The iPhone Turns 10, But Has It Hindered Us More Than Helped?

Sometime around 2011 or 2012, it suddenly became very easy to predict what people would be doing in public places: Most would be looking down at their phones.

For years, mobile phones weren’t much to look at. The screens were small, and users needed to press the same key several times to type a single letter in a text. Then, 10 years ago – on June 29, 2007 – Apple released the first iPhone.

“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” former Apple, Inc. CEO Steve Jobs said during the iPhone’s introductory news conference.

Within six years, the majority of Americans owned a smartphone – embracing the new technology perhaps faster than any other previous technology had been adopted.

Today, smartphones seem indispensable. They connect us to the internet, give us directions, allow us to quickly fire off texts and – as I discovered one day in spring 2009 – can even help you find the last hotel room in Phoenix when your plane is grounded by a dust storm.

Yet research has shown that this convenience may be coming at a cost. We seem to be addicted to our phones; as a psychology researcher, I have read study after study concluding that our mental health and relationships may be suffering. Meanwhile, the first generation of kids to grow up with smartphones is now reaching adulthood, and we’re only beginning to see the adverse effects.

In the beginning, sociologist Sherry Turkle explained, smartphone users would huddle together, sharing what was on their phones.

“As time has gone on, there’s been less of that and more of what I call the alone together phenomenon. It has turned out to be an isolating technology,” she said in the 2015 documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.” “It’s a dream machine and you become fascinated by the world you can find on these screens.”

This is the new normal: Instead of calling someone, you text them. Instead of getting together for dinner with friends to tell them about your recent vacation, you post the pictures to Facebook. It’s convenient, but it cuts out some of the face-to-face interactions that, as social animals, we crave.

More and more studies suggest that electronic communication – unlike the face-to-face interaction it may replace – has negative consequences for mental health. One study asked college students to report on their mood five times a day. The more they had used Facebook, the less happy they were. However, feeling unhappy didn’t lead to more Facebook use, which suggests that Facebook was causing unhappiness, not vice versa.

Another study examined the impact of smartphones on relationships. People whose partners were more frequently distracted by their phones were less satisfied with their relationships, and – perhaps as a result – were more likely to feel depressed.

Nevertheless, we can’t stop staring at our phones. In his book “Irresistible,” marketing professor Adam Alter makes a convincing case that social media and electronic communication are addictive, involving the same brain pathways as drug addiction. In one study, frequent smartphone users asked to put their phones face down on the table grew increasingly anxious the more time passed. They couldn’t stand not looking at their phones for just a few minutes.

The rapid market saturation of smartphones produced a noticeable generational break between those born in the 1980s and early 1990s (called millennials) and those born in 1995 and later (called iGen or GenZ). iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence with smartphones.

Although iGen displays many positive characteristics such as lower alcohol use and more limited teen sexuality, the trends in their mental health are more concerning. In the American Freshman Survey, the percentage of entering college students who said they “felt depressed” in the last year doubled between 2009 and 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a sharp increase in the teen suicide rate over the same time period when smartphones became common. The pattern is certainly suspicious, but at the moment it’s difficult to tell whether these trends are caused by smartphones or something else. (It’s a question I’m trying to answer with my current research.)

Many also wonder if staring at screens will negatively impact adolescents’ budding social skills. At least one study suggests it will. Sixth graders who attended a screen-free camp for just five days improved their skills at reading emotions on others’ faces significantly more than those who spent those five days with their normal high level of screen use. Like anything else, social skills get better with practice. If iGen gets less practice, their social skills may suffer.

Smartphones are a tool, and like most tools, they can be used in positive ways or negative ones. In moderation, smartphones are a convenient – even crucial – technology.

Yet a different picture has also emerged over the past decade: Interacting with people face to face usually makes us happy. Electronic communication often doesn’t.

Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University

The Next Generation of iPhones May Be Coming With an Artificial Intelligence Chip

Your next smartphone might be more “intelligent” than anyone could have guessed. Apple is working on artificial intelligence (AI) chips for the iPhone that could increase battery life and perform tasks that currently require a human, according to an informant who wants to remain anonymous.

