Q: Are we overestimating the benefits and ignoring the pitfalls the iPhone has brought in the past 10 years?
YES – Aral Balkan, cyborg rights activist and co-founder of Ind.ie
On 9 January 2007, I was sitting at Moscone West watching Steve Jobs announce “three revolutionary products… a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet communications device.” The big reveal, of course, was that these were not three separate devices but one: the iPhone. It’s hard to stress how fundamentally the iPhone has altered the face of modern technology in the decade since. Its tremendous success, however, has also meant that a huge amount of power now rests in the hands of a single company. Apple has more cash in the bank today than the UK and Canada combined. It’s the sole gatekeeper to an App Store economy that employs 1.53m people. Thankfully, it sells products, not people (unlike, say, Google) but it’s beholden to no one. Apple’s often compared to countries due to its size but if it was a country, it would be a dictatorship. Isn’t it time we started funding democratic alternatives?
NO – Robert Colvile, editor of CapX
Overestimating the benefits of the iPhone is, frankly, almost impossible. It has connected the world, moving computing from something you sit at a desk to do to something that is with us every minute of the day. In the process, it’s enabled a host of products – Uber, Instagram, Snapchat, Citymapper, Pokemon Go – that make million if not billions of lives better, faster and happier every single day. Yes, there’s a case that we’ve become too dependent on our phones – to the point where we often find them more interesting and absorbing than the people around us. But these problems of willpower and attention are soluble – and often quite easily. The very thing that people complain about, that sense of constant connection, is the very reason why iPhones have embedded themselves in our lives. Ask yourself: how would you feel if you were forced to return to a dumb old Nokia brick, or even a landline? Case closed.