Five ways the iPhone made the world worse

06 July 2017

It's been over a decade since the iconic iPhone was first unveiled – and fanboy or hater, there's no denying that Apple's debut smartphone has changed the tech game. For the most part, this is awesome. But that doesn't mean the impact of this brave new world of handheld connectness has been uniformly positive. 

A slight disclaimer: I’m an iPhone user. It’s aesthetically pleasing, intuitively easy to use, and lets me organise practically every part of my work, finances, social media and schedule from a single device. But despite my overall satisfaction with the product, I still remain extremely wary of the Cult of Mac.

Forgive me if this seems nit-picky, but here’s five ways the iPhone revolution made the world worse.

Read receipts

If you’ve ever been ‘left on read’ by the object of your affection, you know all too well how such a seemingly small oversight can cut deeply. Apple’s iMessage was the first platform with a built-in option to show a chat partner when their last message to you was opened and presumably read – creating all sorts of anxiety and social awkwardness when one party reads a message and doesn’t reply fast enough (or at all).

Luckily, Apple owners have the option of switching read receipts off. This is a standard course of action for most iMessage users, but is it a coincidence that the contact who’s happy to leave receipts on is, inevitably, the same contact who regularly ignores your texts or only replies a week later? Apple, how many relationships must you ruin?

Obnoxious photo takers

The blame for shameless selfies, Instagram foodies, social media braggarts and oversharing mummy bloggers can’t be placed squarely at Apple’s feet, but 'iPhoneography' has done nothing to dissuade the more self-centred among us from getting snap-happy 24/7.

When our desire to document life for posterity diminishes our ability to simply enjoy the moment, it’s only natural that those around us can quickly become bored of our need to whip out the smartphone camera for every sunset, meal, or good hair day (not to mention the festival-goers and concert attendees filming every single song of the headlining band’s set – we see you, and you're awful).

In-app purchases

By now you’ve definitely read some of the in-app purchase horror stories from shocked parents: a child commandeers Mum or Dad’s iPhone for some ‘freemium’ mobile gaming, said child cheerily makes dozens of unsupervised in-app purchases, and parents lose their minds over hundreds of dollars of unexpected charges.

Apple meant well – using in-app purchases as way of streamlining app options, rather than offering multiple 'paid' and 'free' versions of a single game. But good intentions don't count for much when it's all too easy to spend real-world dollars on imaginary purchases (just ask Kanye).

Fortunately, Apple has made it a lot harder to accidentally spend money on in-app extras (you’ll need to enter your Apple ID and password to authorise purchases), but the now-standard ‘free until it’s not’ business model of mobile gaming is really, really annoying. If in-app purchases weren’t so essential to the gameplay, I might have progressed further with my brief Kim Kardashian: Hollywood preoccupation of 2014, and finally cracked that virtual A-list. Sigh.

FaceTime enthusiast relatives

If you’re not a fan of the double chin enhancement generously provided by the iPhone’s front-facing camera, you’re probably equally repulsed by FaceTime. And in an era where the traditional voice call is quickly losing out to the simplicity of messaging, combining video with audio is actual hell for anti-social iPhone users.

Even worse than being FaceTimed by a well-meaning friend? Being FaceTimed by that relative you’d rather avoid. Even if you don’t have a tech-savvy Great Aunt Muriel calling every birthday, those of us with parents that fall on the ‘helicopter' end of the spectrum have probably experienced a ‘who/what/where/when/why’ interrogation more than once; throw in the visual element of FaceTime, and that’s a call you may want to miss. 

Manufacturer lock-in

Apple is really, really good at ensuring customers stick around by ‘locking’ iPhone users in to its ecosystem. Your collection of iOS apps and iTunes movies can only be accessed and enjoyed on Apple devices: if you decide to switch to Android, most of your iOS-bought content – and accessories such as the Apple Watch – can’t come with you. Plus, the aforementioned iMessage and FaceTime can only be used between iOS devices (on second thought, this might be a positive?) and switching these off when moving to the dark side can be a massive drama that results in perpetually undelivered texts. 

Of course, if you love the simplicity of Apple and its services, and you aren’t planning on ditching your iPhone, this isn’t necessarily an issue. You’re also still free to use Google or Microsoft apps and products on your Apple device, so customers aren’t completely closed-off to the competition. But if flexibility is your thing, be careful you don't find yourself caught in the steely grip of the Apple merch machine. 

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