It’s funny to hear so many people complain about the lack of automation in iOS. In reality, iOS automation has already happened. We were just looking the other way, and when we turned around, we couldn’t remember what was there before.

I can’t think of a better measure of the success of automation than how quickly an automated process becomes forgotten. Automation’s role in the human experience, after all, is to make us forget. Automation frees us to work on new problems beyond the old problem horizon. Automation paves over cavernous ravines, replacing them with short, straight paths to the adjacent possible.

There are countless examples of how iOS has done this. Take photography.

Before the PC, the steps to share pictures usually spanned weeks:

  1. Remember to bring a camera with me
  2. Take pictures on film
  3. Physically deliver the film to a developer days later
  4. Wait more days for the film to be developed
  5. Physically pick up the developed photos
  6. Physically mail the photos to someone, who would receive them days later

When digital photography and the PC arrived, the process shortened, and the output expanded:

  1. Remember to bring a camera with me
  2. Take a picture on a memory card
  3. Remove the memory card from the camera and insert it into a PC
  4. Upload to websites, instantly sharing with hundreds of people or more

Once the iPhone camera fully came of age, the steps became:

  1. Pull out my phone and shoot
  2. Tap to share

Weeks reduced to seconds. The need to bring a physical object with me: gone. The monetary cost of photography: eliminated. And in many cases, the quality of the final product: dramatically better.

The hassles of pre-iPhone photography: forgotten.

The adjacent possibilities unlocked by the confluence of the iPhone’s camera and mobile connectivity:

  • Shareable HD video from anyone’s pocket
  • FaceTime and other wireless video calling
  • Document scanning
  • Snapchat, or more generally, the concept of photo messaging
  • Augmented reality

There are so many examples of other things iOS has automated that we never even thought needed automating. Just look at your home screen. The iPhone is essentially a universal remote for modern life.

Traditional computer automation (scripting, better inter-app communication, etc.) is a pretty narrow frontier of iOS automation yet to be fully solved. I’m not convinced that it even needs to be solved as long as we have traditional computers with open file systems. But I believe it will either be solved, or the need for solving it will be obviated by other advances in iOS.

For now, I will continue to enjoy using iOS and macOS, which are much greater together than they are apart. It is impossible to predict the future, but I’m pretty sure we can rule out a “single device for all uses” scenario.

Computers will continue to automate things we never associated with computers. We will continue looking for new problems. And we will continue forgetting about the tedium of times gone by.