Tommorrow, October 4th, 2011, Apple will be making their iPhone announcement. Much anticipated is the new iPhone, the iOS 5, and iCloud as fit for release. There are some other rumors about some features, and that's what I want to talk about. Why? Because it's fun to speculate, and fun to dream. And who knows? Perhaps one day some of these wishes will make it into a future iOS release.
First and foremost is iCloud. Not a lot has been mentioned here, as most people tend to write off iCloud as a file sharing/email/contacts service that lets you download stuff you have already purchased from iTunes at any time. Doesn't sound too exciting, does it? But there is a whole lot more. First, there are backups of your phone, allowing for quick and easy restoration should something happen to your phone. That alone is a great feature, and well worth the new iOS release (which is expected to be free, I might add). Backups are in general rarely made, particularly photos and documents. We as computer users have been lulled into a false sense of security with better performing software and hardware. Hard drive journaling with Mac OS Extended (Journaled), ext3 and NTFS for Mac, Linux and Windows respectively, have all presented us with fewer corrupted files. The death of the floppy drive and the prolific use of the USB thumb drive have given us more storage that takes up less space. We think our data is secure. That is, until we have a hard drive failure. Then we curse ourselves for not backing up our data. With iCloud, at least for iOS devices, photos, and documents, backups are happening automatically for us. We still need to burn purchased movies and various other applications, PDFs and Downloads, but all in all iCloud will take care of our precious memories and important documents. That is a feature worth talking about.
For iOS 5, there are lots of rumors that voice control and voice activation will become deeply ingrained into the OS. This is huge, because for right now most voice activated apps are narrowed down to taking quick dictation and needing a copy/paste procedure to keep it. While I don't know the depth of the integration, knowing what I do know about the development team I would speculate that voice acivation and dictation could very well be in the cards. And I'm not talking just speech to SMS as Android has, or even speech to text for documents. I'm talking voice control for apps. This may yet be a pipe dream, but I can see a whole host of Assistive apps growing from a core module that allows for voice control. For instance, suppose you wanted to help a child learn to speak clearly? How nice it would be to have an app that would use speech recognition and translation to help them focus on their pronounciation, word usage, and speech. Speech therapists would love to have something like that to help augment their teaching, and parents would injoy it just as much. Not to mention language practice! That would be huge. Yes, that kind of depth would be fabulous. Do I expect it? Not really, I'm expecting some common voice commands and speech to text/SMS. But that is just a stepping stone, in my mind.
Specs for the iPhone have been bandied around, and I'm all for a faster processor when it's necessary or needed, but for right now I don't see that need for the iPhone. I also don't see the need for a more powerful camera, etc. Hardware for me, as the iPhone already has a display that is so highly resolute that the naked eye cannot identify the pixels, is more just icing on the cake. Until the software demands a better phone, I don't see me upgrading the hardware. The software, on the otherhand, is what will drive upgrades for me. Luckily, from the declaration at WWDC, iOS 5 will be supported on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 as well as the new model.
But specs for the new iPod Touch could be interesting. If, as according to some rumors I have heard, Apple places a 3G/4G chip in with the WiFi chipset, effectively making the iPod Touch a mini iPad, then that will be an amazing upgrade. It will effectively broaden the number of devices that can be truely used anywhere and anywhen, allowing for those who do not see the need of a phone to use their web-enabled device for anything they want. And suppose they don't want a cell phone and all the texting/minutes/data issues that carriers tend to add to accounts, yet still want to have mobile phone access? the iPod Touch will support Skype, as well as a number of other VoIP apps (many for free) for calls over the 3G/4G network as well as WiFi. Carriers, instead of being phone companies, could quickly just become mobile Internet companies, providing data usage. I wonder if the carriers would be happy with that?
Another rumor that has since been dismissed is the release of the iPad 3. It's really soon after the iPad 2 had been released, so I don't imagine the iPad 3 will be coming out now. But if it did, the one and only thing I would really be looking for is a retina display. That's what held me off from purchasing an iPad 2 when it came out, and sticking it out with my iPad. I want to see the iPad with a retina display, thereby making it easier to read whatever app is on the screen. For now, the display is still great, and the old iPad still does exactly what I want it to do, when I want.
Finally, there is the rumor of the Assistant, which is a combination of a lot of speech control. The demo circulating the Internet looks really cool, allowing for speech control in a number of OS-level functions (voice calling, searching, web searching, Twitter, etc.). But the rumor also said it will only be available on the new iPhone model, and not any of the previous models. That is disheartening, as I've had my iPhone 4 for over a year (has it really been that long?), and I can't imagine having to give it over to upgrade to the new phone. I'll have to see which way this goes, and whether or not it's a feature I could or could not live without.
So, lots of exciting things to expect from Apple tomorrow. I think it's pretty safe to assume iOS 5 and a new upgrade to Lion (and possibly Snow Leopard) to support iCloud will be available tomorrow after the presentation, and I think there will probably be a new iPhone getting released. I would also expect that a new iPod Touch will be announced with similar iPhone specs, and we may even see the final demise/retirement of the iPod Classic. With iCloud, you no longer really need to have that much storage space, so I think it's pretty clear what's going to happen. As for the other aspects of iCloud and iOS, that's what will keep my attention tomorrow.