10 Things The iPhone 5 Tells Us About The Mobile Future

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With the release of iOS 6 and the imminent release of the iPhone 5, Apple has tipped its hand about our collective mobile future–and there might be some lessons educators can glean from it all.

Changes to the iPad and iOS 6 represent a loadstone of ideas about the future of computing. If you draw a line starting at iOS 5 running right through iOS 6 and beyond, you’ll get an idea of the arc Apple sees for not only mobile devices and computing hardware, but for the digital world itself.

And while it’s true Apple could be off-target in spots, consider the other concept of the tail wagging the dog. As Apple goes, it seems, so goes the industry.

1.    Mobile devices will become indispensable

No longer tools to simply used to communicate, smartphones such as the iPhone are becoming more and more difficult to live without.

Calendar.

Messaging.

GPS.

Gaming Device.

Important (user definable) location-based alerts.

And now, wallet?

The concept of passes—electronic tickets, cards, and identifications—furthers the concept of the Google Wallet, and if adopted en masse, would make living without your smartphone an even greater hassle, similar to the movement from cash to debit cards. If the trends in the iPhone mean anything, living without them in the near future–in heavily-populated, industrialized cities anyway–may literally be impossible.

2.    Ecology matters

Apple isn’t known for embracing other companies with open arms. And while the steely, cold gaze of the Cupertino-based company has certainly spawned its share of competition, it has resulted in a multi-billion dollar ecology with it at the center. Perhaps then, suitably gargantuan, Apple feels safe in letting others play too.

Or maybe some companies are just too big too ignore.

Regardless of the reasoning, Apple has opened their arms to Facebook in the latest revision to the iOS operating system, integrating it across their operating system in an elegant weave it will take effort to remove. And considering Facebook’s recent sway, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

The takeaway here is that Apple finally not only realizes ecology matters, but is letting others in as well, including Yelp, Open Table, Rotten Tomatoes and other ideas tightly integrated into their own future.

3.    Location-based alerts = win
In a move perhaps long overdue, Apple is stepping up their use of the GPS by integrating location-based alerts.

While implementation here isn’t entirely new, it is now more neatly done. Refuse a call in a meeting, and your phone can now remind you when you leave that meeting to return the call. Walk into a Starbucks, and see your Starbucks “pass” flash onto the screen for payment. While advertising companies salivate at the potential here, non-commercial applications are just getting started as well.

4.    Actuation Matters
Long the weakness of mobile devices, Apple is seeking to improve the way you actuate your iPhone’s magic. (And eventually your iPad, too.)

Love or loathe her, Siri seems here to stay. And now her digital tentacles have far longer reach into your iPhone’s operating system, able to summon trivial information, adjust your schedule, or give you directions to the wedding location you can’t find.

Apple is also broadening the use of location-based alerts, making actuation automatic. Walk into a store, and your phone springs to life. Swiping, pinching, zooming, tilting, pull-to-refresh, and other “non-typing” interactions are emerging, reducing the burden on your thumbs and the strain on your eyes.

And recent news that Siri will be coming to your car soon only deepen the dependence. Apple has announced partnerships with manufacturers ranging from Honda to Audi to ensure you have access to not only Siri, but all Apple everything.

5.    Platforms will continue merging
Your iPhone talks to your iPad which (probably condescendingly) talks to your iMac which drops knowledge on your MacBook Pro. Much of this is made possible with iCloud syncing, which now has over 125 million users, but the fact is irrefutable—as ecologies grow (see #2), synergy must grow in parallel.

And this is not limited to physical devices. Apple’s new Smart Banners for mobile websites now offer a toggle to allow users to switch back and forth between that company’s app (if it has one), and the website itself.

6.    Accessibility is important
With Guided Access, Apple is acknowledging the need for their products to work for everybody.

By turning off the ability to access other apps and restricting screen access to certain areas, Apple is opening up their carefully-crafted (walled garden?) to users who may otherwise have to be walked through with hand held.

7.    There is room for a web browser
For a while there, it seemed possible that apps might replace the web browser entirely. Between RSS readers redrawing websites for mobile devices (elegantly in SkyGrid, for example), and social media constantly inventing new methods of media distribution, the clunky, traditional web browser looked dated.

But in Apple’s latest revision of their mobile operating system, Safari sees new features—including iCloud syncing and full-screen landscape viewing to prove that—for now anyway—mobile browsers aren’t dead.

8.    Bandwidth issues aren’t going away
Many of iOS 6’s changes, from FaceTime to iCloud syncing, involve bandwidth issues. Apple is aware that your need for bandwidth is likely outweighed by bandwidth availability, and have added tweaks to help mitigate your angry when your signal lapses.

9.    Facebook isn’t dying
In finally giving into to deeper Facebook integration, Apple realizes that people love Facebook, and that making them use it only via underdeveloped apps and clunky web browsers isn’t cutting it.

But more importantly, intentionally or not this addition serves as an endorsement for the social media giant moving forward. While Facebook has struggled in the public eye with stock price falls and declining use in segments, Apple’s integration will at least make it possible to use Facebook more naturally in their operating system–a boon to a company if there ever was one.

10.   You’ll still be busy
Always-on access from a wunderphone isn’t always a plus.

In iOS 6, Apple has built upon the stagnant “silent mode” by allowing for users to control their accessibility–certain users can get through, those who call twice in three minutes will have their calls put through, phone calls can be replied to via stock messages, and so on.

Siri is also on-board for much deeper implementation, helping you voice actuate all of the digital movements you need to make. In your car, summoning payment information or movie reviews, or finding the closest tire repair shop, Siri

All of this doesn’t just hint that you’ll likely be busy as Apple scribbles out iOS 7, 8 and beyond, but depends on it entirely.

This was originally written for Edudemic Magazine for iPad. Image attribution flickr user jdhancock