People have a lot of different views on Apple. For some people, they may be known as the company that transformed the smartphone era in 2007. For other people, they may be known as the company that sells needlessly expensive computers. However, everyone can safely say that Apple has influenced the world we live in for the better and for the worse.
How Apple revolutionised the smartphone era and the changes it has made to society
Apple revolutionised the smartphone era on June 29th 2007 by selling the first iPhone in Apple stores and mobile carrier stores and the reason why this was different from other smartphones is because you could download applications from the App Store, which showed that phones could be used for a variety of purposes. This led to the release of other smartphones like the first Android phone, the HTC Dream in September 2008, BlackBerry Bold and Curve devices, and the Windows Phone in October 2010.
The App Store changed society as we know it because it changed the tech industry and led to startups like Uber and Spotify and also changed the way we interact with people, as without the App Store, there wouldn’t be social media apps like Instagram. The App Store also influenced other industries like the banking industry as it led to the start of neobanks (banks on your phone), such as Monzo and Starling Bank, which have grown more and more popular since their respective releases in 2015 and 2017.
How Apple interferes with developers
However, as influential as the App Store has been, it has also been detrimental to some developers. This is because when a developer uploads an app to the App Store, they must give a percentage of their profits to Apple. From 2007 to 2020, developers had to give 30% of their app profits to Apple. This changed in August 2020 when Epic Games, the developers of Fortnite, decided to withhold profits from Apple (and Google) by offering players a discount in V-Bucks (Fortnite currency) if they purchased directly from Epic Games instead of through a third-party app store.
This led to Apple removing Fortnite from the App Store and led to Epic Games suing Apple for antitrust and anti competitive behaviour because the App Store is the only way iOS users can download and play games on their device. As a result of this ongoing public lawsuit, this led Apple (and Google) to reduce the revenue sharing percentage from 30% to 15%.
Apple also has a history of causing issues for indie game developers when it comes to creating games for the Mac operating system. While most game developers use the most popular game engines like Unreal Engine or Unity to create their games, there are some indie developers that create their games with lesser known game engines or even from scratch.
When it comes to porting these games to Mac, a lot of these games were written with OpenGL, a cross-platform 2D and 3D graphic renderer. Apple stopped supporting this graphic renderer for MacOS in June 2018 and made it so that their own graphic renderer, Metal is the only graphic renderer that is supported for Macs. This made it difficult for independent developers to develop their games for MacOS and it even led to some developers dropping Mac support because they couldn’t justify spending money and time for a platform that wasn’t making them a lot of profit.
How Apple is reinventing the desktop with the M1 chip
In November 2020, Apple released the M1 chip, their most powerful chip to date, on the Macs and what makes this significant is that it uses an ARM-based system (the same chip system used in iPhones) instead of a x86-based system that’s used in PCs. This makes the future generation of Macs to be more similar to iPhones and this greatly impacts their performance of many applications compared to Macs with Intel chips.
However, because the M1 chip uses an ARM-based system instead of an x86-based system, it cannot natively run a lot of applications and instead has to emulate with an application called Rosetta 2, which leads to a performance hit. This means that developers have to rebuild a seperate application specifically for Macs with M1 chips.
Apple’s ‘fight’ for privacy
The closed source and restrictive nature of iOS is built around privacy, which is something that Apple values. They showed this with the iOS 15 update that lets users reject apps that surveil their data. However, Apple has recently shown that privacy is not the number one thing they are fighting for.
Apple has recently announced that they will scan iCloud media and iMessage content for child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) and report it to the police if they find anything incriminating. As noble as this sounds, this has troubling implications because while Apple says it will only be used for CSAM, it can also be used to surveil marginalised people who may be planning protests through iMessage and those details could be sent to the police. This is also dangerous to LGBTQ+ kids as this “child safety” feature could get them outed to their parents.
Overall, Apple has made their mark on the world in positive and negative ways. As the world continues to rely more on their technology, it is difficult to predict whether Apple’s influence will shift the world into a cyberpunk dystopia, ala 1984, or if its influence will help shape the world into a better place. We can only hope for the latter.