I am of a generation old enough to remember when a mobile phone meant it had a battery like one that sits on the engine of my car and it was only mobile by virtue of the fact it took up a major portion of the centre console, somewhere between the gearstick and the cassette deck.
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And when they were small enough to carry, lights dimmed when one went to power it up and it looked like something the Russian military would use to call in an artillery strike.
Then they became small enough to fit smugly in your pocket and you flipped it open and pulled up an antenna before you used it. I had to replace three after letting them in pants and putting them through the laundry. They never seemed to work after a wash and rinse cycle.
But that all changed a decade ago, when Apple introduced its iPhone. I remember sitting in a news meeting with other editors at a newspaper in Toronto, wondering how to cover the cute little curiosity just unveiled by Steve Jobs. There was a discussion that day to disregard it, the iPhone was just a fad. I remember thinking that it wasn’t, and that one day, in the future, we’d have to produce a newspaper on it.
How much has changed since then.
If analysts are correct, the iPhone will propel the worth of Apple’s stock market capitalisation past the $1 trillion (Dh3.67 trillion)-mark. Today, Apple is only worth about $842 million (Dh3.09 billion), but the iPhone X, launched in California on Tuesday, will push it past the magical trillion mark. No other company has been worth that before, but then again, there’s never been a company quite like Apple before.
Here, I’m forced to admit, as I type this on my MacBook Air, I’m an android man. They’re cheaper. And I don’t have to be forced to buy a new one every few years. But I have been tempted. Every time there’s a launch of a new model, I’m a little bit enraptured, tempted by the sheer coolness and functionality of the devices. And now this facial recognition thing that Apple has introduced as a security measure, it’s impressive. Too bad that it didn’t recognise Apple executive Craig Federighi when he went to demonstrate the iPhone X’s facial recognition technology — Face ID, which replaces the fingerprint scanner as a security mechanism.
I thought I was the only one who had phones and other technological things bug out when I went near them. The fix, my IT department tells me, is to switch it off and reboot.
Before the days of Global Positioning System on your phone, the Daily Telegraph reminds me, if you weren’t sure where you were you’d have to look for a map, or worse, ask a stranger.
Even the first iPhones didn’t have location services — that wasn’t included until the iPhone 3G the following year — and it wasn’t the first GPS phone either. But imagine calling an Uber without it now.
You might be old to remember, but before the iPhone’s threaded message interface, texts were stored as individual files within a menu. You’d have to open each one individually and go back and forth between them to look back through a conversation. The Messages app changed that by displaying texts on one screen, saving you invaluable seconds.
And the iPhone gave us selfies. Whatever about their value, the selfie has undoubtedly been a social phenomenon brought on by front-facing cameras on smartphones. Front-facing cameras appeared on phones as early as 2003, and when they made it to the iPhone 4, people thought they would be for video calls. The selfie craze sprang up by itself, rather than because of any design decision.
Remember when your old Nokia would last for five days, even after playing Snake all day? There’s no chance of that these days. The array of sensors and processes on modern smartphones mean batteries are under constant strain. A decade after the iPhone was launched, battery life has barely moved on, meaning a whole industry of accessories such as the above have emerged.
The iPhone touchscreen killed the physical keyboard for good, but replaced it with the horror of autocorrect. Autocorrect fails have become a part of everyday life, although this might not be the case forever. Apple has patented software that would show users when messages had been corrected.
Any time you don’t know the answer to something, you can now whip out your phone. This is obviously great for many reasons — train timetables, word translations — but there was something to not knowing. Arguments are now instantly over, which may or may not be a good thing, and when you come second in a pub quiz you’ll always have the lingering suspicion that the other team cheated.
One of the common problems with mobile phones before the iPhone was that their screens seemed too small to do anything on: That’s where pinch to zoom came in. It is now such a widespread gesture, and one that exists in so many places, that children will now try it on almost anything — whether it has a touchscreen or not.
App: It’s a word that barely existed a decade ago, but is now an industry worth tens of billions of pounds: The humble app is behind the success of the iPhone and has spawned hundreds of major companies from Instagram to Uber.
The App Store arrived on the iPhone 3G in 2008. There are now more than two million apps, and people spent about $20 billion on iOS apps last year.
Before the iPhone, we all used to carry around an MP3 player as well as a phone, and maybe a digital camera too. In 2009, Apple sold around 55 million iPods. But every iPhone sold was another iPod not needed. How much longer can I resist this inevitable tide?
— With inputs from The Telegraph Group Limited, London, 2017