The iPhone in Australia turns 10, but should we be celebrating? Picture: Jack Taylor
The iPhone in Australia turns 10, but should we be celebrating? Picture: Jack Taylor

Downside of Steve Jobs legacy we forget

IN 2007 Steve Jobs introduced us to a gadget we didn't yet know we needed to have, and on 11 July 2008 it was first released in Australia. Jobs described the iPhone as "a revolutionary and magical product", a device that was five years ahead of the competition. Fast forward 10 years and the iPhone has laid claim to around half of the Australian smartphone market.

iPhone users now make up 8.6 million of the 19.3 million smartphone users in Australia, according to a report released this year by Australian technology analyst firm Telsyte. iPhone users are also the nation's most loyal smartphone customers - demonstrating the highest repeat purchase rate of any brand - with 80 per cent of them sticking with Apple when the time comes for that inevitable upgrade.

The iPhone has been, in no uncertain terms, a phenomenal success.

For Jobs, the user experience was paramount in achieving this. He wanted a product that was a joy to use, a seamless integration of functionality and technology.

And he got it. The iPhone has been so incredibly successful at what it set out to be, it's now in danger of becoming its own worst enemy. You see, it seems we can't get enough of our smartphones. Our love affair with smartphone technology has become an obsession, and even Apple is starting to recognise the signs of an unhealthy relationship.

When it all began, we loved the attention we got from our smartphones. They reminded us of the things we needed to do, reinforced our new behaviours by giving us happy sounds when something interesting was happening online, and even made us feel safe when we were alone in a strange place. We were so enamoured with the colourful and responsive touch screens, and the alluring way our messages 'whooshed' out into the ether, that we didn't notice when they started demanding more and more attention from us in return.

Apple launched more and more exciting features and apps, seemingly in response to an insatiable appetite for entertainment and social engagement. Getting us hooked, it seems, was all too easy.

A recent Australian study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, found that we have become have become slaves to our devices. Almost two thirds of those surveyed for the study admitted they spent more time on their smartphones than they really intended to, and about one third felt anxious if they couldn't check their messages.

If seducing adults with a surreptitiously addictive status symbol was that easy, kids and teens didn't stand a chance.

In Australia, approximately 94 per cent of teens have a smartphone. During a time when our young people are socially and emotionally vulnerable, when they're less likely to consider the full consequences of their actions, they have 24/7 access to devices that facilitate constant social exposure and connectedness. A never-ending stream of online social interactions, peer judgments and expectations. There's no break, no down time. No chance to decompress.

The research tells us that kids and screens don't mix, that more screen time leads to poorer academic performance, less sleep, and more anxiety. Parents, for the most part, probably knew that already.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone, a device that put the company on the path to becoming the world’s richest.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone, a device that put the company on the path to becoming the world’s richest.

The really interesting thing is that now, after 10 years of doing what's best to get us hooked on their technology, Apple are trying to help us kick the addiction they drove in the first place.

The latest version of the iPhone comes equipped with a range of features designed specifically to make the product "less addictive". For example, the iPhone now has active screen time recorders that lets users see how much time they are spending on their device each day, as well as set screen time limits. You can activate 'shush' mode by turning your iPhone facedown, and you can even tell your iPhone to not disturb you past your designated "bed time".

So is this a real and genuine effort by Apple to do right by their customers, or little more than a means of upping their social conscience cred? Well there is one thing we do know, if the corporate success of the last 10 years is anything to go by, Apple won't be in any hurry to get you to stop using your smartphone anytime soon.

To find out more about Dr Sharon Horwood's smartphone research, visit www.blackscreens-research.com.


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