Stories by Steve LeVine

The hot new debate over the future of the smartphone

A smart phone disappearing into the grass
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Just 12 years after the first iPhone, almost every conceivable smartphone consumer on the planet currently owns one — some 4 billion people, according to the consensus. Which has begotten a surprising new trend: a still-small but growing chorus of forecasts (like this) of the smartphone’s demise.

What’s happening: According to the smartphone naysayers, it might look like we are bionically tethered to our devices, but we are actually poised to shed our reliance on them, one function after another. We will turn to our cars to make phone calls, send and receive texts, and get directions. Wearables and home smart assistants will do tasks, make payments, and help us stay on schedule.

The clash of two troubles

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

U.S. politics have teed up twin reckonings — one a sudden threat against the gargantuan power accumulated by Big Tech, and the second a challenge to the decades-long rise of China. 

What's happening: The two, launched one after the other, appear to be on a collision course, potentially jeopardizing one or both of the risky U.S. attempts to police the market at home and maintain geopolitical primacy abroad.

The craft chocolate revolution

Three types of chocolate brownies
At Dandelion Cafe, San Francisco. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux/Dandelion

Wine experts get loads of respect, with their oenologists, viticulturists, masters of wine, not to mention white-gloved sommeliers. Ever since Starbucks elevated the cup of coffee, "Q graders," the mandarins of the Arabica bean, have achieved similar gravitas. Craft beer has its cicerones.

What's happening: Now, a still-tiny phalanx of fancy chocolate companies, most based in the U.S., think they are on the brink of the same sort of coming of age. Their product has not yet reached the zenith of niche dining — a fancy appellation to single out its best experts. But exotically sourced chocolate may be the new thing in haut cool.