I worked as an Apple retail employee when the original iPhone launched on June 29, 2007 (the most fun I’ve ever had in a day’s work, ever) and those were the shirts we wore. I still have the two I was given.
With the iPhone and many of the features it debuted we now take a lot of mobile technology for granted. Here’s a small list of things that we do now without thinking, that weren’t readily accessible only a few years ago.
- Lookup random facts anytime and anywhere. You know those useless debates around trivial minutia that we sometimes get engaged in after dinner with friends. How many homeruns did Babe Ruth hit in his 2nd most high home run season? What’s the population of people with fresh water in Ghana? Both easily searchable with a mobile device.
- GPS (Almost) Anywhere. Lost? Again? I used to get lost constantly. My aunt even bought me a full on book of maps when I turned 16. And that’s the way people rolled. On a random road trip and afraid you missed your exit? Get off at the next stop and ask the gas station attendant. Those days are gone now, because we can just look it up on our phones.
- Pictures, pictures everywhere. Digital photography increased the amount of photo-taking by orders of magnitude, and the iPhone only accelerated that trend. Now the camera is good enough that most people don’t want to carry another device around. Video is fair game, too. While historians these days surely wish for more physical documents and pictures from the past, our descendants are going to have so much data about us that history might seem a bit more trivial. A picture of Barack Obama? Please. A video of his Inaugural Address? NBD. But just think how much we’d pay now to see Abraham Lincoln give his Gettysburg Address. How much would that be worth?
- Constant access to all your music, podcasts, books, and video games. Okay so maybe you don’t have all your video games on your iPhone or iPad. But the world sure is going that way. While the iPod put your music in your pocket, the iPhone took digital content to a whole new level: now we don’t think twice about taking out our phones while in the car to plug in a podcast, or about reading part of a book while waiting in line. There’s almost literally no reason to be bored anymore (Some would argue this is also decreasing our attention spans, but hey that’s a topic for another day.)
- A flashlight and your alarm built into one. I don’t know what your routine is for getting into bed, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to pull out a flashlight. In this case it just happens that right after you turn off the flashlight, you set the same device as your alarm to wake up the next morning. No more ugly and pain-in-the-you-know-what to use alarm clock radios. Just your phone.
The craziest part is that all of these were built into the original iPhone’s apps. The stuff we can do with 3rd party software goes even further beyond this. Turn-based gaming with a friend in Spain? Check. Constant location updates and online Yelp reviews? iPhone has you covered again.
Whether you have an iPhone, Android, or no smart phone at all, you have to sit back in awe at the massive technological change we’ve witnessed. If Steve Jobs has his way, one day our kids won’t even know what a button is.