What do you think is the Invention Of the Year according to the Time Magazine and it’s Best inventions team that has been arguing about the nominees and speaking to the actual inventors since the early September?
It is a mobile phone with which you can make calls, write messages, add phone numbers in a contacts list, listen to music and watch videos, access the web and view the street maps. I am not kidding.
The list was chosen by a team of experts lead by Lev Grossman. In this video he explains the process of choosing The Best Inventions Of the Year. Just a note: at the very beginning you can clearly see how the Macintosh computer and the iPhone has made his work much more organized. I kid, I kid.
Although such lists can never be objective and are mostly meant to grab the attention of the newsstand surfers, they could at least try to be critical and explanatory about the items that were chosen to be included. The Time’s article about the iPhone exhibits neither of these characteristics and is more like a defense to why such irrelevant and overhyped consumer product was chosen.
Recipe for the Invention of the Year
According to the Time, the components of the greatest invention are the following:
- The thing has to be pretty.
- It must feel nice to touch it.
- It has to imply that it will make other exactly the same things better.
- It has to make you think that it is something greater than it is.
- It has to make you believe that it will eventually become an invention sometime in future.
If the reason for choosing iPhone was this:
[W]e chose the iPhone as Invention of the Year, not merely for its revolutionary design and functionality but for how it will shape the future of communications.
then look at the Windows CE platform (also known as Windows Mobile) which has been powering touchscreen computer-like devices since 1996. Since 1996! Microsoft even opened the whole underlying source code for the application developers in 2006.
Every possible ‘mobile phone’ feature – from GPS, Google Maps, VOIP, Skype, Instant Messaging, 3G data transfer, Wifi, Bluetooth to business, media player and monitoring applications are already available for Windows Mobile based phones. There are enormous amounts of people who actually use smartphones and there are truly innovative applications being developed for them. Somehow the journalists seem to have missed it and view the iPhone as a revolutionary device.
One of the possible reasons for American journalists ignoring the Windows based phones could be the very specific U.S. mobile communications market. In the rest of the word people buy the phone that they actually want and use it with whatever network they fancy, while in the U.S. these are mostly subsides devices. Moreover, the prepaid package system discourages people from trying out new opportunities offered by higher speed data transfer availability. Therefore most of the iPhone worshipers probably haven’t used Google Maps, IM or a proper internet browser that were all available on other phones before the iPhone was introduced.
The Apple Innovation
The power of the Apple is the look & feel of their products and nobody will argue that the iPhone ‘looks pretty’ and is ‘nice’ to use, but it certainly isn’t an invention with regards to creating a mobile platform. At the same time its interface (not the touch-screen but the scrolling, flipping and resizing) is truly innovative and will definitely make other phone manufacturers realize the importance of it.
Some of the available Windows Mobile based phones and applications like PocketCM illustrate that Windows doesn’t mean ugly. Those examples also show the impact that the Apple has had on other phone manufacturers and software creators.
Reconsidering the Invention of the Year
The iPhone is clearly not the Invention of the Year because of the reasons mentioned above. But what could potentially make our lives better in future that was created this year? How about the ‘One Laptop per Child’ project, flexible fiber or the ankle-foot prosthesis. There is no such thing as a single most significant invention while there are many of them that have invaluable positive effect on different sides of our lives.
What are the most significant inventions for you this year?