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Apple's iPhone: The untold story

Yoni Heisler | Sept. 14, 2012
Apple is one of the most secretive companies on the planet, so the Apple-Samsung trial was fascinating in that it lifted the veil of secrecy that typically shrouds Apple's operations. From marketing budgets to photos of never-before-seen iPhone prototypes, the evidence introduced at trial gave the world an unprecedented glimpse into the inner workings of Apple.

When Apple began working on the original iPhone design, Stringer said that the goal was to build a "new, original, and beautiful object" that was "so wonderful that you couldn't imagine how you'd follow it".

Stringer explained that Apple's industrial design group is comprised of 16 'maniacal' individuals who share one singular purpose - to "imagine products that don't exist and guide them to life."

The industrial design group at Apple works closely together and often gather around what Stringer referred to as a "kitchen table" where team members exchange sketches and ideas for current and future products on a weekly basis.

Naturally, an exceptional design aesthetic is the ultimate goal, and as a result, feedback from group members on proffered designs can be "brutally honest."

In a fascinating revelation that highlights Apple's obsession with even the tiniest of details, Stringer explained how Apple designers will often create mockups of a single design element - such as a button on the iPhone - and sometimes create upwards of 50 mockups of that single design element.

Once a sketch is given a green-light of sorts, Stringer explained that "the next step is CAD modeling, followed by physical mock-ups."

And speaking of one of the more interesting things to emerge at trial were photos of iPhone prototypes that never made it to market. The sheer number of designs Apple experimented with - though not all were aesthetically striking - really underscores Apple's passion for design and its unending efforts to explore every avenue to create a truly magnificent device.

Notably, the initial iPhone design Apple's designers were keen on involved a device with two pieces of curved glass, one on the front and one on the back. Apple's design team, however, was forced to abandon this idea because the technology involved in cutting the glass was cost prohibitive at the time.

And throughout the design process, Apple's industrial design team worked closely with technical liaisons who provide detailed feedback regarding issues such as drop-test results for various designs.

While this isn't terribly surprising, it does speak to the close collaborative process that goes into the design of Apple's hardware.

Jobs had doubts

Looking back, the iPhone was without a doubt one of the most disruptive and influential products to ever hit the tech market. Apple's take on the smartphone provided the blueprint for what the modern day smartphone looked like.

Getting there wasn't easy, however. Not only did Forstall have his doubts about his team's ability to achieve what they were aiming for, but Jobs did as well, according to testimony from Stringer. From production problems to software glitches and cellular issues, the iPhone was fraught with problems until Apple was able to get it just right.

In January 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone and the smartphone market has never been the same since.



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