The One Device Book Summary - The One Device Book explained in key points
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The One Device summary

Brian Merchant

The Secret History of the iPhone

3.6 (30 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

"The One Device" by Brian Merchant provides a comprehensive history of the iPhone's creation, from concept to launch, delving into Steve Jobs' life and the impact this revolutionary object had on our world.

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    The One Device
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    The iPhone has changed the technological world and its history stretches far beyond Steve Jobs.

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten years, you know that the iPhone is a colossal success. Indeed, it’s so successful that, in 2016, when technology-industry expert Horace Dediu made a list of the world’s top products, he listed the iPhone as not only the best-selling phone, but the best-selling camera, music player, video player and computer. The phone has sold one billion units. To give some perspective, that’s 550 million more units than the mega-hit Harry Potter series sold.

    Not just that, but when Wall Street analysts took stock of the most profitable products in the world, the iPhone was one of the top items on their list as well. It was even one place above Marlboro cigarettes, one of the biggest manufacturers of one of the world’s most addictive products.

    So the iPhone is ludicrously popular. But why?

    Most people attribute its success to Steve Jobs, the man often given sole credit for its invention. However, the history of the iPhone truly begins in the early 2000s with a small group of Apple employees who were secretly experimenting with human-computer interfaces.

    The group contained a few software designers and input engineers and one industrial designer, all of whom met, without Job’s knowledge, to experiment with unconventional user interfaces. Among them was Joshua Strickon, who’d recently received his PhD from MIT Media Lab. He was a wiz with human-computer interaction and touch-based technology software.

    Alongside Strickon were people who pioneered the field itself, like Greg Christie, head of the Human Interface team and a lead force on Apple’s handheld mobile device, the Personal Digital Assistant.

    Other crucial people in the team were designers Imran Chaudhri and Bas Ording. One member of the original iPhone team described them as “the Lennon and McCartney of user interface design.”

    The group collectively believed that the traditional keyboard and mouse were outmoded. So they set out to enable more direct interaction with computers and explored motion sensors and multitouch technology in particular.

    After months of tinkering, they produced the first, very low-tech prototype of what would eventually become the iPhone. However, they certainly weren’t the first to delve into such technology.

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    What is The One Device about?

    The One Device (2017) lays out the history of what may be the most important piece of technology on the market: the Apple iPhone. From an interview with an IBM engineer to the frightening depths of a Bolivian mine, Merchant takes us everywhere and explains how the iPhone was born and what it means for the world.

    The One Device Review

    The One Device (2017) dives deep into the creation and impact of the iPhone, revealing the technological, cultural, and even ethical aspects behind its development. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Unveiling the stories of vibrant personalities involved in the making of the iPhone, the book offers an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at the tech industry.
    • With its exploration of the global implications of the iPhone, from labor practices to geopolitical tensions, it offers a broader perspective on the device's significance.
    • The book's meticulous research and attention to detail create a nuanced narrative that keeps readers engaged, ensuring it's far from boring.

    Best quote from The One Device

    Full-time Cerro Rico miners usually dont live much longer than the age of 40. One of the reasons is that the harmful chemicals they inhale on a daily basis destroy their lungs.

    —Brian Merchant
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    Who should read The One Device?

    • Tech geeks and gadget nerds
    • Lovers of technological history
    • iPhone users

    About the Author

    Brian Merchant is a journalist of science and technology. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Slate, Fortune magazine and the Los Angeles Times, among many other publications. He’s also an editor for Motherboard – the science and technology department of VICE.

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    The One Device FAQs 

    What is the main message of The One Device?

    The main message of The One Device is the impact of the iPhone on technology and society.

    How long does it take to read The One Device?

    The reading time for The One Device varies depending on the reader's speed. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The One Device a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The One Device is worth reading as it provides insights into the creation and influence of the iPhone.

    Who is the author of The One Device?

    The author of The One Device is Brian Merchant.

    What to read after The One Device?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The One Device, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Insanely Simple by Ken Segall
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    • Why Design Matters by Debbie Millman
    • Valley of Genius by Adam Fisher
    • Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Think Simple by Ken Segall
    • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
    • 60 Seconds & You’re Hired! by Robin Ryan