Let unfreedom ring: The iPhone trap

macalope
Credit: IDG

It’s the day we celebrate America’s independence but would you be surprised to learn that we’re not free at all because we’re in the thrall of our Steve Jobs-created devices?

Writing for The Guardian, John Naughton stops just short of decrying Apple’s insidious plan to make iPhones water resistant so dumping them in Boston harbor would be a meaningless gesture.

“Ten years after its launch, the iPhone is both a miracle and a menace.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Christopher Cowan.)

On Tuesday 9 January 2007, in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the late Steve Jobs, dressed in his standard black turtleneck and jeans, announced that Apple had built a mobile phone.

Yep. Checks out. Go ahead.

Apple fans were predictably ecstatic…

Psh. Those people. Liking things. So dumb.

…as they always were when His Steveness addressed them…

Spoken like someone who wasn’t there a year later when Apple introduced the MacBook Air.

…but the rest of the world yawned.

That’s not exactly how the Macalope remembers it. Much of the world was pretty excited while the reaction of the rest seemed to be either derisive or defensive.

It’s got to the point where someone has coined a new term – smombies (zombies on smartphones) – to describe pedestrians who walk into obstacles because they are looking at screens rather than at where they’re going.

A term no one uses. That is the point it has gotten to. Very bad.

The smartphone is the most vivid example available of how technology can be – simultaneously – both good and bad…

Well, it’s the most vivid example in which it’s mostly good. Nuclear fission is the most vivid example in which it’s mostly bad.

Naughton is either not interested in, does not have the time to or can’t provide a detailed argument here while still making it mostly about Apple. Because what follows is three paragraphs of throwing stuff against the wall to see if anything will stick, except the wall is chamfered al-you-min-ee-um and everything just slides right off.

…smartphones are also surveillance devices made in hell – pocketable slot-machines using GPS chips to track one’s every move, click, swipe and shake.

They can be. But is that Apple’s business model? No. This is why they take that 70 to 90 percent of smartphone profits Naughton mentions. Not only does Apple not care about your personal information, they will risk hits to their reputation to protect it. They did this with Google over Maps and the FBI over unlocking the phone of a terrorist. You might have read about those events, there were one or two news reports of them at the time.

And some of the apps that run on them are tailor-made vehicles for stalking, bullying, harassment and theft – to the point where parents who give smartphones to young children ought to be prosecuted for neglect.

We have an opioid crisis in this country that is straining the foster care system but we should really start thinking about taking kids away from parents who give them smartphones. Thumbs up emoji.

This cake is too delicious not to eat and have as well, so now Naughton will also decry Apple’s attempts to weed out malicious apps.

Nothing gets on to an iPhone that Apple hasn’t explicitly approved; and although Android phones are less tightly controlled, Google is increasingly trying to enforce the same kind of order in that software ecosystem.

Apple is bad for weeding out bad actors, but Google is almost as bad for weeding out fewer. OK. Nobody tell Naughton about the rash of Minecraft mods on Google Play that are malware because then his two arguments will collide like matter and anti-matter and wipe out all of existence.

“Smartphones are good. But they are mostly bad. Mostly Android smartphones, though, and I’m writing about Apple. Eh, I’ll just start typing.”

So even as we put on record our gratitude to Steve Jobs, we should also acknowledge that he has a lot to answer for.

Yes, Steve should certainly answer from beyond the grave for problems that are mostly a feature of the iPhone’s biggest competitor.

And that we should be careful what we wish for.

The Macalope just wishes the “that thing you like is really very bad” genre would die a quiet death. Is that too much to ask? Apparently.

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