iPhone 5: Why the rumours don't excite me

Thankfully smartphone evolution, not revolution, is the order of the day...

...a level of development where there are no massive functionality gaps to plug - unless you count redesigning the antenna to avoid signal issues.

Nor is there a massive functionality gap between the iPhone and at least some of its competitors. Google's Android platform has stepped into that breach. The pace of change on the Android platform is easily a match for Apple's upgrade schedule.

Indeed, Google's platform has beaten Apple to the punch when it comes to some of the most exciting developments in mobile, especially in location and mapping, and augmented reality.

Augmented reality and voice recognition

The first Android handset had a built-in compass, turning Google Street View on an Android smartphone into a personal sat-nav and enabling apps such as Wikitude to kickstart today's augmented reality app frenzy. Voice recognition is another area where Google has poured in time and effort to enable innovative features such as voice search.

Of course, Apple hasn't sat on its heels while the Android army runs amok. Regular iterations of iPhone have kept its smartphone capable and compelling. It should also be noted that Steve Jobs & Co have been busy with another mobile project. On the apps front, iOS remains the platform to beat.

But even ardent Mac fanboys must surely concede that the playing field is considerably less skewed than it was in 2008. If Microsoft can clean up its mobile act - scrapping WinMob to start afresh with Windows Phone 7 - there have been seismic shifts indeed.

One of the rumoured additions to the iPhone 5 is better voice recognition via a partnership with Nuance. If true, that's further evidence of Apple playing catch-up with Google. Analyst house Gartner gave Android the largest share of the smartphone OS market - 36 per cent - in Q1 this year. That's more than double the share of Apple iOS's 16.8 per cent.

Addition of near-field communications?

Another will-they, won't-they iOS addition rumour is NFC - near-field communications - to enable contactless mobile payments. And again, the Android-based Samsung Galaxy S II already has NFC.

Whatever the iPhone 5 ends up packing or not packing, what's clear is this is a much more mature mobile discussion than days of yore. Requiring a mobile device to offer a basic function such as cut-and-paste or video recording is one thing, but needing it to have an emerging tech such as NFC is quite another.

Does the mobile user of 2011 really need NFC? No, not really. Not in the way the mobile user of 2007-8 really, desperately needed the iPhone. Or more specifically needed mobile OSes to get a radical kick up the backside.

With an effortless flick of finger on touchscreen, Apple's iPhone dragged mobile OSes from the digital dark ages to the shiny frontier of cutting-edge computing. Iterative improvements are mobile's order of the day now.

There will come a time when NFC is a mobile must-have. In the meantime, it's hard to get too excited about what the next iteration of iPhone will bring - and that's a measure of how far the mobile industry has come.