Apple (AAPL) is going to start producing the next iPhone this quarter, The Wall Street Journal reports, with the goal of releasing it during the summer. And rumors are circulating around Facebook (FB) that it will unveil its version of an Android operating system later this week.
The iPhone refresh is expected to be a boring internal upgrade.
No big screen.
No massive price chop.
No amazing new features that will make people hyperventilate and then faint dead away.
The new phone is expected to just be the same old iPhone 5 with a slightly speedier processor and maybe a new software widget or two.
That's the pattern Apple established with its interim "S" upgrades a few years back.
That's the pattern Apple is expected to follow this time around.
Analysts also expect Apple to introduce a new cheaper iPhone later this year. The latter phone will be increasingly important to Apple's ability to compete with Samsung and other handset manufacturers in the fastest-growing segments of the market (emerging markets). Based on trends in the smartphone business, in fact, this phone can't come soon enough.
But expectations are low for the main phone that will likely be launched this summer.
Interestingly, there is one improvement that Apple could make to the existing iPhone 5 that would turn some heads.
It's an improvement that, ironically, Google (GOOG) hardware boss Dennis Woodside mentioned on Google's last quarterly conference call.
It's an improvement that would radically increase the pleasure, simplicity, and usefulness of the iPhone 5.
What's that improvement?
Much better battery life.
When you're using the iPhone 5 to its full potential--namely, setting the screen to be bright enough to read, using maps and other location-based apps, doing a lot of email, checking news frequently, watching some video, listening to some radio, taking a lot of pictures, and so forth--the iPhone 5's battery life is, at best, disappointing.
If you're not careful, you'll drain the phone completely in an hour or two.
And then, if you're out and about, you'll be dark for the rest of the day.
Yes, you can implement conservation measures--and have to, unless you want to stranded connection-free.
And, yes, you can learn tricks like only firing up apps for a few seconds and then shutting them off completely, keeping the screen dim and switching it off the moment you're done, and so on.
If you do all that, you can make it through a day.
But who wants to do any of that?
Most iPhone owners, and Galaxy SIII owners, and Google Nexus owners just want to use their phones the way they want to use them all day long, without having to worry about running out of power.
So much better battery life is a feature that would be worth getting excited about.
If Apple could introduce a new iPhone with much better battery life, that would be a great innovation. It would also breathe some life into a smartphone market that has become, well, boring.