A new iPhone? Eh. After 40 years of splashy product demos, a new iPhone barely makes the news anymore. Oh, they added a defibrillator to this model. And texts to the Moon and Mars colonies now default to geostationary wormholes if Wi-Fi isn’t available. Yawn. But this time there actually was something new.
Let’s be honest: For the past few years, there’s been an unavoidable sameness to the event. The same black stage. The same recitation of improvements. The same android Steve Jobs, a staple since the 2025 event. Those of us who remember the thunderous applause when the android took the stage and the rapturous acclaim when he announced he was returning as CEO. ...
Well, it was a moment, and nothing’s really come close. It was a great way to introduce the line of personal robots. Remember when it seemed new to see your iBot leave in your self-driving iCar, sitting in the back seat, heading off to get the groceries? Remember when it was odd to see the iBots in the store, looking human in every way, except they weren’t looking at their phones?
Then the newness wore off, and we became annoyed with the pace of innovation. The iBots got child-care programming in the third version, but the internet was flooded with complaints: It tucks in my child in too loosely. It read “Goodnight Moon” seven nights in a row. People complained about battery life — the iBot would need to be recharged every month, and sometimes when you’d really need it to walk the dog, it’d be at 4 percent power, get 10 blocks away, then shut down and fall over and you’d have to use your phone to find the dog’s built-in location chip and send the self-driving iCar to go get it. I mean, the future was supposed to just work.
These complaints seem quaint now, just like the complaints of 2016 when Apple did away with the headphone jack. You’re wondering if that was the name of some pirate — Ahoy, it’s Headphone Jack! No, that was a hole in the phone. You plugged in wires that led to small plastic devices you inserted into your ears. I know, I know — it sounds disgusting, but that’s how people listened to music back then. Apple did away with the jacks, forcing people to switch to wireless headphones. There were jeers and howls. People wanted waxy nodules attached to strings that snagged on drawer hooks and popped out, and they weren’t going to be shoved into some frightening future where voices just floated through the air somehow and landed in your head holes.
Defenders of the 2016 Apple iPhone noted that you didn’t have to buy one. (Obviously, this was before the Mandatory Upgrade Act of 2026.) You didn’t even have to buy an iPhone. Apple was just nudging us into the future. That’s what they did. They’d eliminated the floppy disk, and who missed that? (They were square plastic storage devices, and surviving examples suggest they were used mostly to store pictures of Pamela Anderson.)
They eliminated the CD-ROM, supposedly, as the story goes, because Steve Jobs (beta version, not the iBot) had three successive failures attempting to “burn” a disk, and was so enraged he banned the disks from all Apple computers, fired the team that designed them, razed their houses, salted the earth, sold their children into bondage and — in a move that some say tainted his legacy — stripped the team of their stock options.
Over the years, Apple eliminated more things: The mouse was replaced by a motion sensor that reads the motions of your hand in the air, and the keyboard was replaced by a camera that reads the words you form with your mouth. The iPhone added things: a 3-D movie camera, an augmented-reality projector that projects life-size images of the people you are talking to on the phone, a gravity-nullification function that lets you walk with 20-foot strides and the cerebral-cortext interface that lets you upload your daily thoughts and experiences to the cloud.
“Someday soon,” iBot Jobs said a few years back, “we will imbue these uploaded memories with the spark of consciousness, and a sort of immortality will be granted. Children will be able to talk to grandparents long dead. You will be able to experience past vacations as if they were happening anew.” Critics immediately seized on the details: Apple was offering only five years of memory storage for free. Anything more would come at a cost.
Nevertheless, it seemed as if Apple had eliminated death. “It’s not an innovation,” said one observer; “religion invented that long ago, and Apple is just adding a slick interface and charging a premium.” Android phones soon offered the immortality option, although the platform was still easily hacked and many users reported ending up writhing in the flames of damnation.
But that was six years ago. What have they done lately? What innovations will the iPhone 38s provide? One, and I think it’s big: Little noticed in all the talk about thought-based interfaces is the fact that Apple has actually eliminated the iPhone. It doesn’t physically exist anymore. It’s just a thing that you somehow have all the time. When you want to shoot a movie, just hold up your palm. (Horizontally, please, not vertically). When you want to make a call, you think of the person and make a rotary motion with your finger, for some reason.
“Great,” said one Apple critic. “The iPhone 38s is like my old 37. I left it on the bus and can’t find that one, either.”
The iPhone 38s, which does not exist, goes on sale next Tuesday. You can choose from Not Black, Not White or — for $100 more — Not Rose Gold.