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Apple Skirts Tech Addiction Issue in Response to Worried Investors

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Apple on Monday responded to an open letter from investors who called for the company to address the negative impact of the iPhone on children and teens. Though the company listed a number of controls provided to help parents screen content, it offered little to address the investors’ chief concern: the amount of time teens and younger children spend on phones.

Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which together have invested about US$2 billion in Apple, on Saturday published the letter, which urges Apple to give parents more choices and tools to help ensure that young consumers are using the company’s products “in an optimal manner.”

There is a growing body of evidence that frequent use of Apple’s products by young people could be having unintentional negative consequences, notes the letter, which is signed by Jana Managing Partner Barry Rosenstein and CalSTRS’ Director of Corporate Governance Anne Sheehan.

The average American teenager who uses a smartphone first obtains a phone at age 10 and spends more than 4.5 hours a day on it — excluding texting and talking, Rosenstein and Sheehan pointed out.

Seventy-eight percent of teens check their phones at least hourly, and 50 percent report feeling “addicted” to their phones, they added.

“It would defy common sense to argue that this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact, or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally,” Rosenstein and Sheehan wrote.

Apple Responds

Apple touted its efforts to look after the interests of both kids and parents within its ecosystem in a statement released to the press on Monday.

The company’s operating system has built-in controls in its operating system that enable parents to control and restrict content, Apple said, including apps, movies, websites, songs and books.

Parents also can block or restrict cellular data usage, control passwords, and block kids from accessing or downloading anything online.

Apple keeps offensive content such as pornography out of its curated platforms, and it clearly labels apps, movies and songs to allow parents to judge age-appropriateness, the statement maintains.

Further, the company promised to add new, more robust features and functionality to its parent controls in the future.

Kudos for Investors

The Apple investors who called on the company to address the potential negative consequences of its mobile products won praise from James P. Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.

“We are very pleased to see that leading shareholders have spoken out about their concerns for the health and safety of kids on cell phones and online,” he said. “It is a hugely important development for shareholders to take public action like this on digital addiction and inappropriate cellphone behavior.”

Apple should take a more proactive stance in addressing the issue of addiction, tweeted Tony Fadell, coinventor of the iPod and iPhone.

‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’

Although Apple has broad shoulders, dropping the full weight of technology addiction on it may be a little unfair.

“The iPhone is not any more problematic than other handheld devices that provide access to social media and games,” said Timothy A. Pychyl, an associate professor in the psychology department at Carleton University.

“We are, as Neil Postman said, ‘amusing ourselves to death’ across many platforms,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“We waste a considerable amount of our lives playing with technology. By that, I don’t mean gaming per se, but in mindless clicking to view content that has no consequence to us other than entertainment,” Pychyl said. “These constant distractions are undermining our ability to move forward on our own goals and, as other researchers have pointed out, typically undermine our well being.”

Jonesing for a Screen

As earnest as Apple may be to offset the negative impact of technology on children’s lives, it may be an uphill battle.

“I don’t know if we can make technology less addictive,” observed Gregory Jantz, author of Ten Tips for Parenting the Smartphone Generation.

When tech addicts check in at Jantz’s treatment center, every device with a screen is quarantined, he told TechNewsWorld.

“About the second day, people start getting sweaty palms, headaches, upset digestion — their heart rate increases. They’re going through physical withdrawal, and they demand to have their devices back,” Jantz said.

“I don’t think it’s a fair expectation to expect Apple to deal with addiction,” he added. “Apple has done some great things with parental control on devices, but that’s not going to make them nonaddictive.”

A Software Problem

Use of the term “addiction” to describe obsessive smartphone behavior can be problematic, cautioned Joseph Lee, youth continuum medical director at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

“Obsession with video games and Internet pornography is a closer parallel to what we see with substance use than text messaging or using an app,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“You can be conditioned to be compulsive about a lot of different behaviors, but addiction only starts to surface when those compulsive behaviors and preoccupation start to take you away from life priorities,” Lee explained.

Compulsive behavior is more a software than hardware problem, he added.

