The thing that critics of the new iPhone 7, its lack of earphone jack, and its new AirPod, overlook is that the world is changing.
“The iPhone is just a toy – sure it’s great fun, but it’s not a serious product, its touchscreen keyboard means people will never use it for business. No, for business the Blackberry will reign supreme.” Or so said the critics when the iPhone was released, but they were wrong.
“Sure, the iPad looks good, but it doesn’t support Flash. In any case, who wants a computer without a keyboard,” or so said the critics, when the iPad was launched. But they were wrong.
Their cynicism meant that they did not foresee the remarkable rise of Apple, from struggling for survival in the early years of this century, to the world’s biggest company.
And, to quote Steve Jobs’ famous concluding remarks when he did Apple launches: there is “one more thing.” The critics are at it again, this time slating the new iPhone 7, and its lack of earphone jack, and its rather cool looking but very expensive and eminently losable, wireless earphones, the AirPod.
But just like they did when the iPhone and iPad were launched, they miss the point.
If there is one thing that we should have learned from Apple by now is that beautiful design, when applied to electronics, can change us. Deign that is simply okay, quite nice, might as well not exist.
Before the iPhone there were touchscreen phones, before the iPad there were keyboard less computers. Philips, the Dutch electronics company once launched something called a CDi player, it was great in so many respects, but its design was not right, and the product flopped.
The problem that haunted Philips, and the touchscreen phone makers before Apple, is that technology wasn’t ready. CDs may be shiny but they are not user friendly, hence the CDi player didn’t gain traction. Apple got the iPhone right, and the tablet right, partly because the technology was ready – consider how the iPhone would have flopped if it had been launched before WiFi. Making sure the technology is ready, up to the task demanded of it, is part of the design process.
The future is wireless.
We are entering the era of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality – and in this age, you can see how wireless earphones could become ubiquitous. Through these devices we will get language translation, traffic news when we are driving, AI will update us with information it things we will what to know, we will have ongoing conversations with our computer – Siri if you will – and we will get reminders, a voice informing us who someone is if we recognise them but can’t place their name. That is the age we are set to enter, but if our earphones were wired together, awkwardly linked to a device in our pocket, or handbag, it wouldn’t work.
One day it will go further, wireless earphones will work off something called neural lace, with chips inside our brains working with our earphones – that may sound like science fiction, but it may be no further into the future that the first iPhone launch is into the past.
Today, you can buy wireless earphones from Amazon for around £5, but that is neither here nor there. What matters is how comfortable they are, how good they look, how long their battery lasts, and how good their AI is. And by the way, don’t pay too much attention to this idea we will keep losing our AirPods. if we were to do this to the extent that the critics say, then the streets, the pubs, the backs of sofas and the beaches would be brimming over with lost earphones.
That is why Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller was right when he said yesterday that “Apple had found the courage to move on.”
Apple’s move was indeed courageous, it may not work, and if it doesn’t, the task of cleaning up all that egg that has been splattered all over its corporate face will be expensive, but if it can pull the trick off, then it will continue to change the world, and will keep its position as the world’s largest company for some time yet.