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Chuck Fields
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The Apple iPhone revolution, from the original iPhone through SlowPhoneGate & SmartPhone Rehab

iPhone revolution

“An Internet communications device...an iPod, a phone—are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device; and we’re calling it iPhone.” – Steve Jobs

(This is available as a podcast at OnlineCoffeeBreak.com)

Apple’s iPhone has come a long way since the original release in 2007, revolutionizing an industry, changing our culture and even stirring up the recent controversies of “Slow Phone Gate” and “Smart Phone rehab”. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with them, fortunately more love than hate even now. Let me give you a little background about my history with Apple.

Apples woos a Microsoft guy

I’m a *Microsoft* programmer, so I’m not exactly your typical Apple fan. If you go back about 10 years ago, you may remember the infamous TV commercials with Justin Long staring as the cool, laidback “I’m a Mac” character and John Hodgman as the stuffy, conservative “I’m a PC” character. It was perfect timing for Apple. Just a few months after the series started, they launched the very first iPhone. On the other hand, Microsoft launched their disastrous Vista operating system, just three weeks later. This definitely put Apple in a better light, and everyone, especially Microsoft programmers like me took notice. I remember wondering what the heck Microsoft was attempting to do with Vista. Then I saw an iPhone. The interface was simply amazing and very intuitive. I went to an Apple Store and experienced about the best customer service I’d ever seen. I was on board! I walked out smiling with my shiny new iPhone and immediately put it to use for my business.

I remember just a few weeks later I was at a NASA conference at Kennedy Space Center. While I was speaking to a Program Manager, I got out my iPhone to add a meeting with her to my calendar. The manager called out to her colleagues, “Hey come check out the iPhone.” In a matter of seconds I was surrounded by a circle of NASA employees, each one of them practically salivating over this cool device in my hands. I still remember one of them saying, “I’ve been wanting to see this!” That was pretty amazing to me.

Flash forward just a couple years later and it seemed that iPhones were everywhere, including kids. Those who didn’t have an iPhone had similar looking smartphones from competitors. The iPhone truly revolutionized the industry for sure. But is it for the better?

Let’s talk about #SlowPhoneGate

Last fall when Apple announced it was coming out with the iPhone 8, 8s and X, I was just as happy as can be with my iPhone 6S. And so was my wife with her iPhone 5. But then iOS 11 was released on September 19, 2017. I updated my phone immediately, while my wife did not. Right away I started to notice that my phone was slower, along with bugs and screen crashes. Fortunately just a week later Apple release iOS 11.0.1, which I installed again quickly to hopefully resolve my issues. Well, the bugs weren’t fixed and new ones were introduced, then I installed the next update, 11.0.2, just a week later. Then 11.0.3 a week after that. In all, Apple released nine updates in four months since iOS 11. But my frustration met it’s limit in mid-December when my screen kept freezing while I was trying to communicate to a client. I had had it! What drove me crazy was that my wife’s iPhone 5 was fine; she had never updated the operating system. So I caved and upgraded to a new iPhone. The very next day Apple announced that they had been slowing down older iPhones in an attempt to preserve battery life—after they had basically been caught in the act.

Now don’t get me wrong; Apple does seem to produce quality products. But now when I see the annoying red button warning that an update is available, I hesitate a bit, but not for long since I definitely want to make sure my phone has the latest security updates. I just am concerned about the control Apple has over the product, and wonder down the road if I’ll have yet another update that will slow down my device until it becomes nearly unusable. There’s a lot of trust that’s been lost. That makes the innovation harder to appreciate.

Smartphone Rehab?

Recently Apple investors sent a letter to Tim Cook, urging him to issue a health warning for children using iPhones. The investors want Apple to give parents greater control to limit their kid’s time spent on devices.

According to research conducted by Professor Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, the amount of smartphone usage by U.S. teens is related to the risk factor for suicide. It turns out that the more a teenager uses their phone the risk factor increases up to 71% for those who spend five hours or more on their phone each day. Those who spend three hours a day or more are 35% more likely than those who spend less than one hour. There are children as young as 13 years old who are being treated for what’s called “digital technology addiction”. There’s even a “Smartphone rehab” facility in Seattle.

Sadly, I’m not surprised. We’ve all seen funny cartoons coming across social media making fun of how kids these days seem to spend more time indoors on their phone than outside or talking—actually talking to others. I know I’ve seen this in person at large family/friend gatherings where so many are on their phones instead of interacting with each other. Someday soon I’ll probably be the type of guy who has everyone put their phones in a basket when they walk in the door..but I’m the first one who’ll have to learn to leave my own phone alone.

Even Steve Jobs strictly limited his children’s use of technology. He did it with parenting, not software controls. But maybe that’s what we need to stay on top of this. I’m sure there are many out there, including me, who don’t realize just how much kids are using their phones. Aside from cyberbullying, sexting and loneliness, we all need to make sure that the next generation isn’t suffering at what we had labeled innovation.

No I’m not blaming Apple for increasing the suicide rate for U.S. teenagers. The truth is that they’ve definitely revolutionized our way of life, making it easier and quicker to communicate with our colleagues and our loved ones. It’s just a new direction that we all need to understand, then make course corrections to make sure it does in fact end up for the better.

Personally I’ve been extremely happy with the convenience and thrills Apple products have given me over the last decade. While I’m not happy with the #SlowPhoneGate and how that was handled, I am excited to be a part of this revolution, for both my business and my family. And coming from the Microsoft life, I can say that the innovation of Apple has inspired me to be a better programmer by making my applications as intuitive and user-friendly as they can be.

What do you think? Are you onboard with Apple or is it hard to move past having your phone slowed down without your knowledge? If you’re a parent, do you limit or are you going to limit how much time your kids use technology in the home? 

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