Ten years ago this week, Apple launched its first ever iPhone - and we’ve come a long way since.
The first iPhone, launched in the US on June 29 2007, was the first real mass market smartphone – but competitors soon followed. There are now 2.32 billion smartphone users worldwide - that’s about a third of the world’s entire population.
Smartphones brought us apps and social media in our pocket and revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. But such rapid change has also caused some pretty big problems. A decade on from the start of the smartphone revolution here are 10 ways our lives (and economies) have changed forever.
1. We can’t go more than 10 minutes without checking our phones
The average iPhone user unlocks their phone 80 times every day – that’s an average of six - seven times per hour. In total, we spend an average of three hours and 40 minutes per day browsing.
According to a survey of employers, 55 per cent think workers constantly checking their phones is the main cause in a lack of productivity at work – in other words, employees are so glued to their phones, they’re not getting enough actual work done.
2. We're better connected than ever...
Most smartphone users think the ability to keep in touch with friends and family is the biggest thing better mobile technology has given us.
FaceTime and Skype make it seem as though people on the other side of the world are in the same room. Organising events, meetings and making group plans has never been easier. And the rare species of people who can remember birthdays without a handy Facebook notification is slowly becoming extinct.
At work, there’s a lot less need for people to be in a physical office, which has changed the way a load of companies operate. It makes it easier for freelancers to find work all over the world, and has contributed to a big increase in the amount of people working for themselves – between May 2014 and May 2015, the amount of people working freelance in the US rose by 1 million.
3. ...but that could be damaging our mental health
But being able to check in with work at any time might not be that good for us. One study found that employees work the equivalent of their entire holiday allowance out of hours – by checking emails in the evening, for example – and said that will inevitably lead to stress, 'burnout' and health problems. France has tried to change this, and workers recently won a court case which means companies will have to guarantee that employees don’t have to check emails out of hours.
In the UK, mental health problems are said to cost the economy over £100 billion a year and our obsession with staying constantly connected has been proven to contribute to that.
The #StatusOfMind survey revealed that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat were all associated with increases in depression, anxiety and loneliness in young people and social media use has given rise to a whole new strand of online bullying - a UK charity said it had seen an 88% increase in young people seeking help for online bullying in a five year period.
4. It's made getting a cab a lot easier
These days, an Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb can be booked and paid for online within the space of five minutes. These kind of apps have launched a whole new ‘gig economy’. The idea is that it’s a lot more convenient for consumers, and is also meant to be more convenient for workers - they can work when and where they want. Uber, for example, says the majority of their drivers work part-time to supplement their main income.
But the ‘gig economy’ has allowed companies like Uber to get round giving workers some pretty basic employee rights, such as sick pay, and avoid lots of the taxes associated with running a company with employees. How to regulate the ‘gig economy’, making sure it’s fair for everyone and making sure companies like Uber are paying their way has become a big headache for governments around the world.
5. Social media has changed the way we voice our opinions...
Social media has allowed people to shout pretty loudly about the things they think are unfair in their countries and hashtag activism has become a powerful tool. The #BlackLivesMatter movement originated from a hashtag in 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman over the shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin and thanks to social media, is now a worldwide movement. In 2016 a group of protesters opposed a big pipeline that was being built through the Standing Rock reservation in the US – more than 1 million supporters around the world used social media to ‘check-in’ to Standing Rock, making it harder for authorities to identify who the protesters were. The protests managed to temporarily stop the pipeline, and the boss of the company trying to build it said he had "underestimated" the power of social media.
6. ...and the way politicians interact with us
In the UK election in 2017, both the major political parties – Labour and the Conservatives – spent upwards of £1 million on social media advertising. But there was another campaign being run by ordinary people at home, for free, using memes. Jeremy Corbyn – who didn't win the election, but did get a whole load of young people to vote for him – credited social media for playing a major part in drumming up support for Labour, his party.
Iran has taken it a step further, the country's most recent election involved candidates battling it out on social media, culminating in a showdown between the President and his rival with their speeches being streamed live on Instagram.
7. It’s much easier to be informed and just as easy to be misinformed
Apparently, 51 per cent of people with online access use social media as a news source. But in the era of bitesize, easily-digestible news – designed to be quickly read and shared on your phone – wrong information can spread like wildfire. The 2016 US election was criticised for the circulation of fake news which some people think influenced the election’s outcome. If you think about most major world news events unverified pictures and information spread while traditional media organisations struggle to get hold of what’s going on – by the time any inaccuracies have been corrected, they’ve been shared and retweeted, reaching hundreds of thousands of people.
8. Old products are becoming obsolete
A phone is now a Mary Poppins bag for technology. When almost everything you need can fit in one device that fits snugly in a pocket, there’s not much need to buy other gadgets. The quality of many phone cameras can now rival that of stand-alone cameras, and sales of cameras are falling. GPS systems and Tom-Toms have also felt the blow; in 2013, GPS industry leader Garmin said sales were less than a third of what they'd been before the launch of smartphones. Even Apple itself has been affected – by making iPhones they made their own iPods pretty much useless and since 2009, iPod sales have steadily decreased.
9. Brands will pay $500,000 for an Instagram post
A post shared by Kylie (@kyliejenner) on
Ten years ago you’d probably never have believed someone could make a living just off taking selfies. But now social media campaigns are just as important as print ads – if not more, and brands pay big bucks to get someone with loads of followers to promote them.
The average sponsored Instagram post costs $300, but for access to Kim Kardashian’s 101 million followers, brands will happily pay up to $500,000 for a series of Instagram snaps. It’s not just celebrities that brands want – when beauty giant L’Oreal used around 2000 ‘everyday influencers’ – to promote their new clay mask across a variety of social media channels, the result was a 51 per cent increase in sales of the product.
10. Our phones are such a huge part of our lives, people are willing to pay $$$ just to get away from them for a bit
Remember those good old days of no notifications, beeps or vibrations? The concept of a 'digital detox' – or just leaving your phone at home for a bit – has become more and more popular. In fact, 95% of people found that their mood improved after leaving their phones behind at home and spending a bit of time outside. Holiday companies have cashed in, promoting no cell reception as a bonus feature, with one resort charging holiday makers $595 for 72 hours of unconnected bliss.