Last Friday marked the iPhone’s fifth birthday — HAPPY BIRTHDAY! — and Apple’s little device has done and will continue to do amazing things like helping treat diseases in the Third World, allow for more and better scientific research, put more and more useful tools in more and more hands, in addition to putting not very useful tool like Siri into more and more hands.
But amid all the celebration, we really should talk about how the iPhone has hurt our society in two ways: conditioning people to accept closed systems and ridiculous rules on their phones, and allowing them to be douchebags.
The more annoying one first: it’s a little bizarre how people refuse to understand buying a mass-produced product does not make them special. We’ve documented this attitude (and its unpleasant racist undertones) before, but it just will not die. Keep in mind Apple has sold 250 million iPhones in five years.
The second is a little more complicated and tech nerdy. Look, I love Apple. I’ve owned Macs since I could afford computers. And yes, Apple “just works.” But the way it does that is by strictly controlling both hardware and software, and creating a little walled garden essentially separate from the rest of the computing world. And that’s a problem. A huge one, in fact.
The reality is that Android is taking over. It’s broken out of cellphones to start being featured on set-top boxes, computers the size of your thumb, inside higher-end TVs, and it’s probably going to start turning up in kitchen gadgets any day now.
The ultimate result will be two or more separate technological ecosystems, built around software. Your choice of smartphone already essentially dictates your choice of tablet, as Android apps are shared between devices connected to Google accounts. The day is not so far off when you won’t be able to buy a different phone because you won’t be able to start your car and get into your house with it. And we accept this because Apple set the expectation. For the first time, buying a phone is essentially committing to a lifestyle, whether we want to or not.
Thanks, Apple. Thanks a lot.
(Image courtesy DaveOnFlickr via, uh, Flickr)