It was 15 years ago today that Apple released for sale the most successful product in the history of technology. It is not an overstatement to say that the iPhone changed the world. It changed the way we interact with one another, how we work, how we play, and how we entertain ourselves. That doesn't mean it doesn't have a big problem, however. We'll get to that in a minute.
Look, I think the iPhone is great. It helps me stay organized, and I can honestly say I wouldn't be able to do my job without it. It makes just about everything easier.
When Steve Jobs stood on a stage in 2007 to introduce the iPhone, six months before it was released on June 29, 2007, he called it a "breakthrough internet communications device." At the time, no one had any idea what he was talking about. In fact, the obviously excited audience got quiet, except for a few awkward laughs, as Jobs got to that part of his presentation. What on earth is an internet communications device?
Well, 15 years later, we know what it means. No one thinks of the iPhone as a "widescreen iPod with touch controls," or a "revolutionary mobile phone," the two other descriptions Jobs used. I almost never use mine to make phone calls, and Apple doesn't even make iPods anymore. There are a lot of people who have iPhones, but have never owned, or even seen, an iPod.
On the other hand, we use our iPhones to communicate on the internet all the time. An internet communications device is something you use for messages, and email, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Slack, and all the other things you do to stay connected with other people. All of that, obviously, happens over the internet.
iPhones are almost perfectly designed for this. They're always in our pocket, they are as powerful as many personal computers, and there are apps for basically everything you could possibly want to do.
And, your iPhone is happy to let you know when someone wants to communicate with you. It's really good at reminding you about the meeting that's about to happen, or the weather this morning, or the message from your teammate.
It's so good at all of those things, but it's also really good at things like doom scrolling social media or binge-watching videos on YouTube or Netflix. The problem is that every time your iPhone lights up to tell you about a new conversation or message, you have to unlock it and go into an app to do anything.
Once you do, it's far too easy to get distracted by all the things you'd rather be doing on your iPhone instead of responding to the co-worker who can't remember how to view the presentation you sent him. It's not that the iPhone itself is a distraction. The problem is that it makes getting to all the things that might distract you throughout the day way too easy.
But what if your iPhone could tell you about the important information you actually need, without the distractions? That's exactly what Apple is doing in iOS 16. Instead of having to unlock your iPhone and go to your Home Screen, or even open an app, Apple is making some big changes to your Lock Screen.
By big changes, mostly I mean that Apple is finally letting you do, well, anything with your Lock Screen. For example, you can add widgets to your Lock Screen, and they can display things like your next appointment, the weather, or your activity rings.
Not only that, but Apple will let you set up multiple Lock Screens, and change them automatically based on the Focus you set. If you're on vacation, you can set a focus that allows notifications only from your family. If you have to get some deep work done, you can set up a Focus that allows Slack messages only from your close team members who might need to reach you, and block everything else.
Rumors suggest Apple is making these changes in preparation for the next generation of iPhone models, at least some of which might feature an always-on display. That means you wouldn't even have to pick up your device to get important information. It's what is so great about the Apple Watch--it gives you the information you want at a glance, without being a distraction.
There's really no question the iPhone is an extraordinarily useful device. Certainly, it isn't hard to make the case that for most people, it's indispensable. It's also been a big distraction for a long time. Finally, Apple is doing something about it.