The chips, which are reportedly known internally as the “Apple Neural Engine” and would be integrated into all Apple devices, are specifically designed to cope with the high processing power that AI demands. Currently, Apple uses the main processor and graphics chips to deal with AI features like Siri, iPhotos’ facial recognition, and predictive typing — but, because the hardware not designed specifically for this purpose, battery life suffers.

Apple is characteristically secretive about the reports, and has declined to comment. However, we may hear more concerning the AI chip at the developer’s conference coming up in June — as we did concerning Google’s AI plans at their own conference earlier this month.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said at a press call in March that the company is planning to expand into the Augmented Reality market — this chip would be vital if this is the case.

The development of an AI chip for iPhones, iPads, and MacBook makes sense in the context of other recent Apple news, too. The company has recently purchased Lattice Data, which uses AI to structure “dark data” (data that cannot be used from an analytics standpoint). In addition, Apple’s self-driving car software, currently mounted on a Lexus, has been approved for road testing — it incorporates features like a radar, GPS, laser measuring, and computer vision.

Apple’s interest in the future of the AI industry is also reflected in the company joining the “Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society,” a multi-corporation think tank that explores the responsible implementation of the technology. Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are also partners in the project to make AI a useful tool for all humanity.

How To Track Santa This Christmas

Santa Claus is coming to town. But when, and where is he now?

Everyone knows that Santa will eventually end up on our doorsteps this year, but sometimes the anticipation of exactly when that might occur is too much to bear.

Need to know precisely where Santa is on Christmas Eve? Excited kids all over the world have a number of high-tech options for keeping tabs on jolly old St. Nick this year. For more than 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been helping kids track Santa via a hotline (1-877-HI-NORAD) and now also on on its website, on Facebook and on Twitter. Kids with smartphone access can also track Santa via Google Maps or the Santa Tracker app.

The tradition started by accident

So how did this Santa tracking get started? It all started in 1955, when a Sears Roebuck & Co. ad in a Colorado newspaper printed a phone number that kids could call to connect with Santa — only the number was off by a digit and instead directed them to NORAD’s emergency hotline. NORAD’s director of operations at the time, Col. Harry Shoup, didn’t want to disappoint the kids, so he ordered his staff to check the radar and let the kids know where Santa might be. And thus Santa tracking was born.

Since that time, NORAD volunteers have staffed the phones on Christmas Eve to keep kids posted on Santa’s whereabouts. First lady Michelle Obama even surprised kids last year by personally answering Santa tracker calls.

How does NORAD know how track Santa? According to the website, NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa: radar, satellites, Santa cams and fighter jets. “Amazingly, Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allows our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa,” it says.

Happy tracking!

Amazon App for iPhone Now Has X-Ray Vision to See Inside Your Packages

iOS: In conjunction with upcoming Black Friday sales and the holiday season, Amazon has just added a fun new feature to their iOS app that let’s you know what’s inside a package without having to open the box.

Just click the camera within the Amazon app (which you can also use to search for stuff by taking a picture of the item you want), and there’s a new “Package X-Ray” button. Then you show it the barcode that’s on the shipping label of the package. It’ll match it with your recent orders and show you what’s inside. (You can only see things that you ordered yourself; it won’t work with random packages on your neighbor’s doorstep).

What’s the point? Well if you want to wrap the box as a present, now you can. You don’t even need to wear a lead apron.

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We Know You Won’t Because You Love Sharing Useless Information, But Deleting the Facebook App on iPhone Extends Battery Life

As Apple works away at its next iPhone many are asking for extended battery life because if you’re the type of person that perpetually has a low battery and carries around two portable chargers with you there’s never enough battery life. If anyone even mildly identifies with the aforementioned iPhone woes they’ll be elated to find out there’s a quick fix to get some extra juice out of their phone: deleting the Facebook app.

