The iPhone is Here to Work

Noah was finally asleep. Sitting in the center seat, my wife was holding our 7-month-old son as he slept on her shoulder. The three of us were flying back home from a week in Colorado, and Noah had spent the first half of the flight fussing. Anna and I — as well as our fellow travelers — were relieved that he was finally resting.

Noah likes to be held but hates to cuddle. It’s such a rare occurrence for him to fall asleep in our arms that I had to document the rarity (and cuteness) of the moment.

The seats on a 737 are not exactly spacious. I reached into my pocket to retrieve my iPhone 5, and in the process the back edge of my phone had an encounter with the metal frame that held the seat’s arm rest in place. My iPhone was a couple weeks old, and the slate black body was, until that moment, still unscathed.

As if writing on a chalkboard, I could feel the frame of the phone shudder ever so slightly as it slid across that metal surface. Once out of my pocket I looked down at the back edge. Sure enough, part of the slate coloring had been scratched away revealing the silver-looking aluminum.

In that moment, while appraising my phone’s new scar, I was unexpectedly reminded of why the iPhone is special.

The iPhone is an uncanny amalgamation of beauty and utility — it’s a design and engineering marvel. Our western culture tells us that when you own something this nice, you protect it. Your sports car sits in the garage all winter; that painting belongs behind a sheet of glass; the silver flatware is kept in a box in a drawer; the mobile phone goes in a protective case.

The iPhone, however, prefers not to play by these rules. Though exquisite in design, it was not born as art to be put on display. It belongs in our pockets. It is a tool. A utility. A gadget of gadgets.

The iPhone is here to work.

It’s beautiful enough to be put on display. Simple enough to be used by your grandmother. Powerful enough to be used by CEOs. Popular enough to be made fun of on network television.

And this is why the iPhone is so incredible. Because it is equal parts niceness and usefulness.

This blows my mind. Here I have this gorgeous object of industrial innovation, and yet its proximity to my life is not due to my above average affinity for fine gadgets. No, the iPhone has earned its place by virtue of usefulness. The curiously-thin slab of glass and aluminum that I carry around in my pocket is my camera, my jukebox, my map, my newspaper, my phone, my email, my photo album, my schedule, my to-do list, my notebook, my Internet, and so much more.

“[Design is] not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

* * *

After snapping a few photos of our sleeping boy, I turn the phone around so Anna can see the screen and browse the images I’ve just captured. I think to myself how it’s unfortunate my iPhone is no longer mint. And yet I wouldn’t trade that scrape for a case or a cover, and certainly not for a lesser device where scratches seem less intrusive.

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