At MWC this year the talk around the stalls and stands was dominated by the next generation of Android phones and tablets.
Faster, slicker, and more diverse, they demonstrated that Google is deadly serious (despite the funky slide on its stand) about ensuring its mobile OS will dominate the future of mobile phones.
But what of Apple? We all know the Cupertino company has been watching recent developments and beavering away on the next generation of iPhone, even if it'll never actually admit it.
If Apple wants to keep a step ahead of the growing ferocity of the competition, it needs to make its most sweeping changes to the system since the first iPhone arrived on the scene back in 2007, or else risk being left behind.
Here are our suggestions on what the iPhone 5 needs to remain the premium smartphone of choice.
Pack a bigger punch
It’s inevitable that the iPhone 5 will be more powerful than the iPhone 4 - that’s how technology works, after all.
But dual-core is so last month. What the iPhone 5 needs to stand out from the crowd of Tegra 2 handsets muscling into the scene is to go one better - a quad-core CPU and GPU.
It’s not as if the technology doesn’t already exist for such a setup either - all the quad- and dual-core processors revealed so far by the likes of Nvidia and Texas Instruments are based on the ARM Cortex A9 - a design that isn’t even the latest in ARM’s range of processors (that’ll be the Cortex A15 found on the upcoming TI OMAP 5, chip-licensing fact fans).
Should Apple release the iPhone 5 in June as it normally does, there won’t be a quad-core competitor in sight.
Have a gimmick
It’s been heavily rumoured that the next iPhone will contain Near-Field Technology for purchasing items with your phone, but this isn’t really a killer feature that’ll make people stop and consider an upgrade.
No, what Apple needs is a gimmick - something along the same lines as the iPhone 4's Retina display (or 'higher resolution screen', as it's known to people in the business).
The most obvious (and most divisive) way of doing this would be to go down the same route as LG and Nintendo - 3D.
While we weren’t that impressed with how (formerly 2D) games looked on the Korean handset, if the market-leaders of mobile gaming started to implement the tech in their devices, you can be sure that developers will be leaping to produce properly optimised and specifically designed titles for the new display.
Exclusives at launch
'Exclusives sell' is a popular phrase among the home console makers, and it’s something that’s rarely wrong. I bought my PS2 for Grand Theft Auto 3, my N64 for Goldeneye, and my Xbox 360 for Gears of War - how many millions of other gamers have also fallen into the same pattern, I wonder?
If there’s one area that Android handsets can’t get near right now is the sheer breadth and depth of the App Store, but Apple has used the ‘there’s an app for that’ line so much for the past couple of years that it’s becoming a little tiresome.
What will really make the iPhone 5 stand out from the competition is exclusive games and apps specifically tailored for the new hardware at launch - along similar lines to how the company first pushed the iPad (Mirror’s Edge, The Elements).
While users may balk at seeing great-looking games that have no chance of running on their ‘old’ phones, and developers balk at seeing their potential profits heavily reduced, seeing an Infinity Blade 2 or equivalent running exclusively on iOS is sure to give potential Android gamers second thoughts about their next handsets.
Refresh the UI
It’s difficult to overstate the impact the iPhone OS (as it was originally called) had on consumers and the other phone companies when it launched back in 2007, leading to countless imitators that couldn’t quite match the usability of the real thing.
Fast-forward to 2011 and it's hard not to see that the OS, or more specifically the UI, is starting to look a little stale next to the young pretenders like Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 - products that have spent the past four years picking the best bits and replacing the worst of the original ground-breaking OS.
The iPhone 5 would be the ideal time for Apple to fire a warning shot across these new operating systems' bows. Sharpening up the multitasking to compete with WebOS and QNX would be a good start, while making the look of the UI more attractive (effects like ripples and live tiles auto updating) would put a dampener on the latest breed of Android.
Patents revealed last year show off a potential radial menu system, so it certainly looks like Apple intends to refine the user experience with its next iPhone. Here’s hoping there’s a few more tricks up its sleeve when the device finally launches.
Better Battery than two Androids combined
Dual-core this, polygon that - who cares when the battery dissolves at the slightest whiff of HD graphics?
While the latest crop of phones coming out of Android-ville are keen to stress their power and muscles, they’re a lot less forthcoming about exactly how long they can stay awake under constant usage, with most companies falling back on the (extremely unreliable) ‘minutes of 3G calls’ method of measuring.
If Apple really wants its next iPhone to make waves with the regular phone-going public, then aiming for a better battery than its nearest high-specced competitors is the way to go about it.
It also needs to ensure people know about it - the iPhone 4 is constantly lambasted for battery life by people who don’t own one in forums across the net, mainly based on previous models' relatively short lifespans.
Of course, Apple could just go the standard route with this next iPhone - talking up FaceTime 3G, NFC, and implementing a dual-core processor is bound to win over long-time devotees of the platform.
But if it doesn't want to get drowned in the rapidly-filling Android pool, it needs to change everything, again.