Woe no: Apple failed to cure tech addiction

Apple's announcements fail to satisfy somebody else's business model.


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Apple held a keynote this week and it failed to cure society of all its woes which, by the way, were all created by Apple.

Writing for Wired, Arielle Pardes describes “Tech addiction and the paradox of Apple’s screen time tools.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Nathan.)

To drive home the point of how tech addiction is a very real thing and not mostly a bunch of pseudo-science babble attempting to rebrand certain poor life choices, Wired includes a picture of a typical dumb-dumb enraptured by his stoopid iPhone and provides this caption:

“A phone-absorbed attendee at WWDC, where Apple announced a suite of features to limit distraction and recalibrate priorities on the iPhone.”

Yeah, funny thing about that picture, though…

The “phone-absorbed attendee” is actually iMore editor-in-chief Rene Ritchie. And, as he explained on Twitter, he was taking a picture, not playing Farmville. So, your example of a mindless iPhone thrall was a journalist covering an event by taking a picture of said event. It was a guy doing his job.

This is a perfect example of the Puritanical nature of those railing against people using their smartphones. Whoever wrote the caption had no idea who Ritchie is or what he was doing. He was a person looking at his phone. Case closed. Of course, Wired would never have used that caption if Ritchie had been holding a digital camera instead because that would have been stupid. Except, he was holding a digital camera. It just happened to be part of his iPhone. And this is the problem with the concept of “tech addiction.” Yes, we stare at our phones a lot. But that’s partly because they’re such amazing, multi-purpose devices.

Are you on Facebook too much? Maybe. But why is it that between you, Facebook and the phone, we’ve decided it’s the phone’s fault?

Anyway, let’s dive right into the first two words of the article without even thinking because what could go wro…

Steve Jobs…

Oh, my God, can we just not.

So, Steve Jobs gave the world the iPhone and it ruined literally everything.

The App Store invented a new world, where chauffeurs, dates, and deliverymen could be summoned with a few taps; but also where our attention could be shattered, our democracy shaken, and our anxiety spiked.

It never ceases to amaze how Apple can be the maker of pathetic playthings with paltry market share that are continually out-classed by the powerful tools coming from the company’s competitors, and at the same time responsible for ruining a political system and the lives of all of humanity.

…it's hard not to imagine Steve Jobs as a young Dr. Frankenstein; the App Store, his monstrous creation.

Hyperbole. It’s what’s for dinner. And breakfast. And lunch. The Wired cafeteria had to simplify the menu due to budget cuts.

Having opined the day before Apple’s WWDC keynote about how tech addiction is terrible so Apple must open up iOS to apps that want to take over your phone, Pardes is now back to pass judgement on what Apple did announce, which was a slew of ways to better control interactions with your iPhone.

But you’re not going to believe what happened next! Yes, in utter defiance of good taste, Apple executives went on to announce new features that were not related to limiting your interactions with your iPhone! What?!

But just moments later, Apple executives demonstrated Memoji, a new personalized emoji feature that involves staring at the screen and animating a digital character with your facial features.

Well, what did you think was going to happen? That Apple was going to make the phone start sucking so people would stop looking at it? The reason people look at the phone is because they like using the phone. And can we do away with the notion that every interaction with a smartphone is akin to hurling yourself into some toxic pit of despair? These devices are how we keep in touch with friends, family and loved ones. They’re how we read books, get news, listen to music and conduct research (even when the phone Puritans think you’re ignoring the art you’re actually researching). Yeah, you should definitely not use it while driving unless your car is already tumbling trunk over hood into a ravine. But there are plenty of very valid and, dare The Macalope say, healthy reasons to be looking at your phone.

Apple says it wants you to have a healthier relationship with your phone, and it'll even give you the tools to do it. But for every feature it showed to wrangle notifications or curb app use, it added more to keep you staring at your screen.

Stop adding features, Apple. In fact, please remove features. Take this marvelous, versatile device and turn it back into a dumb keypad that makes phone calls.

Pardes then goes back to the well of developers that sell “digital wellness” apps for Android so they can complain about Apple not letting them take over the entire device experience.

“The fact Apple thinks three product changes alone can solve a complex social problem speaks to how simplistically they are treating the issue,” says Andrew Dunn, the CEO of Siempo, an Android app that replaces the standard homescreen with a simpler interface to minimize distraction.

Siempo is an app that was born from a failed Kickstarter for a distraction-free phone. The company’s homepage includes a header title “Siempo in the press” that features the names of publications that have done stories on Siempo but it does not include any links to those stories. So, The Macalope went to one of the outlets named, The Verge, and searched for “Siempo” and found one article about the Kickstarter campaign from 2017. It was a fairly straightforward piece about the phone, which only existed as a design mockup at the time. But the author, Ashley Carman, had this to say about the concept:

But here’s the thing: I’m not ready to give up Instagram. I kind of can’t imagine life without it? I know that sounds extreme, and I promise you I’m not an influencer or anything like that, but I genuinely love Instagram. It’s a good app and an easy way to see what my friends are doing.

Just like Rene Ritchie is addicted to taking pictures, poor Ashley is addicted to friendship. Very sad. One wonders why Apple won’t do something about it. Like, say, totally jack up the user experience on its very successful and beloved smartphone. Seems the least it could do.

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