It has become alarmingly uncommon to enter a classroom, airplane, or restaurant without spotting dozens of miniscule, chrome apples glinting off of phones and laptops. With six generations of the iPhone, iPads of every size, iPod touches, iPod shuffles, iHomes, iWatches, and now even an iPencil, it comes as no surprise that Apple’s reach has already surpassed that of the average technology company. Whether it is because these products are simply better than those of Android and Microsoft, or because the world tends to gravitate towards the brand already used by everyone else, Apple has established itself above all other companies as the leading channel of modern communication. Not only do the brand’s products exist in over 55 million American homes, but they have also made Apple the most valuable company in the world, with a net worth of $337.17 billion.
A success of this magnitude brings many inquiries to the forefront, including the question of whether Apple has begun pushing too far into the lives of its customers in order to maintain this success. Spiking this curiosity is the recent phenomenon of the Apple stylus, an invention that Steve Jobs himself was skeptical about creating. In fact, when introducing the iPhone at a Macworld convention in 2007, Jobs said, “Who wants a stylus? You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em. Yuck! Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus.” He later expanded on this disapproval, reminding the public, “God gave us ten styluses. Let’s not invent another.” So why is Apple going against its creator? Leaders of this venture would tell you that this stylus is not just a plastic pencil intended to save your finger the trouble of tapping. Designed for artists and architects, the stylus has the ability to sense the pressure, angle, and direction applied to it, allowing the 12.9 inch iPad and its $99 counterpart to add the role of pencil and paper to the endless list of tasks it is used for.
Although the introduction of the stylus may now seem to be justified, the question still remains: has Apple reached too far? In his article, “Why Apple Devices Will Soon Rule Every Aspect of Your Life”, Mat Honan addresses both this thought and the one proposing that “Apple is building a world in which there is a computer in your every interaction, waking and sleeping.” This fact may only worry Microsoft investors at the moment, but at some point it will begin to mean something to the rest of us. That point may come when we are unable to navigate without a vibration from our iWatch reminding us to turn left, or when we can no longer spell without confirmation from autocorrect. What can be said for certain about that moment is that it approaches more and more quickly with each new piece of technology.
Although some of the blame for a nationwide dependency on any device beginning in “i” falls to the modern need to be connected, a portion of it must go to Apple. But then again, Apple does not deserve blame so much as it deserves praise. As Jay Campbell puts it in his CNBC survey, “It’s a fantastic business model — the more of our products you own, the more likely you are to buy more.” By establishing its influence in every domain —school, work, and social —Apple has made it impossible for customers to stray from their prosperous umbrella. If you begin by buying an Apple computer, you might as well buy the Apple phone over the Android next so that you can sync the two. Then, when you are deciding between the tablet and the iPad, you go with the company in which you have already trusted your money, music, and media. Thus, the modern consumer enters into a cycle of convenience, pressure from the social norm, and desire to stick with what is known that leaves little time to consider things like price or the idea that there are other options. Honan summarizes this phenomenon in saying, “The Apple ecosystem is like a swamp. The more we interact with it, the deeper we are drawn into it,” but reminds us that, “fortunately, it is a very lovely swamp.”
In response to those who view the stylus as an invasion into domains that should remain outside of Apple’s reach, it is important to consider that Apple is left with little choice. In a world with robots and hover crafts, a phone and computer company can no longer rely on phones and computers as their next breakthrough. While Apple looks for ways to innovate in a field it has already conquered, there may have to be another way to move forward if the company wishes to remain in its position at the top.
Cover photo by Kevork Djansezia via Getty Images