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Apple-Jacked: Why Developers Should Pay Attention

Friday, September 16, 2016 1:00 PM

In Apple's September 2016 keynote, set against cathartic, lounge-type instrumentals, Chief Design Officer Jonathan Ives articulately describes iPhone 7's design and materials in his smooth, British accent. Velvety, dark graphics provide visual impact to deliberately-chosen words and phrases, like evolution, unity, singular, and my personal favourite - rotational polishing. It's all quite sexual, and around the world, hearts raced and goosebumps formed as millions of people bit their bottom lips in reaction to these few minutes of tech porn - essentially, a geek's 50 Shades of Grey. It's the best phone they've ever made, claims Apple, listing reengineered improvements to multiple features and most controversially, confirming the removal of the analog headphone jack. In his presentation, Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller summarized the motivation behind this decision in one word: courage. Settle down, Apple.

The official announcement appears to have displeased the Internet, and while the skeptic within me is undecided about how I feel about the loss the headphone jack, I'm also reminded of the hilarious reactions to the launch of the first iPhone in 2007. Some mourned the death of the physical keyboard, claiming to have special insight into why the touchscreen was an inherently bad idea. What possible function could only one button serve, and what if the touchscreen failed? How would we text, unnoticed, under the tabletops at awkward family dinners, dry office meetings, and boring school lectures without the familiar QWERTY guiding our fingertips? People liked tactile typing, just as they've come to like the satisfying click of the headphone jack nestling securely into their phone's music hole. In fact, when rumours surfaced earlier this year that Apple intended to delete this decades-old technology from iPhone 7, over 200,000 people signed a petition asking it to reconsider. Apple refused, decided to not "think of the children", and here we are today, debating whether this move is an innovative breakthrough, a clever business manoeuver, or a marketing distraction.

Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star panic and run in circles.

The logic behind this change in design ranges from the dismissal of the headphone jack as archaic technology, to labeling it a design nuisance that causes bulkiness and the inability to outfit the iPhone with a bigger battery, or to make it less vulnerable to water. It has also been suggested that the move will allow innovation in wireless headphone technology to flourish, even though Apple wasn't the first to go down the headphone jack-less path. On the flip side, cynics point out the general, consistent inadequacy of wireless sound, the potential mountains of waste created by traditional headphones effectively rendered useless, and the overall ethics behind a corporate giant like Apple having ongoing, increasing control over how we experience music and other multimedia.

The iPhone 7 with Airpods on a black background

Apart from the sheer entertainment value of debates focusing on new and controversial changes in tech, the above is an important issue for developers to pay attention to. Why? Because it's crucial to observe and keep on top of how major platforms like Apple, Google, YouTube and Facebook treat their partners and users. Creating apps, browser plug-ins, or running paid internet advertising campaigns puts developers at the mercy of their distributing overlords partners. Essentially, private corporations with the power to establish and change the terms of service on a whim are the new legislative bodies of our working environments, setting the standards that developers have to adhere to in order to access their gated communities. While obeying or paying to access these platforms continues to be business as usual, opportunities to push back exist, as well. This was the case when Spotify protested against what it claimed was a violation of U.S. and E.U. competition laws on part of Apple, when it used its app approval process to block one of Spotify's iOS updates.

It remains to be seen if we'll look back on 2016 in a decade and chuckle over negative reactions to Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack, or if we'll have conformed to the new technology as we usually do. Until then? I'll be looking to adapt these wireless AirPods with mitten strings, to delay the inevitability of losing them within the first week of using the iPhone 7.

Asia Szkudlarek

Asia Szkudlarek

Asia Szkudlarek is Division 1's word wizard. She's also a project coordinator, environmentalist and wilderness adventure addict. Asia reads law textbooks for fun and is much too verbose, as evident from this short bio. You can find her on Twitter under @oaktober

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