Well, Apple did it again. They’ve announced and detailed a phone that will come out within the next couple of weeks. The pattern is predictable, which is far from a bad thing in the usually-in-flux world of technology, but there is something underwhelming about a lack of surprise. It comes with the next update for its computer-based software, iTunes, and happened to include an update to its little brothers, the iPod Touch and the iPod Nano.
And yet, I found myself underwhelmed.
Granted, I haven’t used an iPhone as my primary phone since somewhere around last Christmas. I don’t have much invested in this particular update; I’m far more interested in the Windows Phones coming this fall. Ever since switching, I knew that going back to a 3.5″ phone wouldn’t be an option, but Apple alleviated that concern. Still, I don’t find myself eager to jump back into using iOS for my primary mobile device.
I find the evolution of technology fascinating. I reflected on that interest of mine just before the last iPhone was announced (I even mention that it may have been called the iPhone 5), and I find myself with nearly identical thoughts this year: technology is important, good, and worth watching; people are creative beings by nature; and we should be careful not to elevate technology and man-created goods above God-created nature.
But here’s the thing: Apple didn’t surprise me, and my thoughts about the iPhone before the announcement didn’t surprise me either. In a world where most tech companies either focus on revolutionizing their products (however unsuccessfully) or simply seeking to crank out cheaper products, Apple feels like it moves rather slowly. They upgrade their devices with striking regularity, and while they sometimes wow consumers with certain features (the retina display comes to mind, which is a pretty great feature), for the most part we don’t get much that feels particularly innovative. Apple’s changed the market a few times–the iPhone and the iPad both shifted mobile computing in a big way–but once they make that initial entry, they sort of just chug along. They won’t give you that appearance, of course, since Apple’s marketing has to do with living on the cutting edge with every product they pump out.
There’s something to be said for reliability, of course. I won’t fault Apple for that.
After all, we like reliability in people. I outgrew any desire for “randomness” as a personality trait sometime around the eight grade, and I suspect most of us did as well. Spontaneity may still be valued, but never at the sacrifice of an individual we can trust. Technology, and the way that we analyze its ebbs and flows, should reflect our own nature, ultimately. There’s talk of ergonomics on individual peripherals reflecting our natural state (keyboards, mice, office chairs), but I suspect that we’d do ourselves a service if we considered movements as reflections either of our cultural assumptions (generally fast-paced, with a powerful but small niche for slower but reliable people/companies) or our universal natural state (as creators, for instance). It’s a project much larger than this blog, of course, but one that is certainly worth pursuing.