There’s another article fawning over the iPhone as a world-changing device. The iPhone was an evolutionary step, not revolutionary. The iPhone hasn’t changed the world.
We need to be careful about the pedestals we construct for incremental technologies. The iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, and every favored technology we’ll forget about in a decade are footnotes, ultimately irrelevant in the long view. What matters is what people do with these technologies.
All contemporary mass market products, including the iPhone, will be a blurb in the history of mass communication. The smartphone’s spot on the timeline of communication history will follow the telephone, which followed the telegraph. There won’t be any room for the hundreds of manufacturers and companies involved in the current marketplace.
History will remember what we did with those technologies, not who was winning at the current form of mass communication at some arbitrary point in a timeline. I’m sure the tech writers of the time declared one telegraph manufacturer or another the “winner” and all others the loser.
No one aside from historians remember that. We remember the first transcontinental telegraph transmission. We remember President Lincoln using the telegraph to communicate with his military during the American Civil War.
We’ll remember social media and blogging’s role in the revolution of news and journalism, but the current players will be forgotten in favor of those responsible for the next step. We’ll even still use smartphones and tablets as the primary medium.
The iPhone is important at the point we occupy on the timeline. It brought together disparate elements of technology into a unified whole, and Apple does deserve credit for that. Smartphones are what they are today because of Apple. Then Android blew the lid off the market and made it a truly mass market technology. And Microsoft has what I think is a credible evolution in mobile user experience with Metro.
We are in a period of massive transition, and the three major players do matter. They’re doing important things.
But remember that the iPhone is only five years old, while the iPad is only 2 years old. It was only ten years ago that people still talked about AOL’s walled garden and Microsoft’s unshakable monopoly. What will we talk about ten years from now?
Probably not the iPhone.