Is there a more divisive valediction than the default “Sent From My iPhone” sign-off? When the iPhone first appeared, users were roundly condemned for their thinly veiled humblebrag among the mounting popularity of Apple products.
The message was clear: having an iPhone was so much more than having something on which you could make calls and browse the internet. It was a gorgeous trinket and elite lifestyle marker that signalled both sophistication and technological know-how. Membership of the club was something to be boasted about, and you could feel the conceit as users pressed send. The backlash was immediate.
Quickly it became crass, and a little embarrassing, even. Either you wanted to show off your smartphone or you couldn’t figure out how to turn the message off. The Atlantic said it was a failure of the imagination, arguing the space would be put better to use with a casual bon mot or quirky alternative (“sent from my telco slingshot”), while Mashable countered it was too much information. Soon it was rarely seen, and if it did appear at the footer of an incoming email, rather than feeling contempt you thought: “Bless”. By then it was little more than a charming throwback.
Recently, however, the refrain has returned to our correspondence, but those using the sign-off can no longer be accused of not knowing how to switch it off (it’s easy) or gloating (it’s not a big deal). Rather the phrase has become an important part of online decorum. Including the sign off contains an innate apology for the brevity of the message. It begs forgiveness for any spelling or grammatical errors. It allows a little wiggle rooms for errant emojis. It is a nod of acknowledgement that you are on the hoof and doing as well as can be expected.
I have always considered that signature a marker of linguistic limits; the fact that you’re typing on a small device, perhaps on the go, and that your email may be briefer and more typo-laden than in should be.
I use the following signature on my iPhone to make that clear:
(Sent from my iPhone; please excuse any typos or brevity.)
But better, perhaps, is my friend and editor Michael Cohen, whose signature, partly inspired by mine, is the Shakespearean:
Brevity. Soul. Wit.