I’ve had a press copy of the iOS 7 beta since June 12, and at first, I was pretty pleased with myself. I was adopting early. I was on top of things. When I showed it to people, they would eagerly grab my phone and commence critical swiping. Thank you for making me seem cool to my friends, Apple.
Feeling fresh and fly with the new OS, I started parading my phone around the streets of New York–only to notice how many other people have iOS 7, too. It’s no longer a rare bird, the “dev preview,” but more like an invasive species. Since when did it become so cool to have an Apple developer account?
The extent of the paradigm shift snapped into focus at the Genius Bar last night, as I was sending my hopelessly delinquent laptop off to sleepaway camp. I idly asked my “genius” about iOS 7 and he groaned–apparently people have been making Genius appointments to complain that iOS 7 is glitchy and then demanding support for it. Even worse, he said, are the people who torrent the installer, get locked out when the system realizes they don’t have a dev account, and bring their phones to the Apple Store for repair. He imitated his daily agitation to me: “Like, no, I can’t help you–because that’s illegal!”
I was joking about this with my editor, and he told me that he had a similar iOS 7 run-in last week. While at a Chipotle, he noticed a group of teenagers with beta-enabled iPhones in line in front of him–a group he described as “not exactly the geeks from Math Club.” He asked one kid how they had all gotten the new OS and the kid replied that they had all shelled out $100 for dev accounts to get the new hotness on their phones.
Does anyone else find this as surprising as we do? Is iOS 7 the hottest album of the year? The new Hollywood blockbuster? The new Air Jordans? I doubt anyone born before the ’90s can possibly fathom how deeply consumer tech has infiltrated pop culture. Now, OSes are media like any other.
The numbers prove out our anecdotes. Since last week, developers have been reporting that iOS 7 adoption is booming: Some are seeing three times more users running iOS 7 than iOS 5. With the first beta update out today, more people may jump on. We’re used to fanboys following Apple news or anticipating redesigns. But when typical high school students and clueless torrenters are seeking a beta, something is clearly changing. If even a few of these kids start messing with Xcode more deeply, Apple’s already growing developer community might be the beneficiary.
[Image: Flickr user William Hook]