The iPhone 7’s Potential Impact on Mobile Learning

By Cait Etherington
April 21, 2017

When Apple rolls out a new phone, prices on its older models usually drop. So far, this has not proven to be the case for the new iPhone 7. Indeed, since its November 2016 launch, Apple users have continued to give the new model mixed reviews and demand for the iPhone 6 has gone up not down along with prices on these older models. Despite this, Apple’s new iPhone model offers many features that promise to make learning in motion easier and more versatile. This article considers the iPhone 7’s potential impact on mobile learning and why we should all be paying attention.

iPhone 7’s Shortcomings May Benefit Mobile Learning

Wired earphonesThere are two major complaints that consumers continue to launch about the iPhone 7. First, there is the drab or at least familiar design. Apple users are design savvy and the new iPhone looks much like the previous model. But this is not necessarily why Apple’s design team is now on the defensive. With the iPhone 7, Apple has arrived in a truly wireless era by removing the ubiquitous 3.5 mm headphone jack found on all its older models of phones, tablets, and computers.  Moving forward, iPhone owners will be forced to use wireless headphones or wireless earbuds (Apple’s version is Airpods and these easy-to-lose earphones retail at a pricey $159.00) but don’t expect to use your Airpods on other Apple products (at least not yet). The company has yet to do away with the traditional headphone jack on its laptops, which means for now, Apple users will need to have both wired and wireless head- or earphone options on hand.

While Apple’s decision to do away with the 3.5 mm headphone jack and make all iPhone users adopt a wireless alternative has not been universally applauded (and even wrangled some long-time Apple users), the move from wired to wireless earbuds is significant. In time, consumers and media historians may even look back on the company’s controversial move and see it as a notable technological transition. If earphones are an accessory, wireless earbuds, which look more like modified hearing aids than traditional earphones, may be better understood as a prosthetic.  In other words, with the move to wireless earbuds, Apple is gently nudging consumers into an era when technologies will be increasingly embedded in our bodies rather than seen as external tools. It’s on this level that the controversial iPhone 7 holds the potential to impact mobile learning.

iPhone 7’s Potential Impact on Learning in Context

AirPodMobile learning (or mLearning) is typically still understood as something one does while stationary (e.g., watching a training video while sitting on a bus or completing a training-based game while lying in bed). As our devices become increasingly embedded (move from the status of accessory to prosthetic), new opportunities are pried open. Without the wires, our technologies become increasingly discrete. This means that moving forward, there will be more situations in which training instructions can be effectively delivered remotely to employees on the floor (e.g., even when they are in the view of customers). With the wires no longer in our way, consulting training materials may also be safer and more feasible in some contexts (e.g., on construction sites). While the immediate applications may be limited, the long-term potential of moving from wired to wireless earbuds can’t be ignored. Much like the still widely anticipated arrival of augmented reality devices that take the form of contact lenses rather than external glasses or visors, the move from clunky headphones and wired earbuds to discrete wireless earbuds is a move toward the next-generation of technologies and learning.

Other Benefits and Future Developments

Beyond its bold attempt to shift how we engage with our mobile devices by doing away with the traditional sound jack, iPhone’s new phone also offers users more storage space and faster processing speeds. This means that users will no longer need to waste time waiting for training videos to download. Indeed, we are now living in an era when one can reasonably expect their phone to be just as fast and efficient as any laptop or desktop. The real revolution in mobile learning, however, is likely let to come. Rumors have it that iPhone’s next model (iPhone 8) will finally do away with another external device (the charger). With remote charging on the horizon, dead batteries may also become a thing of the past in the near future.


  1. “As bots enter the classroom, both teachers and learners will have to reflect on their uses and outcomes. They will need to adopt an awareness of AI’s presence. Teachers must recognize AI’s short comings, such as inherently developing biases and its inability to process human emotions.”

    This statement is correct as it relates to AI, generally; however, it assumes that AI exists as THE entity that students directly interact with. There are many potential expressions of AI, including a human-in-the-loop approach, in which it is configured in such as way as to facilitate dialogs and interactions between people, either studentteacher or studentstudent.

    For example, we’re building an L2 language speaking practice app (Language Hero Smart Chat). We use AI to enable beginning students, who speak different languages, to have natural, real life conversations in each other’s language from Day 1. They speak directly to each other, interacting with the system only to select from multiple content choices suggested by it, designed to facilitate a real free-ranging dialog resulting in real bonding, to the extent it’s possible, rather than to practice a particular lexical structure (they can also text or go off the grid to have pure video chat).

    Teachers can use this system as well for group chat. They can upload their own curriculum as well (the Smart Chat system configures it as multiple vector (branching script) chat or merges it with the system curriculum (focused on real life useful topics like travel, food, shopping, social chat, expressing ideas, etc.). Everything they say is comprehensible to their students, and so are all student responses.

    When such a system is implemented in a manner that pays particular attention to the affective components that make human interaction so effective for creating the desire to learn (and corresponding openness to processing L2 content, in this case), we think it can be a more effective tool than bot chat.