Apple’s new watch might seem useless, but it could yet change our lives

My generation seems to measure out its life in new smartphone releases

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If you really want a picture of progress, the generation gap and the times we live in, give a baby an iPad. I was with a friend’s one-and-a-bit-year-old last weekend and in between kicking a mini-football, building a train track, eating strawberries and generally tumbling around, he sat, as good as gold, playing a Thomas the Tank Engine jigsaw game on his mother’s iPad.

It is not an original observation but there is something quite striking about watching a small child who cannot yet talk operating one of the most sophisticated pieces of technology to emerge in our lifetime. Many parents talk of their babies swiping at the television screen, so used are they to controlling technology with their fingertips, or making prank calls on their iPhone when they leave them alone with it. Imagine what the little hackers will be able to do by the time they get to secondary school.

There can be little doubt that the next to follow Generation X and Generation Y will be Generation i. A good thing? It’s too early to tell. An article this week revealed that Steve Jobs, who invented the iPad, did not allow his children to use one and limited their access to technology at home.

This is less revelatory of tech anxiety, I think, than the kind of thing any parent would say if you quizzed them about their children and their gadget habits. Besides, Jobs died three years ago, which is a whole generation or two ago – literally, in the Apple sense. The technology market is getting younger by the day. Whatever the effects of that might be, there is no turning back now.

It is hardly surprising that babies, toddlers, tweens and teens are already hooked on gadgetry. Their parents are just as bad – indeed worse, given that there is a compulsion to behave like children whenever Apple dangles a new treat. Among the company’s many achievements, perhaps the most remarkable is its ability to get the world excited about technology; and not only that, but about technology that often already exists, only in less cool, less white/gold packaging; and not only that, but about technology that no one  ever even knew they needed – like  tablets, or interactive watches.

Bizarrely, adults queue up for these  things like 10-year olds used to queue up for Harry Potter books, though there are no spoilers with an iPhone. They pitch tents outside high-street shops, which is very ironically retro when you consider it would be much easier, much more in keeping, to order one online with a swipe of the finger.

 

The launches themselves are glitzier, ritzier and more breathlessly followed than the biggest red-carpet events. With good reason, perhaps: the smartphone has changed the way those of us lucky enough to have one do pretty much everything. It has also made us believe that we cannot live without it. That is not true, of course. The iPhone does not provide drinking water or any other life-sustaining force – it barely has enough battery juice to sustain itself most of the time.

It is not clear when it happened but there is a generation – my generation – which measures out its life in new smartphone releases. No one forgets their first iPhone. The cycle is always the same – indifference, anticipation, excitement, frustration (none in stock until after Christmas!), love (great camera!), theft, hate (awful battery!), apathy, and finally, the wait for the next edition. I could build a small igloo out of the white chargers and USB cables from all the many devices I have bought, broken and seen go defunct since the early Noughties.

These gadgets give us everything we need, and quite a few things we don’t – like a new U2 album. Already my phone does things of which I am not, and probably never will be, aware. Now it seems I will have to get over my antipathy to “wearable technology”, too.

Until this week, it struck me as the limit of what people could be conned into thinking they need in the name of technology. Everyone who wants one already has a watch; everyone else uses their phone – what possible use is an Apple Watch? It turns out that it looks quite nice, lots of other people want one and it will streamline some parts of life to a point that barely seemed probable, or necessary, 12 months ago. Might as well get on board now – I already have the charger for it, after all.

Comments