After hearing that Android users whom got rid of the Facebook app saved up to 20 percent of battery life The Guardian‘s Samuel Gibbs set out to investigate if the same happened on iPhone. Gibbs tested the effects on the battery using the installed app and using Facebook mobile via Safari on the iPhone 6S Plus. Gibbs charged the phone overnight and used it for the same amount of time when testing out both ways then recording the battery life each night at 10:30 p.m.wrote Gibbs.

Gibbs concluded: “On average I had 15% more battery left by 10.30pm each day. I had also saved space, because at the point I had deleted the Facebook app it had consumed around 500MB in total combining the 111MB of the app itself and its cache on the iPhone.”

Gibbs also told other people to do it, earning the same results. Gibbs recommends using Facebook on Safari instead. For those who absolutely can’t live without the Facebook app here’s some of the differences you’d see accessing it on Safari: “The only restriction was the Share-to function, which does not exist for websites, meaning that to share photos I had to manually hit the “post photos” button on the mobile site. Features of the app, such as Instant Articles, are also not available. Tapping a link on the Facebook mobile site opens a new Safari tab.”

Although Gibbs didn’t test an iPhone 6 Gibbs speculates getting rid of the Facebook app should more or less have the same results. More battery life, more space, and less time spent on social media? Sounds like a win-win.

What To Do (And Not Do) When You Drop Your Phone in Water

Dropped it in your drink. Was texting on the toilet. Mugged by Aquaman. Regardless of how it happened, all that matters when your phone gets dunked is knowing whether or not it can be salvaged. While there’s no guaranteed method to save your gadget, if you act fast, there’s a good chance that it will live on to Snapchat another day.

Here’s what the tech experts have to say, and some common mistakes that you should avoid when the time comes. Which it will. It’s inevitable.

Take it out and turn it off

First things first. Retrieve your phone as quickly as you can and shut it off. This is key to making sure it doesn’t short-circuit. If your phone is already off, don’t turn it back on to see if it works. And, of course, don’t touch it if it happened to be plugged in when it landed in hot water. Or any type of water.

If you’ve got a smartphone whose touch screen is unresponsive when you try to shut it off, make sure you know the hard reboot method ahead of time.

Remove the battery and SIM card immediately

Next up, take the battery out if you can, as another step to avoid a short circuit. If your smartphone of choice is an iPhone, you’ll have to settle for just cutting the power — Apple has this thing about not letting you disassemble their products without the right tools.

Also make sure you know where your SIM card is and how to remove it. It stores important data like your contacts, so you can at least hold on to them if your current phone doesn’t recover from its watery doom. For iPhone owners, you’ll need to bend a paper clip or similar tool to open the card tray, as shown above.

Dry it quickly

If you’ve got one nearby, grab a towel and dry off as much water as you can. This won’t fix everything, but it might stop any water from entering the phone through the headphone jack or other access point.

Now, this is risky, but if the water wasn’t exactly clean (coughtoiletcough), it’s going to leave some impurities there that could do damage. Quickly rinsing the phone with distilled water (and only distilled water — tap water won’t do any good) before drying it can help. The phone is already wet, so depending on how dirty that water was, this might be worth it.

Remember, hair dryers are for hair

It’s a rookie mistake to use a blow dryer as a quick way to dry a phone. Truth is, doing so will expose the inner components to a level of heat they weren’t designed to handle. Same goes for putting it in the microwave or oven on low heat.

If you’ve got the right tools on hand, using an air compressor (low psi, of course), vacuum cleaner, or fan will work, though you could always just treat it like a an old-school Nintendo cartridge and blow on it.

Stick it in silica (not rice)

You’ve probably heard that the next step is to let your phone sit in uncooked rice for a few hours. That’s fine if it’s all you have on hand, but it isn’t ideal. The rice can absorb the water, but not as efficiently as you think, and you don’t want the grains winding up inside the phone itself.

A much more effective option is to drop it in a sealed container with those silica gel packets you sometimes find when you buy new clothes. Start collecting them now, keep them in a container with an air-tight seal (so the water they absorb is from your phone, not the air), and drop your phone in there, along with the SIM car and battery, for your best shot at saving it.

