Modern icon receives coat of many colours

Iphone, therefore I am: The new version of the most profitable product in history.

How will historians remember the iPhone? As a tech marvel that gave the gift of knowledge and brought us together, or a false idol that ushered in an era of self-obsession and isolation?

It was the tech event of the year.

Last night in California, Apple CEO Tim Cook showed off the next generation of iPhones. Naturally, the event was streamed across the planet.

This time round, there are three new handsets in the iPhone 11 range. They come in new colours with super-powerful cameras.

To the devotees, it didn’t matter that Apple’s innovative streak has been called into question — or that some accuse Apple of dressing up minor changes as major technological leaps.

Apple insists that new features, such as folding screens and 5G connectivity, are coming in 2020. (Yes, Samsung and others have already beaten them to it.)

But the iPhone was where it all began.

“Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone,” said founder Steve Jobs in 2007. He fulfilled his promise. The slim handset set the model for all modern smartphones — complete with big screens, sleek designs and advanced cameras.

Today, you can download two million apps. The typical smartphone user now touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

Has any other invention shaped an era in the same way? Perhaps the contraceptive pill in the 1960s. Earlier, in the 15th century, the printing press helped to spread ideas among the poor. Will the impact of the iPhone be as lasting, and how will future historians remember it?

Forbidden fruit

As the symbol of everything that is great about the first quarter of the 21st century, say many. The iPhone allowed us to slip all of human knowledge, music and art into the back pocket of our jeans. It let us sit by a campfire and, as long as there was a signal, talk to friends miles away.

Dream on, say others. The truth is altogether more depressing. Historians will describe the iPhone as the moment when it all started to go horribly wrong for humanity. It was when we became absorbed in ourselves, and lost our connection with reality and others. The iPhone 4’s selfie camera created anxiety and narcissism. And we never found our happiness or balance again.

You Decide

  1. Is Apple the best brand of smartphone?

Activities

  1. Invent your own smartphone. Label its original features, and give it a name.

Some People Say...

“I think the iPhone was as significant an invention as the Gutenberg press.”

James Woods, American actor

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The new iPhone 11s will cost between $699 (£566) and $1299 (£1,000). As well as the new phones, Apple announced a new video game subscription service called Apple Arcade.
What do we not know?
How well the new models will sell. It faces stiff competition from China. Huawei overtook Apple as the second biggest smartphone seller in late 2018, and is aiming to beat Samsung to the number one spot by 2020.

Word Watch

New colours
The iPhone 11 is expected to come in space grey, gold, silver and blue. There are rumours that the handsets could also come in lavender, green, black, white, yellow and red.
Devotees
Fans.
Innovative streak
Advanced and original characteristics.
5G
Experts say this super-fast connectivity will transform how we live by connecting many different smart products in our lives and homes.
Beaten them
Samsung Fold has a foldable phone. Both Samsung and Huawei have 5G handsets.
Steve Jobs
He co-founded Apple in California in 1976; died in 2011, aged 56.
Era
A length of time.
Narcissism
Condition named after Narcissus in Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own reflection. A ‘narcissist’ is someone who is self-absorbed.

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