Where my grandmother would wait for a handwritten letter from my mom, and my mom would wait for me to call her on the phone, we all now keep in touch in real time via group messages, complete with images and short videos.
Since then, we've used them for entertainment for ourselves while in any one of a number of interminable hospital stays, to store nearly an entire medical history, a research tool to figure out if any given therapy would help, and yes, as a dependable lifeline to get help in a time-critical crisis.
Merchant spent the next year and a half seeking to track down the many untold stories behind the iPhone. His journey took him from the tin mines of Bolivia to assembly plants in China, from conversations with those Apple employees who were in the room during the product’s invention to the unsung designers and engineers who were equally as instrumental in bringing it to life.
The result is a book that publishes today, on the device’s 10th anniversary, titled The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone. Merchant recently sat down with Fast Company to discuss some of the history, mythology, and untold stories behind the only device most people would miss work to retrieve from the backseat of a taxi.
In sections scattered throughout the book, Merchant tries to wrestle with the moral price of a single iPhone. To this end, he embarks on a worldwide quest in pursuit of the supply chain, from the Bolivian mines that provide the phone’s tin to the Chinese factory city in Shenzhen where the phones are assembled to the Kenyan dumps where dead ones fetch up. Little of what he finds is heartening. Treatment of workers at assembly company Foxconn since the much-publicised wave of suicides in 2010 has improved but conditions are still poor. The phones’ cobalt and tungsten come mostly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where profits from mining long have sustained the operations of violent rebel armies. The Bolivian mines where the phones’ tin and silver are extracted are the stuff of Dickens, 14,000ft above sea level. Apple’s code of conduct states that suppliers must provide safe working conditions and treat workers with dignity and respect.
What should we do with this information? The very complexity of a device such as the iPhone makes it difficult to conduct the sort of moral calculus which can be applied to simpler commodities such as diamonds or gold. A wide-ranging history like Merchant’s is the start of an answer. But to get a real reckoning of human cost versus price, we might need to turn to moral philosophers. Years ago, Peter Singer famously asked whether the life of a child was worth less than the price of a pair of shoes. So is an iPhone worth it?
To jailbreak an iPhone means exploiting one or more bug to disable a security mechanism called code-signing enforcement. This allows the hacker to run code that's not signed and approved by Apple. By doing that, the hacker opens up the possibility to install apps not approved by Apple and make changes and tweaks to the operating system.
Beginning shortly after the first iPhone was launched, and picking up steam in 2008, jailbreaking was a full-blown cultural and economic phenomenon. Hacking crews known by names such as the iPhone Dev Team, Chronic Dev, and evad3rs were some of the best iPhone hackers of their generation.They made both sport and crusade of breaking into Apple's ascendent phone and opening the system up to rogue developers. A brilliant, iconoclastic software engineer named Jay Freeman gave venue to the hackers and developers by building Cydia, a sort of alternative App Store. At its height, Cydia, which actually predated the actual App Store, was a business pulling in millions of dollars in revenue, and offered users a way to experience the iPhone as a truly free and open computer.
An unspecified service outage that has been ongoing for nearly 36 hours is impacting a small percentage of Apple customers attempting to use iCloud Backup, prohibiting them from creating new backups or restore from previous saves.
The Yoink app aims to simplify the action of dragging and dropping files and app-content on the macOS desktop by providing a temporary place for files to be dragged to. Yoink fades in when users starts a drag - either with files from Finder or app-content, like an image from a website - offering them a temporary place for your dragged files.
Apple today updated its developer news site to remind developers about 64-bit requirements for both Mac and iOS apps.
For all these reasons I believe that future historians will point to the iPhone as the technological product that defined 21st century. Much will follow from it and it may become something altogether different but it set humanity on a new course.
If the iPhone defined the first half of the 21st century, I think the switch to self-driving vehicles -- and the abandonment of any vehicles that are driven by humans will define the second half of the century.
(The U.S. better start figuring out a replacement of the driving license as a photo ID, becuase there will not be any need for licensing.)
Thanks for reading.