Now, if you’re out and about and decided not to carry any rice or silica gel packets with you, that’s fairly understandable. Instead you may want to invest in a Bheestie product — little bags designed specifically for saving your electronics in these moments of crisis. Have one on hand, drop your phone in, and hope for the best.

Wait

The prospect of unplugging for more than 10 minutes may terrify some, but it’s certainly preferable to shelling out the cash for a completely new piece of equipment. At the very least, you should wait 24 hours, but 48 to 72 is preferable. Those silica packets need time to absorb all the water. Use this time to read a book, catch up on Netflix, and worry.

Test it

After the waiting period is over, get your phone out and see if it still works. It may not turn on immediately, but charging it for a few hours could do the trick. Water damage probably isn’t covered by your plan, and most phones are equipped with a strip that changes color when exposed to water, so saying “It just broke” won’t do you much good if you’re trying to get a free replacement.

However, if you followed the steps above, maybe you won’t need one. Fingers crossed.

This Functional Bracelet Will Also Charge Your iPHONE

For such an essential object, your phone charger is never around when you really need it. It’s often relegated to dusty bedroom corners, or shoved haphazardly at the bottom of your backpack, putting a damper on your impromptu, on-the-spot charging needs.

Now, you need look no further than your wrist for your power fix: Adapt Technology‘s new bracelets discretely hide a charger within their locks. So you can be sure a charger is always within arm’s reach, wherever you are.

Created by pro skater Nyjah Huston and friends Nathan Groff, Noah James, and Will Nichols, the accessory is a sleek solution to tangly chargers that would otherwise require storage elsewhere. Offered in black, grey, and white, the bracelets can charge and sync both your Lightning and Micro USB devices. If you care at all about your Twitter following, you’ll never want to take this accessory off.

World’s First Hydrogen Battery Charges Your iPhone for 7 Days

Imagine going a week without recharging your phone. British power technology firm Intelligent Energy has developed the world’s first hydrogen-powered battery that creates its own electricity by combining oxygen and hydrogen together with its own patented technology, at the expense of a small amount of heat and water vapor waste. The prototype is a built-in, rechargeable fuel cell that does not add to the size of your iPhone, and has the capacity to charge it for about seven days and can be refueled with hydrogen via its headphone socket. Complex reports on how Intelligent Energy is closely working with Apple for the product, which is currently only compatible with iPhone 6 models. Company executives are also still finalizing the battery’s retail price point.

Apple to Debut New Apple TV, iPhones & iPads September 9

The overhauled Apple TV — the first major update to the device since its 2012 introduction — is reportedly set for a release next month and now we can mark our calendars in with the exact date that it’ll debut. According to the always in-the-know John Paczkowski of BuzzFeed, Apple will hold its latest media event on Wednesday, September 9, unveiling the new Apple TV in the process. The event will also mark the debut of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, which will sport — among other features — Force Touch displays, A9 processors, faster LTE and improved cameras. Paczkowski also says that Apple will likely showcase its new iPads, although those may not include the long-rumored 12.9-inch “iPad Pro.”

Following the September 9 debut, pre-orders for the new devices will likely kick off that Friday, September 11 with an official release set for September 25. That late September release date also may mark the release of iOS 9 as the new devices will all come with the updated mobile operating system right out of the box.

DxO ONE Takes DSLR-Quality Photos on Your iPhone

It seems like it won’t be long before technology is capable of turning all of our electronics into iPhone add-ons. The latest to be announced is the DxO ONE, which takes DSLR-quality photos on your iPhone or iPad. At just under 7 cm tall, and 108g light, the camera is small enough to fit into your pocket, and attaches to your iPhone or iPad via the lightning connector, turning the display into the camera’s viewfinder. Despite its size, the camera is capable of taking crystal clear images thanks to the f/1.8, 32mm equivalent aspherical lens, and comes with an iOS app which allows you to control the individual settings including aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

In the U.S., the DxO one can be pre-ordered now direct from the DxO website.