Introduced in mid-2007 to much acclaim, the iPhone is an excellent example of cultural adaptation because it is conceived as an intervention into the styles of contemporary culture – notably mobile phone cultures, Internet cultures, and the broader scenes of digital culture. According to Goggin(2009), “iPhone is a fascinating instance of adaptation, especially as it relates to digital cultures. A theme in the rise of the mobile, or cell, phone has been how it underscores the active role that people play in the orchestration and use of culture. The gambit of the iPhone is that the mobile phone itself will be decisively remade, and through this that media culture will itself be reformed.” Goggin(2009) considers the iPhone functions both as a signal adaptation of the mobile phone at the same time as it introduces new practices and politics of adaptation.
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History of iPhone
The first time a technology came to be called the iPhone was actually in the mid-1990s, when it meant the ‘Internet phone’. With the rapidly growing mass consumption of the Internet, developers were hard at work to devise a form of telephony that could work via the new network of networks. This form of Internet telephony was called the iPhone(Vogelstein 2008). This has now developed into a relatively easy-to-use household technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), with its best-known proponent being Skype. In the 1999-2000 period, a different class of mobile phone devices was marketed, also bearing the name of the iPhone. Key to these was that the mobile phone would now become a prime device for accessing the Internet. For its part, Apple started work on its iPhone in 2005, with a prototype finally emerging in mid-2006 (Vogelstein 2008). The iPhone ran initially on the 2.5-generation digital mobile phone network, with the third-generation (3G) iPhone following roughly a year later, in mid-2008.
“It was the biggest launch since the Apollo program. How did Apple’s smartphone – which slickly packages features already available in other handsets – become such a highly anticipated phenomenon? The answer lies not in Steve Jobs’ (undisputed) marketing prowess but in the abject failure of other handset manufacturers to deliver a portable Internet device with mass appeal. So the iPhone has ascended, and its liftoff was a rousing success.” (Geekipedia 2007)
Innovation of iPhone
For a number of reasons, the iPhone is a very interesting case of mobile phone adaptation. The kind of adaptation the iPhone represents is about adapting the mobile phone for the Internet. It is about adapting the mobile to finally put it at the centre of computing, the Internet and digital culture (Donner, 2009). For instance, the iPhone is very much a platform for, and creature of, its applications. Moreover, the mobile phone very much emerged as a haptic technology by the emphasis on the mobile as a ‘hand’ (or ‘handy’) technology, and especially through the text messaging ‘thumb’ culture. And it also borrows from the well-established, distinctive traits of Apple ‘i’ technologies: the hardware of the iPod, and the software, and intellectual property and digital rights management regime of the iTunes application(Donner, 2009). Thus the iPhone pushes the mobile much more towards the world of computers and the Internet.
Using the iTune interface and user experience, the Apps store does make it much easier to be aware of, choose, pay for and download applications for iPhone. Apple’s pitch is: ‘Applications unlike anything you’ve seen on a phone before’:
“Applications designed for iPhone are nothing short of amazing. That’s because they leverage the groundbreaking technology in iPhone – like the Multi-Touch interface, the accelerometer, GPS, real-time 3D graphics, and 3D positional audio. Just tap into the App Store and choose from thousands of applications ready to download now. (Apple Apps store, www.apple.com,15 October 2008)
Both via the Internet and using the iPhone itself, the experience of finding applications is much enhanced. Not only is the iPhone a signal adaptation of the Internet and mobiles, it is highly adaptable by its users (Goggin, 2009). The applications and programming options of the iPhone themselves feature very visibly in iPhone culture, as the Apple promotion suggests – as users try, swap and discuss applications. It has also meant that the iPhone is an important new platform for developers, a community which has often found the experience of developing applications for mobiles a frustrating experience (Vogelstein, 2008).
With the iPhone, Apple sets out take the control of adaptation from the hands of mobile phone carriers and manufacturers, and to allow new flexibility, third-party applications, programming and data exchange (Sawhney, 2009). Apple launched the iPhone without allowing access to third-party developers. Apple was able to negotiate unusually favourable terms with carriers, regarding the split of revenues. This was one reason why Apple also struck exclusive deals with carriers – such as its deal with AT&T when it first launched in the United States(Sawhney, 2009). The political economy of mobile media is still very much structured and controlled by the cellular mobile carriers, which by virtue of their control of the networks, custody of the customer databases and long-established sunk capital and pervasive presence still command what is otherwise a maelstrom of media convergence. Carrier-imposed bans on applications, such as AT&T’s Skype block on the iPhone, Outside the USA, while devices are more expensive, buyers don’t have to lock into long-term contracts(Sawhney, 2009). The iPhone is available on a non-exclusive basis in many countries, including France, Belgium, Italy and Australia. In those markets, consumers can buy the device and use it on any network.
Apple tries to control, circumscribe and manage the way in which it puts new powers of adaptation in the user’s hands. What Apple does not reckon on, or at least cannot hold at bay, is the warp-speed way that unauthorized modification of the iPhone occurs. Jailbreaking refers to hacking iOS to download Web apps not approved by Apple. This used to be difficult. This spring, a website came along called JailbreakMe.com that made it trivial to jailbreak your own iPhone(Sawhney, 2009).
iPhone for business
iPhones is the brand makes incursions on RIM’s BlackBerry, once acknowledged as the smartphone of choice for corporate America. In a recent conference call, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said about 20% of Fortune 100 companies have purchased a total of 10,000 or more iPhones since the handset’s release in 2007, and scores of government agencies and businesses have each purchased more than 25,000 iPhones for their organizations (Ling, 2008).
