In January 2005, Apple introduced a product that was notable not for what it had, but for what it didn’t have. It didn’t have a screen.
That was the iPod Shuffle. And many iPod fans, myself included, scoffed at it. How could you tell it what song you wanted next? How could you see any information about what was playing? How could you control it without visual feedback?
But many music fans bought it anyway. They put their music on it. They played their music. They were happy with the very tiny size and ease-of-use through lack-of-options. The iPod Shuffle is still available today in 2017 and people still buy them.
And I have to admit, I now use my iPhone the same way people use an iPod Shuffle. I mostly play my music from playlists and just tell Siri to shuffle a playlist. So I guess I could have been happy with an iPod Shuffle if I had given it the chance.
Recently, more screenless devices have joined the shuffle. Most notably, the home personal assistants from Amazon and Google. And soon, the HomePod from Apple will join them. These new devices are helped by excellent voice recognition and speech functions. The iPod Shuffle had speech too, in fact. At least a little.
Siri has turned some iPhones into partially-screenless devices. I know when I’m cycling I keep my iPhone in my pocket with my earbuds in. I talk to Siri to get information and even have text messages read to me and I respond as well.
There were rumors that the HomePod would have a screen. Those rumors were wrong. Which means the product engineers at Apple were satisfied with the HomePod as a screenless device. Could this then be the future?
Consider, for example, a screenless computer. Maybe not for development or video work like I do now. But for many casual users will computers start to look, or more accurately sound like the computers in Star Trek, which were primarily voice interfaces?
How about a screenless iPhone? It is possible now. You don’t need a screen to place a call, to play music, to get the information provided by some apps. And think how small such a device would be. And how long the battery would last!
I’m sure that such a product would not be for me. I need a screen. Just like I needed a screen for the iPod Shuffle…