Ever since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, customers, media and competitors have been looking for the illustrious ‘iPhone Killer’ – a fabled device that has been gossiped about almost as much as ‘the next Michael Jordan‘ since his first retirement from the NBA in 1993. It is such a repeated topic of discussion that there is even an entire website about it on the web.
Well folks, I think I may have found what could finally kill the iPhone – becoming decrepit.
You see, Apple was the first company to implement the capacitive touchscreen with an on-screen keyboard in a mobile device, forcing millions of phone owners across the world to type all of their SMS messages and emails with no buttons or resisting force whatsoever for the first time. As a result, we have become a generation of rigid, two thumb typists (iPhone copycat phone manufacturers are also to blame).
Now, the interesting thing about that of course is that unlike typing with buttons or a T9 keypad where a phone user could relax their thumbs, swing over to the necessary button and then press hard to get the desired input, capacitive touchscreens and ‘iPhone typing cock ups‘ have taught us to be far more tense with our thumbs and point the tips inwards more to try and be more accurate with our typing. With no resistive buttons, just putting your thumb in the wrong part of the screen will give the incorrect desired input. Anyone who owns an iPhone and texts somewhat regularly will know that this is extremely frustrating and it motivates people to get even more tense with their thumbs in hoping of typing on the device more accurately.
Well, the problem with this is that there is no way of measuring the long term effects of people doing this to their thumbs as capacitive touchscreen technology is still in its infancy. However, after almost four years of living in the iPhone era we are starting to see more online articles and users taking to social media to talk about iPhone thumb pain in some form or another.
Check out some of these examples:
- Woman recovering from “Blackberry thumb” surgery (this story is actually about an iPhone user) (wtsp.com)
- Anyone have tendonitis since getting iPhone? (everythingicafe.com)
- Does your hand/thumb hurt from using the iPhone? (macrumors.com)
- Why Blackberry users don’t get a Blackberry Thumb but iPhone users get an iPhone Thumb (blackberryinsight.com)
And here is my favourite of them all – Rubicon Consulting have posted a survey of iPhone users from 2008 that says that 1 in 10 people report experiencing pain in their thumbs. That’s 10% of all iPhone users when the device had only hit the market around 12 months prior.
So, what do these and other eager iPhone ‘texting’ machines have to look forward to in old age? Arthritis, of course, which is pretty messed up.
For those of you starting to feel pain now and quit while you’re ahead, you can hope to only potentially have to deal with either Tendonitis or Tendonosis some time in the future. Check out the extract below taken from this great article on targettendonitis.com explaining the difference between the two:
The “itis” in tendonitis actually is a medically precise term that means “inflammation”. Here are some quick and easy tests to determine if you have tendonitis, or if it’s really another condition like tendonosis (which means degeneration of the tendon).
And here are the first two paragraphs from this fantastic article on About.com describing finger arthritis and thumb arthritis – it’s enough to make you feel a little reluctance towards doing anything that could mess with the health of your hands and fingers:
Arthritis is a problem that causes a wearing away of normal joint surfaces. Joints are the points where two bones meet each other. These junctions have special linings on the bones to allow motion at the joints. When this special lining (cartilage) is worn away, arthritis is the condition that results.
Finger and thumb arthritis is common because there are 27 bones in each hand! This means that there are many joints in the fingers that can develop arthritis. Furthermore, we are very dependent on our fingers for many normal activities. Any problem that affects these joints can limit many normal activities.
Just like Steve Jobs thinks that 7″ tablet devices should be shipped with sandpaper so that you can file your fingers down to press on-screen options with, I’m willing to put it out there that the iPhone should be shipped with Fish Oil tablets so that people can repair the cartilage in the fingers after destroying it with their texting obsessions. Or perhaps, they can stock up on these puppies in the Apple Store – Thumb Splints for Thumb Arthritis.
This of course isn’t a problem that is rearing its ugly head so much right now as the iPhone is still the darling of Wall St but in a few years – as the number of people complaining about thumb pain increases – I think it is at about that time that we will really start to see somewhat of a backlash against the device and its copycats. That is, unless Apple and its competitors start taking steps now to de-emphasise the bells and whistles effect of touch screen mobile computing and start to move to far more non-touch centric input such as voice commands and Kinect-like input.
That is why of all the things I am most looking forward to in the likely release of the iPhone 5 next month, I am truly hoping that Apple will finally evolve from the ‘capacitive touch’ craze that they have pushed over the past few years and will instead evolve the device in non-touch technologies. For the long term health of its customers (and it’s continued profit from sales of the device), this might be something that is not only another good “bells and whistles” feature to add in but might help maintain the long-term appeal of the device. If Apple ignore the signs of the damage their device is possibly doing to some of its customers, we might have finally found the only credible ‘iPhone killer” of this decade.
If you are experiencing thumb pain or are looking to avoid being put in that position, here are some good tips that you can read up on to try and avoid it.