In many ways, the iconic iPhone is sneaking through the marketers’ corporate back door: Consumers fall for it and decide they want to use it as their business phone, too. The handset’s popularity among corporate smartphone users and its support of the Microsoft Exchange mail server and other enterprise requirements have forced more and more IT departments to support them, landing the iPhone on the list of company-sanctioned phones(Ling, 2008). But consumer brand marketers are also subtly encouraging its use as they look to develop applications for the phone and seek input from employees.
And in some cases, it’s the other way around. Marketing people who are iPhone enthusiasts are likely to push apps. At Kraft, employees share iPhone best practices, favorite applications and company ringtones. As to be expected at a company that has crafted a iPhone application-the iFood Assistant shopping and recipe utility-there’s also a repository of ideas for new-iPhone-application development(Ling, 2008). More than 4,500 employees, or about 5% of Kraft’s staff, have iPhones that were partly underwritten by the company’s stipend program, which gives eligible employees $100 toward any personal digital assistant they choose. That means Kraft would have to sell more than 450,000 copies of its 99¢ iFood app to recoup the iPhone stipend. Kraft declined to say how many times iFood has been downloaded, but it is among the top 20 paid apps in the lifestyle section of the App Store(Ling, 2008).
In light of all the interest in the new Apple iPhone, Neilson Mobile recently issued a report on just who is using smart phones, what they are paying and who pays the bills. The research firm says that in the first quarter of this year, 48 percent of smart phone users were business people, but of those, slightly fewer than half said their companies were paying the bills(Goggin, 2009).
Research in Motion (BlackBerry), HTC and Palm continue to lead the
smart pbone industry in market share, Neilson, says, with Apple trailing in fourth place. Apple iPbone users, however, report the highest overall satisfaction scores among major smart phone manufacturers.
The average smart phone user paid $205 ior the device and $110 on a
monthly service plan (a 10 percent increase from the previous year). Although men and women spend nearly the same amount on monthly service, men tend to spend more for their device than women ($216 versus $189) (Goggin, 2009).
Penetration of smart phones has more than doubled in the past years, according to Neilson, going from 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2007 to 9.9 percent this year. The number of female smart phone users went from 3.4 percent in 2007 to 7.8 percent this year, while penetration in the male market doubled from 6.1 percent in 2007(Grossman, 2007).
Neilson says that 59 percent of U.S. smart phone users are male, while nearly 72 percent range in age from 25 to 54 years old. In addition, more than a third of smart phone users have a household income of at least $100,000 (nearly an 8 percent increase from the previous year).
Shortcomings of iPhone
Apple’s iPhone has drawn much interest from business executives. IT operations professionals, however, have remained skeptical about providing support for the devices. However, according to Benjamin Gray at Forrester Research, there are a number of reasons why IT should not support the iPhone(Sawhney, 2009).
The iPhone “does not natively support push business e-mail or over-the-air calendar sync,” Cray cites as a primary concern. “The iPhone can sync with Microsoft’s Exchange and IBM’s Lotus Notes over
IMAP and SMTP ports, but an organization’s server and security admins have to configure their infrastructure to do so or purchase a mobile gateway from Synchronica or Azaleos. Even then, the iPhone can only check for new e-mail every 15 minutes.” (Sawhney, 2009)
A second concern is chat the iPhone does not accommodate third-party applications, including those internally developed. “This is a showstopper for companies with enterprise mobility initiatives that require line-of-business applications like mobile sales force automation or an industry-specific application like mobile claims,” Gray asserts(Sawhney, 2009).
Security is another problem, especially since encryption of data is not supported. “There is no way for a company to natively secure the data
on an iPhone with file or disk encryption, which is a critical consideration now that 73 percent of client security decision makers are interested in
disk or desktop encryption,” Gray reports(Sawhney, 2009).
In addition, the single-most important feature of a mobile device-management solution, according to Forrester, is the ability to remotely lock or wipe a lost or stolen device(Sawhney, 2009). As Gray says, however, “The iPhone does not come with any management software, so there is no way for IT to lock a device if or when users call the help desk and explain that they left their non-password protected iPhone behind in a taxi.”
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Discussion and Conclusion
The iPhone is but one project among many that seek to modify the mobile to better take account of the things users expect from Internet and computing cultures, not to mention the genres, forms and practices of convergent media. The iPhone is an especially interesting case but it is such a strong adaptation – indeed, Apple has actively tried to present its device as marking a break with the mobile phone(Grossman, 2007).
What is specific about the iPhone is its refiguring of the history, design and habitus of mobile phone culture, and the way in which it moves the mobile much more into the realm of other online media. Yet just as important is the shaping of the iPhone as a device to navigate, arrange and orchestrate everyday life(Grossman, 2007). Here the iPhone is being co-created by a range of other cultural intermediaries than Apple itself, including software developers and users. The third part of the iPhone’s new logic of adaptation is the cultural politics of modification, where hackers and battles over code, commons and architecture are playing out.To understand the triple-play of adaptation in the case of the iPhone, for instance, we need to engage with the new lexicon of copying, modification, authorized and unauthorized use, versioning, and so on that comes from computer, Internet and digital cultures (Grossman, 2007). What emerges here is a set of new considerations for understanding both the processes of adaptation, and the dynamics of culture that subtends them.
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