New slimmer, bendier iPhone will alter everything


The new iPhone may well be a bit bendier, like this machine from LG

Intense speculation surrounds the launch of the next generation iPhone. Some technology observers expect the machine to be curved and to offer a larger screen. The example of the recent LG phone points in this direction. Interest in the phone will be rife the moment launch plans are revealed by Apple’s CEO at an event in Nevada next month.

An interest in constant technological improvement is a sign of hope; hope that we’ll work out how to fix stuff: wars, inequality, battery life, anger, dropped signals and – most important of all (yet most secretly) – ourselves.

Of course, it is a bit strange to get extremely excited about the changing face of a product, which – for all its small evolutions – is at heart very similar to the one that came just before it. It is a covert admission that big, dramatic stepchanges are, in fact, maddeningly, quite rare.

It’s sad how genuinely elusive breakthrough developments in technology are: it took hundreds of years to go from the donkey to the train, then several decades to move from the train to the car, and a few more to graduate to the plane. Where’s that long-promised rocket to Australia? What about the personal helicopter and bionic suit? We can imagine so much more than we end up having.

Maybe it would be easier if the future never came. But it will. Just rather too slowly for us. One day, some radical new kind of transport system will whisk us to Sydney in the time it takes to finish this sentence – but that will be in three hundred years time. There’ll be drugs to cure baldness and death – by 2190. Our successors will pity us about how tough it was in our day, the way we think of people who died of bubonic plague and had to use chamber pots. We’re strung awkwardly between millenial hope and day to day resignation.


London to Sydney very quickly – one day…

Because our hopes are so big, we can’t help but secretly want technological developments to be more significant and consequential than they in fact are. The messianic longing has to go somewhere and, for want of a better destination, nowadays it often gets channelled to our phones.

Of course, technology is brilliant, but it’s striking, when one thinks about it, how it deals with only with only a tiny part of our needs. Communication has many problems that the iPhone doesn’t care about. It can’t calm you down when you are furious or stop you saying fatal, deeply hurtful things to your partner, which five minutes later leave you extremely embarrassed. It can’t help you find the words to console a grieving friend, soothe a child, or unpick a tricky situation at the office.

But there is a lot we can change right now. We don’t always have to wait for Apple. Big tech companies are very narrowly focused on resolving problems of speed, convenience and distance. Yet we have so many other needs and we might learn to treat certain aspects of life with the same kind of undaunted ambition as Apple confronts the dilemmas of mobile technology. For example, it’s in our hands to get our relationships to go slightly better – right now. If we can get hopeful about battery life stretching 30 minutes longer, there’s also reason to aim to save one hour a week having less intense arguments.

It’s not that we should give up being fascinated by improvements to communications devices that might be available in a few months. It’s rather that we need to start treating other parts of existence more like our phones: as things we might improve. We might make a start by trying to fix our characters, one bit at a time, starting now.