabyte version for US$200 and a 32-gigabyte version for US$300, both with a two-year wireless service contract. With the two most recent iPhones, Apple also offered a 64-gigabyte version for US$400 with a contract.
But people are doing more things - and needing to store more stuff - on their devices these days. Users are downloading more applications, and those apps have grown larger, in part because they need to offer data-hogging high-resolution graphics to look good on the iPhone's screen. Also, the device's ever higher-resolution cameras take pictures and videos that consume ever more space.
In short, users need more space. And they shouldn't have to pay as much for it. Flash memory prices have plunged. You can get a 16-gigabyte memory card for a camera for less than US$10 and a 32-gigabyte one for less than $20. So Apple could easily afford to offer more memory in the iPhone for lower prices. I'd love to see Apple start its line off with a 32-gigabyte model for US$200.
New iPhone colours and a fingerprint reader will likely get the headlines, but I'm hoping for some more modest changes. Among them:
❏ Extended life. The current iPhone's battery just doesn't last long enough.
❏ Bigger screen. Even though it's bigger than before, the iPhone's display is still too small.
❏ More storage space for less money. The iPhone needs more space for pictures, videos and applications - at a reasonable price.