Jony Ive’s absence from Apple caused iPhone X headaches

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iPhone X Product Red Wallpaper
The iPhone X had a "rough development cycle."
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Jony Ive began to drift away from Apple shortly after the Apple Watch launched, a new report claims. The Apple design chief’s waning enthusiasm caused problems during development of the iPhone X and other products.

Following news that Ive is finished at Apple (at least as a full-time employee), this account backs up earlier reports stating that he had had one foot out the door for a while. In some cases, Ive’s long goodbye made things difficult for his co-workers.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the 2015 promotion of Ive to chief design officer was intended to reduce his day-to-day management requirements. In his place, Apple promoted new leaders Alan Dye and Richard Howarth.

However, the WSJ says Apple employees “still wanted Jony’s thumbs-up” when it came to proceeding with work.

Jony Ive’s declining enthusiasm

The report says Ive’s enthusiasm appeared to decline after Apple Watch shipped. He skipped some meetings, showed up late, and didn’t attend “design weeks” for the software design teams.

It also includes a story about the “rough development cycle” (in the words of one source) of the iPhone X:

“For the January 2017 meeting at the Battery, Apple security escorted prototypes up from headquarters in an airtight, Pelican case. The team presented a multitude of features for Mr. Ive’s approval, including how to transition from lock screen to home screen.

Pressure was on to finalize features before for the phone’s autumn unveiling. Team members were disappointed Mr. Ive failed to give them the guidance they needed.”

AirPower: A rare Apple failure

The story also sheds light on one of Apple’s most high-profile failures: the inability to manufacture a multidevice wireless charger known as AirPower.

“The AirPower charging pad was supposed to arrive in 2018. Mr. Ive had imagined the product as a dresser-top catchall for Apple devices, but engineering tests found it behaved more like a dorm-room hot plate, heating up loose change and failing to evenly recharge devices.”

Many employees remained unaware that Ive would leave Apple until last week, when he held a meeting with the UI and industrial design teams at Apple Park.

The WSJ describes this as an “intimate event [that] felt like a family gathering and was a fitting way for the design chief to say goodbye, said one person in attendance.”

The future of Jony Ive’s work with Apple

Leaving Apple to co-found design studio LoveFrom, Ive will reportedly continue to work with Apple on certain projects. However, it remains unclear what exactly this will mean.

Apple previously worked with outside design studios, most notably Hartmut Esslinger’s Frog Design in the late 1980s and early ’90s.