Will the next iPhone be a letdown?

The latest iteration of Apple's flagship handset will likely be unveiled next month, but already the smartphone seems behind the curve in terms of what it may offer

The new iPhone will likely look similar to its predecessors, but reported enhancements in speed and battery life may be reason enough to upgrade.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Get your lawn chairs and sleeping bags ready. The newest whispers from the iPhone rumor mill claim that the next generation of the smartphone is only a month away. According to multiple sources, Apple retail store employees were told to black out vacation days from Sept. 21 (when the phone presumably goes on sale) to mid-October, which usually only happens following a big unveiling. Although a flurry of reports have said the handset will have a larger screen, faster connection speeds, and a suite of other features, some are already saying Apple's flagship device is destined to disappoint unless Apple reveals something radically different. Will potential users be let down if the next iPhone isn't a huge evolutionary leap from the iPhone 4S?

Yes. The iPhone is already lagging behind Android: "Apple is playing a major game of catch up right now," says Jesse Sopher at iDigitalTimes. The rumored iPad Mini is "clearly a response to Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7." And the next iPhone will feel similarly behind the curve. For starters, new reports say it will be a battery hog. And that rumored larger screen? Android already has several models that easily outclass the iPhone's display size. "The most we can expect from the iPhone 5 is that it'll be on par with the latest Android devices," and in a few months, Samsung will release a sparkly new model that'll make even the most dedicated Apple fan feel a "twinge of envy."

"Why the iPhone 5 will be a major letdown"

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Actually, Apple doesn't need to do much: There are only three things I want from the new iPhone, says Dan Frommer at SplatF: Speed, a better front-facing camera, and a longer-lasting battery. The new iPad's LTE connection is amazing, and the new iPhone absolutely "has to have it." The front camera's shortcomings are well-documented, but that seems like an easy thing to remedy. Battery life will probably be the biggest challenge as it's still "the iPhone's weakest point," but I'm willing to trade off a slightly larger body in order to house a bigger power source. I'd be more than happy with these slight improvements, even if the new iPhone is the same size as its predecessors.

"The new iPhone: The 3 features I actually care about"

Apple is all about incremental upgrades, and that's just fine: Supposed photos of the next iPhone are already all over the internet, says Farhad Manjoo at Slate, and though it looks a lot like the old iPhone, that isn't a bad thing. Remember: Apple's overall design philosophy is one of "constant refinement" — think back to the iPod of the early- and mid-2000s. It appears that Apple has already "found the natural design for the iPhone, and unless some radical new technology comes along (flexible screens or some such), we can expect every iPhone to be cut from the same cloth." That might not sit well with some people. But Apple doesn't make "big design changes just for the sake of making something look different — it's always looking for something better."

"I know what the next iPhone is going to look like"

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