Today marks 10 years since the iPhone changed the world. Like it or loathe it, the brick-shaped piece of plastic has altered all our lives in incalculable ways. It ushered in the birth of the mass-produced modern ‘smartphone’, which has led to a generation of screen-tapping young adults obsessed with data.
It’s even led to a new medical phenomenon, known as ‘text neck’, the premature hunching of the upper spine, which chiropractors warn could lead to further problems in later life.
As a culture, we’ve been on a journey thanks to the advent of this mobile technology, from being able to share humorous videos to keeping in touch with family members on the the other side of the world and from the in-built maps function sending lorry drivers into the sea/rivers/down dead-end roads to people staggering into fountains while distracted by their phones. The proliferation of mobile technology has even spawned a counter-culture, with some holiday operators offering ‘mobile free’ retreats. But if you’re one of those people who hoards obsolete modern technology, you could be sitting on a small fortune. Some unboxed early iPhones are selling on auction websites for upwards of £3,000.
While there is much to be said about the pros and cons of mobile phones, one thing is certain, according to Professor Colin Pattinson, from Leeds Beckett University: the technology is not going to go away.
Far from it, if we thought the previous decade was revolutionary, just wait for the next, by the end of which you might be wearing your phone rather than carrying it.
Prof Pattinson, dean of the School of Computing, Creative Technologies & Engineering, said: “The fact is that in some respects a lot has changed and in other respects, a lot is the same. You still have a square box you stick to your ear. iPhone was a trailblazer for the smartphone. It unified a lot of things which were possible separately and made using them simpler. We always had texting but all of a sudden we had video and photography and internet all on one platform.
“That got developers thinking of things which we now absolutely have to have, which 10 years ago we didn’t even know we needed. Things like Snapchat - anyone under the age of 20 lives off it.
He went on: “It has created a number of beneficial things and in some respects made life easier but it’s also made life more difficult in terms of people’s data being accessed and hacked. There’s not much that has been invented that the bad guys haven’t been able to take advantage of.”
So, where does he think the humble mobile phone will be in 2027? Will we be wearing our technology by then?
“The idea of having a phone in your hand does seem to stick with people. We have had wearable tech for a while now and it seems not to have caught on in quite the same way. I suspect it will catch on, the change will probably come if and when the interface isn’t primarily pressing things with your finger. It’s things like voice activation. For as long as we have to press buttons and push things... until that changes and something else like voice or gesture become the main way you interact, there will always have to be something hand-sized. Smartphones will continue to evolve but there are limitations there also - the size of your hands, battery technology, which although moving is moving quite slowly. What’s unlikely to change is we will always need more network capacity.”
He says 5G, the last remaining section of bandwidth available to us, will come soon enough.
“After that, it will be about finding ways of using the existing network. Things like data compression before putting information onto the network - it’s called ‘edge’ computing and it’s something we’ll be seeing more of in the future.”