Camaraderie, chaos and the original iPhone launch stories you’ve never heard, on The CultCast

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Introducing, iPhone
Though Steve played it cool, the iPhone's launch was plagued with huge problems.

This week on The CultCast: You’d never know it from Steve Jobs’ effortless keynote introduction, but the original iPhone was plagued with huge design and production issues that almost made Apple call it quits — right up until the day it was released! To commemorate the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, we’ll recount some of the incredible stories behind iPhone’s beleaguered early days, and celebrate how Apple pulled off one of the greatest device launches in history.

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Episode

CultCast #290 – The chaotic iPhone launch stories you’ve never heard
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Trying to build a better iPod

  • iPod was ruling the world — it was 50 percent of Apple’s revenue.
  • Apple had the wherewithal to realize it was only a matter of time before phones would do it all, and they realized they needed to build one.
  • The iPod used a click wheel, so why not build a phone function into that? It worked great, until they realized it wouldn’t work for dialing numbers.
  • Steve Jobs realized their multitouch technology, which existed as rough demo, could be the key to controlling the iPhone. But they’d had to shrink it. The technology at the time consisted of a pingpong table-size display with a projector shooting down onto it. They had found their solution.

Birth of the iPhone: How Apple turned clunky prototypes into a truly magical device

Insider stories on how the iPhone was born

The pressure

  • Around 2005, Steve Jobs conveyed to Forstall and team that he hated the replacement iPhone proposals he was seeing, and that’s when he threatened to take the project away from them. He gave the team two weeks to come up with a good design.
  • The team went into overdrive. Working tirelessly. Non stop. They had to come up with an entire multitouch design language, touch interactions, like pinch to zoom and the rubber banding scroll.
  • When the two weeks was up, they convened with Steve to show him their new work.
  • He watched silently, stoic.
  • And when the demo was over, Steve said, “let me see it again.”
  • So once more they dived into their vision of the iPhone.
  • And after they were through, Steve simply said: Good job guys. He was blown away.

The keyboard

  • One of the biggest challenges was the software keyboard. They knew it’d be compared to what Blackberry had, so it had to be good.
  • Unfortunately, in it’s current version, it was total crap. Worse, the launch date was looming.
  • Scott Forstall knew they were in the danger zone. He pulled out all the stops. He froze development on other apps and brought in all their UI developers, and told everyone: make a keyboard.
  • Three weeks later they all convened, and one by one they showed off their work. Some of the examples were decent, some really complicated or strange.
  • But one guy came up, and presented what looked like normal keyboard, but as he typed, they realized it was extremely accurate. They were shocked.
  • How could this be. How was this working.
  • The UI developer had built AI techniques into the keyboard to learn how you type, and as you did so, it could predict which letter you’d type next.
  • And even though the key sizes on the keyboard didn’t change, but the hit region of your next likely key choice would grow, so even if you didn’t hit it on the head, the right key would still be input.

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