10 years of the iPhone: Apple’s flagship device has taken us back as many steps as it has taken us forward

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The 10th anniversary of the Apple iPhone reminds us that while it wasn’t the first smartphoneit was the first to achieve mass-market allure. Since then the iPhone has defined the approach which other smartphone makers have taken.

Smartphones have changed our lives, essentially giving us an internet-connected personal computer in our pocket. But while we’re distracted by Candy Crush or Pokemon Go, we are losing liberty. We are losing management of our very own devices, and losing access to the information they contain — in the very same devices which are increasingly important in our life.

To see just how far we’ve come, consider that private desktop computers just became widespread with the IBM PC. By designing the PC with an open architecture, an huge industry of PC-compatible goods from other manufacturers popped up. It’s the same now: whenever you buy a computer, you will have (if you wish) the ability and the right to include or remove, swap or update any component of the system hardware, install or remove any software you wish, including the operating system, and also access to some information stored on it.

However, now the smartphone or tablet computer have in many cases effectively substituted the desktop computer or notebook computer. In components of the developing planet, smartphones are the first experience many have of computing and internet accessibility. The reality they are small and mobile and work wirelessly signifies they are set to many other applications, for example as receiving guidance from navigation programs, listening to music while exercising, or playing matches in waiting rooms.

Yet doing something which’s quite simple on a pc — these as listing your files — is impossible within an iPhone. IPhone users may alter their desktop image, their ring-tone, the time of their alert. But the iPhone protects what files it contains jealously. Your telephone that is carried anywhere with you, which understands your precise location, which documents the websites you visit — has all of its files entirely inaccessible to you. If you care about privacy this ought to seem disturbing.

We have consistently had the right to regulate their own computers, to perform with them as we wished. But the tablets and tablets we’re buying now come without administrator rights: we are only consumers in the palms of the big tech companies, and these firms effectively rule the machines we live with.

Information and liberty

Of course, the iPhone does permit access to your information, for example as photographs, emails or files. But it is often difficult to get off that data the phone. The manner the iPhone communicates with your personal computer is a closed, proprietary protocol, and Apple alters this protocol every time it upgrades the mobile phone. So if you use neither Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac computers you will have a tough time to acquire your own photographs out of your phone.

The same issue also impacts which applications may be installed. If you understand how write code, it is possible to create your own applications to fix your very own unique issues. But the iPhone does not permit you to run these apps: only applications authorised by Apple and distributed via the Apple Store is permitted.

Open alternatives

Why so tightly control what we can perform with our devices? Some will assert that these restrictions are essential in favor of security. If we appear again at computers, however, we find that Linux, a open source non-commercial operating platform, is also the most protected. It’s true that the Android mobile phone operating system, which is much more receptive, is not as protected as the iOS operating system which runs Apple’s iPhone. But it reveals that it is possible to have a system which is both open and secure.

In reality, iOS is built around a few open source software jobs — people that internal workings are available to anybody to view or modify, at no cost. But while components of iOS are open source, they are utilized as component of a tightly closed system. Android, a open source mobile phone operating system originally created by Google, is the chief alternative to the iPhone. But Android phones also have many closed source elements, and Google is replacing open elements with closed source types.

Another alternative comes in the form of Ubuntu Touch, a current version of the favorite Ubuntu Linux for tablets and phones, even though it is not yet widely used. The reality remains that eight years on, the mobile revolution kicked-off by the iPhone has taken us many steps forward and many steps back; leaving us uncertain of whether a day we will really completely have our devices.

The Conversation

Leandro Soriano Marcolino, Lecturer in Data Engineering, Lancaster University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Photograph by Blake Patterson

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