What do we want from Apple's iPhone 5?

Despite the talk of bigger screens and LTE, I think I'd be more interested in Near Field Communications.

After the incremental upgrade that was the iPhone 4S it looks like we're in for another major overhaul tomorrow morning with the iPhone 5, which will probably just be called "the new iPhone" following the trend of the last iPad.

So far most of the talk has focused on a larger screen, slimmer design and a smaller connector, although I can't say any of these overly excite me. I know there's a "bigger is better" push and people get excited about the latest and greatest features, but I think I'm past that. I just want Apple to refine what I've already got rather than make change for the sake of change, but that's not likely to happen.

While I do appreciate the extra screen real estate of something like the Samsung Galaxy S III, I've been using an iPhone long enough that I'm comfortable with the 3.5-inch screen size. Given the choice of a larger screen or the ability to retain backwards compatibility with all my existing accessories, I'd happily stick with 3.5 inches -- particularly as I've got several iPhones floating around my home (some handed down to my kids as SIM card-less music players).

I'd be interested in a more rugged design, for example ditching the glass back which is just asking for trouble. Depending on who you ask the iPhone already uses tough Gorilla Glass but it's certainly not as scratch-proof as the Motorola Defy which could withstand some serious abuse from my car keys. I'd like to see that kind of glass on the iPhone and perhaps a move away from the edge-to-edge glass design which increases the likelihood of cracking the screen when dropping it.

A bigger screen is also going to suck battery life, as is an upgrade to faster LTE mobile broadband. As a Telstra Next G customer I'm pretty happy with the existing HSDPA speeds. People will scream blue murder if there's no LTE but a jump to Dual Cell HSDPA would be fine with me. If Apple does go down the LTE path, I wouldn't be surprised if it forgoes the dual-core A5X processor introduced with the iPad 3, in favour of the improved power efficiency of the second generation A5 processor which is built on a 32nm fabrication process. This second-gen A5 chip significantly boosted the iPad 2's battery life and could help the iPhone 5 support a bigger screen and LTE. Otherwise it would need a bigger battery and Apple isn't likely to want this iPhone to be thicker than the last one.

I think what I'd really like to see in the iPhone 5 is Near Field Communications, which allows short range wireless interactions. Android handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X already offer NFC, but they're not really doing a lot with it. From what I saw last week in New York at Nokia's Lumia 920 launch, it's actually Windows Phone 8 which is leading the way by integrating NFC with its Wallet features to let you phone act as a loyal card or even a credit card.

I know Apple's not expected to embrace NFC just yet, because it's not their style. iOS6 has a Passport feature for acting as a digital wallet, but Apple might decide to initially launch this without NFC and add it with the iPhone 5S. Cupertino's style is to let others lay the groundwork for now, then waltz in with it's own version of NFC with some special twist which means it's not cross-compatible. Apple could get away with that kind of behaviour in the past when it dominated the smartphone space but I think Android might be too powerful now. Plus from what I saw in New York I'd say NFC offers one of Windows Phone 8's best chances to gain some ground in the fight with Apple and Android. Apple might not want to hold off too long on this one.

What would you like to see from tomorrow's new iPhone?

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop