Apple engineer gives an inside look at the development of the original iPhone


The iPhone, when it first came out in 2007, was way ahead of its time, with its large touchscreen interface, and technologies like multitouch, momentum scrolling, etc.

Greg Christie, an Apple engineer, spoke with The Wall Street Journal, detailing the development of the original iPhone, revealing behind the scenes information about how many of its features came to be.

While most of the inside information about the development process of the original iPhone has come from ex-engineers, Christie spoke to the WSJ on this topic with permission from Apple. The company’s intention is to let people know how innovative the iPhone was in 2007, just ahead of the Apple-Samsung patent infringement trial.

Christie, who currently heads Apple’s UI team, said that in 2005, Jobs had given him an ultimatum that unless his team laid out the software vision of the iPhone in two weeks, the project would be assigned to a different group. Christie’s team was behind many notable iPhone features like swipe-to-unlock, placing calls from the address book, and the Music (iPod) app.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Christie’s team pored over details like the perfect speed for scrolling lists on the phone and the natural feel of bouncing back when arriving at the end of a list. He said his team “banged their head against the wall” over how to change text messages from a chronological list of individual messages to a series of separate ongoing conversations similar to instant messaging on a computer.

He also said the team was “shockingly small.”

For several months, Mr. Christie made twice-monthly presentations to Mr. Jobs in a windowless meeting room on the second floor of Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

After Jobs was impressed with what Christie’s team had done, they had to give the same presentation to Apple director Bill Campbell, and later to design chief Jony Ive. Approval from all the three commenced a marathon:

The green light in early 2005 was the start of what Mr. Christie called a “2½- year marathon.” It involved rethinking every part of the phone from how to check voice mail to how to display a calendar. Mr. Jobs obsessed over every detail.

Throughout the development phase, Job placed huge stress upon keeping things secret. He asked engineers to use their computers in secluded portions of the house, and encrypt images of the device.

Christie also recalls that earlier versions of the Mail app on the iPhone had a split-screen view, that showed both the list of emails, as well as a preview of the selected email. Jobs, however, asked the team to shelve this view, saying “it was foolish to do a split screen on such a small display.”

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