Not many companies advise their customers to use their most popular products less. However, Craig Federighi, Apple’s software engineering chief, with a calm voice said Monday in California how the use of the iPhone had become “such a habit that we may not even recognise how distracted we have become.” And still, fewer companies suggest ways to take a break when their market has run out of growth, as has happened with the sales of smartphone units.
Eleven years after the launch of the iPhone, global device sales fell slightly in 2017, and the IDC research group anticipates another fall this year. It does not seem like the ideal time to list the product’s ills. Apple is not very worried.
Any company that spends so much time on a two-hour presentation to (1) play with MeMoji’s animated avatars, (2) demonstrate an application that mimics a two-way radio, and (3) show a Lego augmented reality game, cannot feel existential danger. “You’re going to love those aerial screensavers!” Exclaimed Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, at the app developers.
It is a proof of the adage that we tend to overestimate the effects of any technology in the short term, but underestimate them in the long term.
About 3.6 billion people – half of the world’s population – currently have access to the Internet.
The flat sales of smartphones are not a sign of discomfort but their speed of adoption.
Smartphones took a decade to reach the top of S Curve, the classic broadcast pattern in which slow initial growth is followed by rapid pick-up, as the word spreads, and then decreases.
But even when people rush to buy the new technology, it is often too early to understand their full potential: understanding only occurs after industries and societies adjust completely.
The era of widespread adoption – when technology no longer generates so much enthusiasm and attention is directed to the next device (in this case, watches, home speakers and drones) – is when things start to happen.
This was true in the case of electricity and the reorganisation of 20th-century factories around multiple sources of electricity, rather than around steam-driven parts. The mobile phone has entered that phase.
The clearest sign is the number of attention people devote to their phones, as pointed out by Mary Meeker, a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, last week during the Conference on Code in California.
Her annual summary of Internet trends represents a ritual of Silicon Valley’s excessive enthusiasm, but she showed enough evidence that flat sales mask other forms of growth.
The average American now spends 3.3 hours a day using digital media on his mobile phone, ten times the typical duration in 2008, when iPhones were the most novel ‘toys’.
Total usage, including time on desktops and other connected devices, currently adds up to almost six hours, which rivals the time spent sleeping. Forty-five per cent of American teens reported in a recent Pew survey that they were online “almost constantly.”
Hence the launch of Apple’s Screen Time application to allow its users to control their addictions to the iPhone app developers and, also, the optimistic attitude of Federighi when announcing it, recognising that spending a little less time on Twitter and Instagram will not harm your company.
There will always be a tour in Uber to qualify, and a group chat in FaceTime to join, a MeMoji to send to friends.
Apple’s ‘toys’ are now based on a much more sophisticated technology than a few years ago.
The company informally unveiled a set of tools to allow 20 million software developers in 77 countries to exploit machine learning for image recognition in their applications, a nascent form of artificial intelligence (AI) when Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone.
Smartphones started as minicomputers connected to narrowband wireless lines, but now include a range of technologies ranging from high-speed broadband to global positioning, graphical processing units (GPUs) and mobile devices. Sensors
The device that has emerged at the top of the S Curve is only distantly related to the original.
This has created an explosion, not only of applications but industrial applications. These include 20% of Chinese retail sales corresponding to e-commerce, largely mobile, and applications such as Waze, which combines mapping with driver reports on traffic patterns. Create what Meeker calls “a lot of use and a lot of use”, as well as abuses.
Robert Gordon, the American economist, questions the impact of the revolution of computers and communications in comparison with the “second industrial revolution” of 1870 to 1900, which included electricity, the combustion engine and water by a pipe.
The revolution in computers – perhaps the third industrial revolution – is notoriously difficult to find in productivity statistics, as economist Robert Solow once pointed out.
Gordon dates the climax of the computer revolution during the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, which completely ignores the smartphone. I do not agree.
The technology companies, which reached 33% of the value of US companies listed on the stock exchange in the MSCI index in the month of the March 2000 bubble, have risen again to 25%.
Apple played games with developers on Monday, but the technology that has been invented is yet to show its full impact. Do not disconnect yet.