“It’s not about battery life or a fancy screen. It’s the things within that technology, like social media, that become very rewarding and habitual,” Lee said. “Those things come with strings attached. They influence people’s thinking, and they influence our national culture, and we’re not fully aware of the ramifications from that yet

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Humanizing technology: The 100-year legacy of Steve Jobs

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A century from now, what kind of legacy will Steve Jobs have? It won’t be about business or marketing, but how he humanized tech.

In tech, the truth is that most of the stuff we fret over, rave about, or argue bitterly will be barely recognizable 100 years from now. In most cases, even the staggering developments in tech over the past decade will morph into other products, be absorbed into new companies, and simply become the tiny seeds of brilliant new ideas championed by future generations of innovators. That’s just the natural order of things.

What I look for are the exceptions. And, there are always exceptions.

Steve Jobs was one of them.

Since his retirement as Apple CEO on August 24 and his passing on October 5, there have been lots of well-written retrospectives about how Jobs helped usher in the personal computer era and transform four different industries — PCs, mobile phones, music, and animated movies — and bring Apple back from economic oblivion to become the most valuable company on the planet.

All of that stuff is fascinating and significant and will be talked about for years to come. However, I’d assert that Jobs’s ultimate legacy will be something else entirely.

It won’t be about money. It won’t be about his famed “reality distortion field.” It won’t be about his brilliance as a marketer. It won’t even be about an Apple product — or, at least not one specific product.

Steve Jobs’s most important contribution will be that he made technology about people and not about technology. The entire thrust of his career was about building useful tools that adapt themselves to the ways people already think and work, rather than asking people to retrain themselves to learn how to use their machines.

While other tech leaders have given lip service to similar ideas — especially in the past decade following Apple’s recent successes — only Jobs has been able to thoroughly inculcate this concept into a company and all of the products that it produces.

The best example I’ve found of Jobs himself talking about humanizing technology came from Macworld Expo 1997 in a question and answer session. Here’s what he said:

“One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it. I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody in this room and I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it, and I know that it’s the case. As we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ‘What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?’ [It’s] not starting with ‘Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and how are we going to market that?'”

Keep in mind that this whole idea of human-centric technology is a rejection of the foundation of the computer industry, with its codes, keyboard commands, and programming languages.

It’s probably going to take a couple decades for other technology leaders and companies to fully grasp, internalize, and institutionalize this change. But, make no mistake, they will. Today’s technology companies and the tech companies of the future will embrace human-centric product development as an answer to the current design bankruptcy in tech and as the next stage in tech product design. Lots of companies are already taking baby steps in that direction — take a look at companies like ASUS, HTC, and Microsoft (with Windows Phone 7).

While Steve Jobs left Apple in good shape and the company will almost certainly continue to be a leader in this area, Jobs’s impact will be even greater outside of Apple as hundreds of tech companies are destined to emulate Apple’s product design approach in the decades ahead. Within 20 years, every tech company is going to be about human-centric product design, and for decades after that I expect they will continue to perfect the idea until its roots at Apple become almost completely obscured. A century from now, it will be historians who will trace the idea back to the Apple co-founder.

For those who don’t want to wait that long and want to start thinking about and paving the way for human-centric product design in tech, I’d recommend not spending a whole lot of time studying Jobs himself and obsessing over all of forthcoming documentaries and studies of his life. Instead, do what Steve did: push yourself to learn, grow, and expand your world view outside of technology.

In fact, the career of Steve Jobs may be the single greatest impetus for a liberal arts education in modern history. Although Steve never finished his undergraduate degree at Reed College, he spent his time there taking the classes he was passionately interested in, rather than following the standard schedule of courses. For example, he famously took a calligraphy class that deepened his interest in typography and he later used that knowledge to push for the excellent on-screen fonts in the original Macintosh, which of course, greatly influenced the use of fonts in Microsoft Windows as well.

The point here is that, as much as Steve Jobs loved technology, he was also deeply curious about other aspects of life as well, such as music, world culture, and philosophy, and his life experiences in those areas had a significant impact on his humanistic approach to technology.

