September 13, 2017 - iPhone X

Today is going to be a little different. Instead of coming up with 10 random ideas, I am going to instead list 10 things I really would have loved to have seen in the new iPhone X. Not all of these are new or novel, some of them exist on other devices, but I would have loved seeing them in an iPhone all the same. So here is my "back seat driver" list for Apple iPhone X:

  1. Fingerprint sensor in the Apple logo. I know that Face ID is supposed to be super safe, secure, and fast, ETC. But I can think of quite a few circumstances where Touch ID would be better. Here is one, for instance: let's say you are talking with a friend, and you want to show him a photo on your phone. With Touch ID you take out the phone, unlock it, and show the photo while all along continuing to talk. With Face ID you have to stop talking and stare at the phone with "intent" for 1 second or so to unlock it. Plus, if you are in high school, how are you supposed to unlock your phone and text while keeping your phone in your bag? Kids still text, right? Any way, since the back of the phone is glass, integrating a Touch ID sensor into the Apple logo would be an elegant and simple solution. It could be in addition to the Face ID system. And for those extra paranoid, you could use both systems at the same time for extra security. You can even add a system where using certain fingers while unlocking the phone will cause it to lockdown to a password only access, for even further security in a case where someone is forcing you to unlock your phone, such as police.

  2. E-Inc screen on the back of the phone. Since the back of the phone is glass as well, it would be inexpensive and very interesting to incorporate a secondary, e-inc screen on the back of the phone. The screen could also be edge to edge, snaking around the camera hump and the Apple logo. The screen could be used to show cool designs and images on the back of the phone. That way you can update the look of your phone by simple selecting a different back image. Also, the back screen could list missed calls, battery status, or any other kind of static information that you would want to display. If your phone is face down on the desk, you can see at a glance your battery status and notifications, without having to touch the phone.

  3. Earpiece speaker on the back of the phone. This will decrease the size of the cutout on the front of the phone, creating even more room for the screen. It's trivial and intuitive to simply flip the phone in your hand when you need to use it as an actual phone. Plus, since not that many people actually use the phone feature anymore, it would be an acceptable tradeoff for majority of the customers.

  4. Smart connector on the back or side of the phone for smart cases. Apple introduced the smart connector in the iPad Pro. It's time to add it to all of the devices. This would allow case manufacturers to design elegant charging cases for the iPhone and would allow the iPhone to be used for industrial tasks. Square, for instance, could design a case that processes credit cards. Other companies could design cases that have sensors in them for various scientific applications. It's an effective way to allow 3rd party manufacturers to add value to the iPhone.

  5. Asymmetrical front cutout for the front camera and sensor pack. I wrote a quick reaction article about this on Medium. You can read it here. Basically, even though centering the sensor pack cutout is "design by the numbers," it would make more sense, at least to my OCD eye, to move the sensor pack cutout to the left side of the screen. In the article linked above I created a few mockups of how it would look. Take a look, maybe you would agree with me.

  6. 3 phone sizes, 4 inch, 5 inch, and 6 inch, with identical or close to identical specifications. Apple should stop with the iPhone naming scheme, and just do it the way they do the Macbooks. Identify the iPhone by it's size (4,5,6) and release year. Also, it's important for Apple to recognize that a large and usually ignored portion of their customers prefers small phones. I am one of those strange people. I am 6'2" and have relatively large hands, and yet I strongly prefer the smaller iPhone SE. Sure, I like the larger screen, but I am not willing to sacrifice portability and pocketability. I know that there are other people who have different preferences. This is why instead of making 3 different iPhones (8, 8+, and X), Apple should have made one phone in 3 different sizes. Same features, same quality, 3 different screen sizes.

  7. Glowing Apple Logo on the back of the phone for notifications. This would work really well with the e-inc back from idea number 2. The Apple logo on the back of the phone should have tricolor LED installed behind it, which would allows it to glow with any color. In iOS the user would be able to pick different colors for different types of notifications, and assign some colors to some people in their address book. You see the Apple logo flashing red from across the room, you know it's your boss calling you, etc. Simple idea that would add a lot of delight to the users with very little effort.

  8. Touch sensing back panel that can be used for game interaction and for a more immersive interaction with full screen content. One use of this that immediately appeals to me is using the back scrub through a video clip while cutting it in iMovie. This way you can see the video in fullscreen, with no controls on the screen, and still interact with it through the back panel. This could also be very useful for games, freeing up more space on the front screen for game content. This would be particularly interesting to use with new AR games. And it's perfect for zoom in and zoom out gestures in the camera app. In any case, developers would find all kinds of uses for this capability.

  9. USB-C port instead of lightning. This one is just obvious. All of Apple's laptops are now USB-C. They are pushing the USB-C standard hard. If they embrace USB-C on the iPhone as well, than they can safely convert all of their non-wireless headphones to USB-C, and they would work with both the new Macbooks and iPhones. Also, this way if you are packing a Macbook for a trip, and taking it's charger, you can charge your iPhone with it as well. Basically, the lightning port was a stopgap measure when USB-C was still in development. If you are going to make a phone that will demo things to come for the next 10 years, it's time to adopt USB-C.

  10. Curved back. My absolutely favorite phone design to date is still the iPhone 3GS, it just feels perfect in the hand. I might be in the extreme minority on this one, so maybe ask a few more people, but I would be very happy if Apple brought it back, and used the extra space to stash a 24 hour battery in there. Again, this idea doesn't play so nice with some of the other once on top, but I don't know, there is something about the feel of the 3GS.