Innovation is king in the smartphone industry. Anyone who wants to stay on top has to continuously shake things up. The iPhone 3GS was a big success, but if Apple wants to beat RIM they're going to need to bring more to the table. One of the big criticisms a lot of folks have with the iPhone is that its screen does not offer any tactile feedback. There's a patent application out for an iPhone screen that features haptic feedback technology.
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This haptic screen consists of a bunch of piezoelectronic actuators that all emit different frequencies, which lets the developers program them to mimic the feel of different surfaces. Supposedly, this would let Apple simulate a trackball on the screen that feels so real you can find it without looking.
It doesn't end at the awesome haptic screen either. A fingerprint identification input method has also been submitted. This wouldn't be primarily for security purposes though. Apple wants to tie certain commands to certain fingers and use the fingerprint sensor to figure out which finger touched the phone. This bodes really well for the future of touch-screen keyboards.
There's also talk of an RFID reader making its way to the iPhone. That would be seriously cool, but I somewhat doubt we'll see this one hit in time for the next iPhone release. It's not nearly as marketable of a feature as a haptic screen or fingerprint ID capabilities.
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RIM and Nokia have reason to fear this news. These new features are only going to broaden iPhone appeal. If the 2010 iPhone is the first iPhone release on more carriers than just AT&T we're going to see some absolutely monumental iPhone sales next year. The million+ opening weekends of the last two years might just be preludes to something far bigger.