Pretty much confirmed for Apple's WWDC keynote later today, are a refresh of the iPhone's interface and a new streaming radio service enough to reinvigorate rapidly stagnating consumer excitement in smartphones?
Seventh Heaven for Apple Fans?
With the new features duly teased, Apple loyalists at WWDC might whoop and cheer every new product, update and feature at the upcoming keynote, but the rest of the world has moved on. The majority of Americans now own smartphones, so they aren't "magical" any more, just another gadget that gets users through their day.
While long time users may be baying for change, Apple also has many millions of newer users, having picked up an iPhone in the last nine months since the release of iOS 6.0. They represent a sizeable audience still getting to grips, or perfectly happy, with the look and feel of the existing design.
Getting a little more information and flexibility out of the front-end screens and icons that make up the majority of the customer and user experience is where iOS 7's battle will be won and lost. Hopefully the sensibilities and intelligence that made the original iOS such a delight to use and inspired the majority of other mobile OSs will prevail and the light touches required will add features, improve usability and not make changes purely to fulfil some lofty design aesthetic.
Apple will stream the WWDC Keynote event on Macs, iOS devices and Apple TV, more information here.
iRadio and Beyond
Naturally an iOS update wouldn't be complete without a few new apps and the star of the show appears to be iRadio with the likes of Sony and Universal Music signing up last week for their catalogues to appear on the service. That means most major artists will be there, all Apple has to do is fight off the likes of Spotify, Pandora and other services who have sizeable and loyal audiences.
Hopefully several other new apps or updates should generate some interest (perhaps more improved iPad apps, as with Clock in iOS 6.0), but Apple needs something that will benefit all users too, which would have to be where a new lock-screen or top layer comes in that unifies a user's information, social media activity or calendar.
How Apple does this without riffing on Windows Phone 8 or any of the many Android solutions will be interesting, if it decides to go down this path. If that does turn up, with the new Mac hardware, a new version of OS X and other goodies, and it could be a great WWDC for Apple. But if the new features are a touch gimmicky and the design grates with iPhone owners, Apple could be facing a Microsoft-style backlash.
Remember, iOS 7 will likely be entering beta at WWDC, so don't expect to go checking for updates any time soon. Any new hardware shown off usually becomes available pretty much immediately, but the new iPhone (5S, 6 or otherwise) may have to wait for its own event.