The Atlantic

The iPhone Is Dead. Long Live the Rectangle

Ten years later, smartphones have been fully domesticated.
Source: Fotoslaz / Shutterstock / Paul Spella / The Atlantic

There’s a paradox in technology. For something new to become widespread, familiar, and mass-market, it must create enough novelty and curiosity to draw people’s attention. But novelty alone is not enough to reach saturation. To permeate life, a technology must elicit more than novelty and curiosity in its users. It must become ordinary. It must recede into the background, where it continues to run but ceases to be noticed by the humans who made it pervasive.

This is the story of all successful technologies. The locomotive, airplane, and automobile. The electric light, the telephone, the washing machine, the personal computer. So humdrum are these once-revolutionary machines that no one gives them a second thought, unless they break down.

Ten years after its introduction, the iPhone—and the smartphone category it created—is starting to recede into the background. Apple has a billion of the things alone. Android devices account for

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