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The iPhone at Ten

The iPhone is ten years old, and since its launch in 2007 Apple have sold over a billion of them. This popularity wasn’t always expected. Some experts predicted it would only interest gadget geeks; others said early hype would disappear as flaws became evident. But with certain studies saying we spend five hours a day staring at smart phone screens, and the minimal amount of time we spend actively away from them actually suggesting this is an understatement, it’s fair to say they’ve changed the way most of us live our lives.

They’re a combination drug, a cocktail of the things we’re obsessed with, reliant on, or addicted to. iPhones and smartphones in general carry social media, more and more a primary form of communication; e-mails we use for work; and the instant access to information that we’ve come to take for granted.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Smartphones can do amazing things. They’re convenient, and can be used to amazing affect; to take incredible pictures, as well as the needless selfies. And we don’t always go to them unnecessarily, or out of choice. How many times have you tried to find directions somewhere, before pulling over or turning to the person in the passenger seat and accepting: ‘we’ll have to put the address in the phone’s SatNav.’

Many jobs nowadays mean we have to be ready to look at emails, available to cover shifts, while in our personal lives, if ignorance was once bliss, and no news was once good news, the opposite is now true. To not hear from a loved one, or not get confirmation that they have got home safe, is often worrying. Why have they not text, we ask, because we know they have their phone, we know they can.

It’s hard to ignore smartphones when we see what they can do. People get their first glimpses and share their opening lines with future loved ones on smartphone screens; they find job opportunities when scrolling through Twitter and Facebook. With so much there, no wonder it’s often hard to turn away.

So why do they get such a bad press at times? There sometimes a romantic idea that without smartphones we’d all be sat in café’s talking to complete strangers – but remember newspapers and magazines? They were just as good at distracting us from each other. Beyond that, there’s the undeniable fact that a lot of time spent on smartphones is wasted. Even the most beloved user would probably admit to wishing they could set their device down a little more regularly. But in reality, the main dislike of smartphones probably comes from how quickly they have taken hold of society, and how strange the idea of a world without them is.

Only ten years since the first iPhone, most of will remember a time when leaving school for the summer meant not hearing from many of our classmates, even our friends, for months at time. Millennials will vaguely recall hearing the ancient sound of a house phone and wondering if it was for them. (It’s always, always for Mum now). And it wasn’t actually that long ago that if someone asked how old an actor was during a movie, you’d have to wait more than twenty seconds to find out.

that's what people often find aggravating about smart phones: we've given them a place in our lives where we can't imagine life without them

Yet for the most part, a world like this, without constant communication and instant access to information, is long forgotten, and that’s what people often find aggravating about smart phones: we’ve given them a place in our lives where we can’t imagine life without them.

Whether this a good thing or not can be argued, because as much as most people love development and seeing things move forward, this is paralleled by a natural nostalgia, even in young people, that things were better in the good old days.

No matter what we think, there’s little doubt that iPhones, will continue to change the way we live our lives. The bigger question, perhaps, is that after another ten years, what else will they be helping us do – what will be looking back at, struggling to imagine a world without?

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