September 1, 2011, 3:00 PM

The waiting game

What new features will Apple build into its next iPhone?

Lead Photo

Will it or won't it? Waiting for new features in the next iPhone requires patience.

Patience, especially when it comes to buying electronic devices, typically is not one of my stronger attributes. That’s why I’m surprised I still have a two-year-old iPhone 3GS. Temptation almost got the better of me this week when, thanks to Jetsetter, an online travel site with a new mobile app, I learned that the iPhone 4 has a gyroscope that my older phone does not.

Jetsetter users with iPhone 4 devices can tilt the smartphone to rotate a 360-degree image without touching the screen. What else separates my phone from the newest model? With an iPhone 4 I could call a retailer that’s implemented Apple’s video chat software called Face Time to answer my query or resolve a customer service issue.

What I’m really holding out for, though, is the next iPhone, rumored for release in the next several weeks.

Speculation abounds that the next iPhone might include a Near Field Communication chip that could enable a two-way wireless connection between the phone and a device, such as a payment terminal or a tag on a poster. That connection could enable a contactless payment or the opportunity to get more information or special deals. Google Inc. already has demonstrated how that might work with its NFC-enabled Nexus S smartphone in its Google Offers service. Set to launch on a broad scale this fall, Google Offers could enable a consumer to tap a Nexus S phone against an NFC tag and sign up for special deals, get coupons or similar incentives, and make a payment at a store.

Even without NFC, the next iPhone may require retailers to adjust their sites and apps. It could have a larger screen with greater resolution, calling for better quality images. The phone’s software might have a different way of accessing video that retailers need to consider. If equipped with a faster processor, the new iPhone might have an easier time using augmented reality apps. Augmented reality technology enables consumers to change imagery or see information projected onto a phone’s display using a smartphone’s camera. OverstockArt.com’s app is a good example of a retailer that uses this technology; the app shows what a piece of art might look like inside one’s living room, for example.

Whatever the capabilities of the next iPhone, I doubt I’ll be disappointed. The impatient aspect then will be waiting to see how retailers take advantage of the device’s latest features.

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