What if the iPhone had never arrived?


Now that coral reef is bleached bone white and space gray. There is one kind of phone, the black slab, and two manufacturers. A decade ago phones slipped, slid, and transformed. Now they just slide to unlock.

What would have happened had Cupertino not launched the iPhone when they did? I think Blackberry and Palm would still be alive, their OSes and software churning away on countless phones. The rise of the truly open cellphone – what Android was supposed to be but isn’t – would have created an entirely new ecosystem for cellphone apps and home-brew. We’d have Linux on mobile more than we do now… More at TechCrunch.

What a brilliant premise for an article. Thanks to Bob.

Categories: iPhone

1 reply

  1. I guess you could argue some small portion of the physical diversity moved to people’s choice of case. My girlfriend has one with a built-in loop- I’d find it clunky but she loves the security of it. A silver lining in the grey cloud of “thinner at any cost” is that you can use a case without the whole thing feeling excessively thick… it’s like the phone’s shell is an inner skin that the brave can use as the outer skin as well.

    But of course, the true diversity brought forth was virtual, at least once the app stores fired up. That shiny black screen on a rectangular slab was a canvas on a frame – and like most canvases, it’s boring by itself, but unlocked a world where the device transformed itself into a different device. Poof, now it’s a web browser! Poof, now it’s an ebook reader! Poof, now it’s a video game! Poof now it’s an iPod! (Or even a phone – and of course,”iPod with touch controls; a revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough Internet communications device” was Jobs’ original 3-in-1 pitch) That all-encompassing transformative property – one that multiwindow systems lack – is why side-by-side window modes on tablets aren’t much more than a novelty, or just a gimmick to keep a video playing while doing something else in our world of distraction.

    That article’s look to the future though – “Phones will become less interesting when we can talk to and see our interfaces using aural and AR. AI, however primitive, will kill our contact books and calendar apps. App stores will shrink and then explode as developers learn to use new techniques. Our phones will get thinner thanks to new battery systems and cloud computing will let us do more with less. ”

    Aural, yeah. Siri and Alexa and whatever that other one is will bring us closer to what we see on Star Trek. (Like how you can interrupt your own log entry by saying ‘computer….’ – that takes a lot of context sensitivity. We have a long way to go with that. Also a lot of privacy to put at risk…) AR? Could be. But Google Glass was a laughingstock, and it’s not clear the industry can even get people excited about nifty watches, nevermind sticking stuff on their face. (Wake me up when we have dynamic holograms…) No idea why AI will “kill our contact books and calendar apps”, vs just have some new entries into them. (I mean, there will be that annoying ‘guess what I want to do based on past behavior’ which can be ok as long as it offers an easy way to tell it what you actually meant to say…) And then… phones will get thinner thanks to new battery systems. Err, yeah. Or at least thinner. And cloud computing, more with less? That just moves the problem of power and heat and storage from local processing to connectivity. Certainly some utility, but you’ll always at least need that local cache for when you’re on the one subway car or driving into a cellular deadzone. (Or you know, that big EMP pulse, but that’s a different story.)

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