Jobs even traveled to India after he dropped out of Reed College. Although he didn’t find the enlightenment he was looking for, his travels helped solidify some of his ideas about what he wanted to do with his life and the impact he could make back in America. During the trip to India, Jobs reported, “I started to realize that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Kairolie Baba put together.”

All of this, of course, advocates for a liberal arts education and a variety of life experiences in order to help you think bigger, understand life from lots of different perspectives, and discover more things that you’re passionate about.

If you’ve already completed your degree, are in the middle of your career, or simply don’t have the budget or freedom to travel or go back to school, then you can always take the more grassroots approach, as Jobs did. Go to a museum, volunteer for a non-profit, take Tai Chi, learn another language, do something creative like paint, write a story, or play an instrument. Travel the world, when you get the chance.

As touchy-feely as that might sound, if you want to think creatively and you want to start looking at tech from the standpoint of how humans can approach the tools, then this is the kind of thinking you’ll need to do. There’s no better evidence for it than the life and career of Steve Jobs, and the next 100 years are going to show just how far ahead of his time he was, and how many companies are going to emulate his approach to humanizing technology.

Steve Jobs said, “The reason Apple is able to create products like the iPad is because we’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.” Photo credit: Apple Inc.

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iPhone With Dual-SIM Support Due in 2018, Apple Looking to Intel for Modems: Kuo

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo reveals dual-SIM iPhone models for 2018
  • Unlike traditional models, dual-SIM iPhone reported with LTE+LTE support
  • Apple rumoured to be parting way with Qualcomm to opt 5G on future iPhone

Amid the success story of the iPhone X, Apple is now reported to be bringing new iPhone models in 2018 with dual-SIM support. The Cupertino company is also rumoured to be in talks with Intel to provide 5G modems on a future iPhone to deliver a faster experience.

Supporting two networks with dual-SIM card slots is quite common among handsets developed by companies like Samsung and Xiaomi. But if we believe the latest research note by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPhone models that would be debuted in the second half of 2018, as the successors of the iPhone X, will include dual-SIM support with dual-standby technology. Kuo stated that unlike the existing dual-SIM offerings that generally had a combination of LTE and 3G connectivity, Apple was planning to bring support for two LTE networks consequently to enhance user experience.

The note, as reported by Mac Rumors, also points to the expanded reliability on Intel for developing 70 to 80 percent of the baseband chips for future iPhone models. Kuo believes that Apple is particularly opting for Intel’s XMM7560 in addition to Qualcomm’s SDX 20 models to make wireless connectivity on new the iPhone versions faster than their existing models.

FastCompany, in a separate report, claims that for a future iPhone model, Apple is opting an Intel 5G modem. Citing a source with a knowledge familiar to the development, the report highlights that instead of relying on Qualcomm to enable faster connectivity, Apple engineers are considering Intel’s 5G modem as the best-fit for the future iPhone.

It is unclear whether the 5G-enabled iPhone model will be debuted in 2018. However, it appears certain that Apple is looking to reduce reliance on Qualcomm, thanks to its ongoing litigation. Earlier this month, Qualcomm had sued Apple for breaching its contract and allegedly sharing information with Intel for making broadband modems for its mobile devices.

A recent report by Reuters even suggested that 2018 iPhone and iPad models would debut sans Qualcomm’s modems. Moreover, Qualcomm last month filed the suits in a Beijing intellectual property court to halt the manufacturing and sales of iPhones in China.

Nevertheless, 5G is something that Apple would need to adopt in the coming future to take on the competition. Qualcomm’s CEO Steven Mollenkopf recently projected that 5G smartphones would become mainstream across key markets in 2019. The San Diego-based company unveiled the Snapdragon 636 as its first 5G-supported mobile chipset last month that is likely to power a range of affordable Android smartphones in the coming future. The chipset was based on Snapdragon X50 5G modem that was showcased last year.

Countering Qualcomm, Intel previewed its 5G modem for mobile devices at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 earlier this year. The chip maker is also upgrading its existing 5G equipment to allow telecom companies run trials based on standards that will be released in future.

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