When you have a pessimistic streak as persistent as mine, convergence can be an ugly, evil thing. It mocks the established norms of technology (as fleeting as they can be), deriding tradition through a devil-may-care belief that any number of separate innovations can be made better through the judicious conceptual application of duct tape.
It’s a slippery slope of ands and alsos, a technological kudzu that threatens to overrun device-borne individuality and choke the life from the fertile soil of progress. Nothing is separate. Nothing has its place. Everything is everything else, and all is one.
But the devil takes many forms, and convergence is the eighth deadly sin precisely because when it’s done well, it has the potential to be almost irresistible.
For most of its existence, Verizon was a safe haven from unwanted advances in wireless technology. A rich heartland of pure, reliable network infrastructure largely unspoiled by the rampant hardware growth that plagued other networks, Verizon represented necessity unfettered by frivolousness.
Ferociously, I once clung to that security. I read fragmented e-mails on the go via text message, happy enough just to know that someone somewhere wanted me to buy their generic Canadian Viagra. I got my directions the old-fashioned way: Google maps, printed in advance, hopefully with a navigator to misread them and get punched for getting us lost, like God intended. And I called people on a phone that could charitably be called last gen’s last gen, never ashamed of a device so feature-free that it could last two weeks between charges.
But when the announcement finally came that a version of Apple’s iPhone would be available for Verizon’s wireless network, I knew that all was lost.
A recent Christmas found me in possession of a gateway drug—a late-model iPod Touch, practically iPhone in all but name. I approached it as Kubrick’s cavemen approached their monolith, never quite understanding how this tiny slab of glass and metal pushed me toward evolution, but nonetheless swinging my apps and screaming with the other primitive tool-users.
“Gateway drug” really couldn’t better describe it. That iTouch was a little window into a future resplendent with apps and functionality and diversity of purpose through which I could reach to tweak my downtime (and much of what should have been uptime) into any number of quasi-useful purposes. I was a gamer, a musician, a chef. A Constitutional scholar. T-Pain. An Angry Bird. Almost everything, really, but a phone user.
There are people in countries that won’t see a proper electrical grid for another century who know that the iPhone is everything that the iTouch is, but more and better. That year with the iTouch softened me, made me pliant and willing to accept ideas I once thought downright criminal. After all this time, convergence wasn’t about gratuitous displays of unnecessary technological extravagance; it was about getting rid of silly extraneous devices and antiquated methods.
Why not go 3G and have all that connectivity everywhere? Why not spring for a high-res retina display, two cameras, and a form factor that will surely at least be considered new for the next couple of months? Hell, why not throw a phone in there while we’re at it? If Verizon and Apple are going to make it so easy, who am I not to recognize all their hard work? Hey, they even fixed the antenna this time! It would almost be rude not to buy one.
For me—and no doubt for many others similarly set in their ways—Verizon is a carrier chosen out of habit, convenience, or downright fear. Perhaps an employer offers a discount (one that competitors often match, if we bothered to check), or perhaps a bad experience with a previous carrier sent us fleeing to the self-described Most Totally Reliable Network in America, Like Ever™. Or maybe we just flipped a coin when the time came to go cellular, and we were never disappointed enough with the result to try again.
And that’s why releasing the iPhone on Verizon now is a brilliant move. AT&T exclusivity notwithstanding, an earlier cross-network release could have come too early to make believers (or at least accepters) of skeptics. Four years later, however, the iPhone juggernaut is far too inexorable to be denied. Through iOS experience, through word of mouth, or through the good old fashioned advertising zeitgeist, even the least likely of us know where to go if we want the latest perks without the latest hassles.
We are legion, we are lazy, but if you’re the Verizon iPhone, we’re fertile ground.