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Globe editorial: Apple brings us the future, over and over and over and…

That the Apple iPhone has changed the way we inform, entertain and share ourselves is beyond dispute. The clunky little black phone with the amazing touch screen that went on sale 10 years ago, in 2007, has grown in the past decade into a global icon.

The iPhone is far from being the dominant smartphone, of course. The many brands that operate on Google's Android system make up about 85 per cent of all sales. But the Apple smartphone defines the industry in a way that belies its market share, and it did it from day one.

The original model popularized the idea of an all-in-one personal device that serves as a phone, a text-messaging and e-mail device, a camera, a digital music player, a calender and a computer.

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It launched a global industry that today ships more than 1.5-billion units a year. The features Apple helped to popularize, especially ones that grew out of its App Store, have brought us commercial revolutions ranging from Angry Birds to Apple Pay to Uber.

Not all of these things were Apple's innovations, but by combining its own ideas with those borrowed from other developers, most often those in Asian countries, the company has led the way in advancing consumers' expectations about the must-have functions of smartphones in general.

Opinion: Will you buy the new iPhone X? Here's why you shouldn't (but probably will)

On Monday, for instance, Apple revealed an anniversary version called the iPhone X that, among other things, will unlock itself through facial recognition. For reasons that may escape many people, the ability to unlock your phone simply by looking at it will instantly make the old-fashioned ways that require the faint articulation of a single digit seem as primitive as starting a fire by rubbing two sticks of wood together.

In two years from now, facial recognition – already available on some Samsung phones – will no doubt be a basic feature of all smartphones. The iPhone XII will then include a system that unlocks your phone and laser-trims your eyebrows at the same time, leaving its competitors scrambling to catch up once again.

That, more than anything, may be the real story of the iPhone. By relentlessly moving smartphone technology forward, and by building a manufacturing system that allows it to release new phones with fancier and faster features every single year, Apple has created a marketing juggernaut that forces its customers to race to keep up, at the expense of rational decision-making.

To put it bluntly, it is impossible to buy the latest iPhone without knowing that you are being had.

Take that iPhone 7 Plus you bought 12 months ago at a cost of more than $1,000 (Cdn). Either you bought it outright, or you got it on a two-year plan with a wireless provider and had to cough up several hundred dollars up-front.

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At the moment of your purchase, you took possession of a smartphone that had the latest features and fastest chip. It was big, smooth and nice to hold. It unlocked automatically by quickly taking your thumbprint, and had two high-speed cameras on the back and one on the front. It was state of the art, something you were willing to spend a lot of money on.

As of Monday, with the launch of the iPhone 8 Plus, that same phone is ancient history. It is saddled with last year's chip. It is not all-glass. It cannot be recharged wirelessly. Its suddenly drab screen does not have "True Tone." Your selfies don't have "portrait lighting" that makes your features more dramatic and moody. And it costs as much as you paid for your sad little iPhone 7 Plus.

Oh, but what about the iPhone X, released the same day? It has a "Super Retina" screen. It unlocks by looking at it. Its new chip isn't just faster, it's "Bionic." Its camera can transfer your facial expressions onto an emoji of a cat. And it costs $1,319.

You knew this was going to happen when you bought that iPhone 7 Plus, because it also happened when you bought the iPhone 6 before that, and before that, the iPhone 5, which seemed like the apotheosis of smartphone technology and design at the moment you took it out of its nice white box in 2012.

This is planned obsolescence taken to an extreme, and it may be Apple's greatest achievement, if you want to call it that. It is simply impossible as a rational person to purchase the latest iPhone without knowing that the technology that makes it attractive to you will be replaced with a newer, more desirable technology in 12 months. If you manage to keep your envy in check for three years, your phone will likely break down on its own. You know that you are buying landfill, but you lay down your money regardless.

There are obvious environmental costs to this. There are unanswered moral questions, too. Taking all reason out of consumer decision-making is unlikely to be sustainable.

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Apple doesn't care, though. It released two new smartphones on Monday – one that makes last year's obsolete, and one that did the same to this year's model at the instant of its unveiling. They're rubbing it in our faces now.

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