The question above is one that has been asked countless times in the past couple of years and it is one that is incredibly difficult to answer with any certainty. If I could offer an accurate assessment, I would likely be on stage offering my mystical powers to a gullible audience rather than posting a few random thoughts here.
We have seen incremental improvements recently from Samsung (a needless curved screen), Apple (a needless 3D Touch feature) and LG (a strange accessory-driven offering) and none of them feel like features that will genuinely improve daily use.
Phones have not only become incredibly popular, they have also started to creep into every aspect of our lives. From organisation to social networking to photography to gaming to navigation to… you name it and our phones can help fulfil the task at hand. This means that meaningful improvements can become incredibly important for the owner of said phone.
Meaningful improvements can be small and have a dramatic effect. Fingerprint unlocking and digital payments come to mind, but it is safe to say that the manufacturers are going to have to think bigger to continue the phone boom which is starting to follow a shallower curve than before.
Apple implementing a dual-camera system in the iPhone 7 Plus seems an obvious winner to me. If it could, and it is a big if, truly take photos that rival a DSLR this would immediately become another staple use that makes the phone feel more necessary than it already does.
The big question, however, is what follows? We cannot simply continue with spec improvements and minor changes that the majority care little about. Those who have a seriously geeky interest in such things lap it all up, but everyone else just shrugs and waits for something worth upgrading to. And everyone else is who Apple, Samsung and the rest really need.
Battery surely has to be the next big improvement. Give us 3-5 days of use from one charge and people will flock to a phone capable of that, and it will truly change how people use their phones in the future. The more barriers that can be removed the better and it seems to me that battery is the last great hurdle for most people.
We have grown to live with the relatively small screens, the tiny keyboards and all of the minor frustrations that come with modern phones. If we can think bigger and enhance what is already there, the phone will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.