David R. Henderson  

Ode to iPhone

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My former student, friend, and frequent co-author, Charley Hooper wrote the following on Facebook. He titled it "Ode to iPhone." I'm reproducing it with his permission.

Now that the iPhone is turning 10, I want to tell a story of what life was like before it existed.

I was heading to Dartmouth for a conference and flew into Boston to spend the night with a friend. His mom was in the hospital and he had to cancel our plans. Did he text me? Did he call me? Did he email me? No. We didn't have the technology for that! I discovered that our plans had changed when I landed and called him on a pay phone (remember those?).

Next I needed to find a hotel. I did that with the Yellow Pages (actual paper) and a pay phone. I called hotel after hotel until I found an acceptable rate. Then I had to get there.

I found a taxi, but the driver didn't speak English well and he didn't know the area, so we got lost and went in circles. (We eventually shared a pizza as it got dark and stated to rain.) My iPhone would have solved the problem with directions. We eventually found my hotel and I paid the driver in cash.

The next morning I needed to get to the bus station. I had the public transit map and the local map and, even though they were side by side, I couldn't figure out what stations I needed because the stations were named for local landmarks that weren't on the regular map.

My short stay in Boston was spent primarily trying to communicate with others and trying to find my way, meaning that I didn't get to do anything fun. The iPhone has changed all of that. The same trip today would be dramatically different.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Matthias Görgens writes:

A mobile feature phone already solved most of these problems, even if not nearly as conveniently, since eg you'd have to call a friend with a map (or desktop access to Internet and Google Maps).

Dylan writes:

A feature phone solved most of the issues. A Blackberry solved the rest. And a device like the Nokia Internet Tablets did all of that plus more before the iPhone came around. The iPhone certainly popularized a bunch of those features and brought them to a wide audience, but certainly the first few versions of the device were inferior in terms of features to other gadgets already on the market.

Hasdrubal writes:

Were any of these features, including combining them on one device, actually innovations of the iPhone though? The day before Steve Jobs got up on stage in his black turtleneck Americans could text and browse the Internet and look up maps on their phones, they just didn't see any reason to. The day after, it was cool to do so and they started buying phones that could do them. Only one of which was the iPhone.

Charley Hooper writes:

I'm surprised at the effort each of you is making to minimize the significance of the iPhone. Before it launched, most people had flip phones and Blackberries--all severely limited in their capabilities.

The iPhone was revolutionary and for the last decade virtually every phone has been some flavor of imitation iPhone.

Grant K writes:

The technology that moves us forward, makes it simple for us to take steps that we need to advance our goals. There is no doubt that we can make decisions a lot faster now, but what about the quality of our decisions. Speaking for myself, overall, I make economically viable decisions as technology improves my daily life. I can avoid wasting time, get to my destinations a lot faster and find the cheapest option available in no time. The firms, have to adapt to a technologically advanced consumer, they have to find a new ways if you will "fool" me into buying their product. And that is not an easy task, considering how much information I have on hand. So many opinions, polls, reviews, videos and so on, that average consumer tends to rely on, makes it a very difficult task to sell, the art of selling keeps getting more difficult as technology improves. This is where firms get creative, and those who find the most nontraditional ways will strive, this is where they truly get ahead. Perhaps consumer becoming closer to the product by the means of new technologies could also mean that there are spaces opening up somewhere else, waiting to be exploited. Personally I'm all for that, change is good.

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