Behind The Birth Of The iPhone

Whether you’re an Apple fanboy or a dyed-in-the-wool hater, the influence of the original iPhone cannot be understated. In one fell swoop, Apple essentially created and perfected a new category of device, and it would be years before anyone else caught up. Greg Christie, a senior Apple engineer when the company was building the iPhone, pulled back the curtain a bit on what it was like developing the landmark device.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Christie was originally hired at Apple in 1996 to work on the ill-fated Newton PDA. Fast forward to 2004, when Apple’s Scott Forstall pulled him into a closed-door meeting and asked Christie if he wanted to jump on a secret project to develop a phone with a touchscreen and an integrated music player.

Newton and iPhone
Newton and iPhone (Blake Patterson via Flickr)

Christie agreed to join the project, codenamed “purple”, and in the next year he and his “shockingly small” team ground out features we now take for granted such as the speed of scrolling lists, “bouncing back” at the end of a list, how to redesign text messages into individual conversation streams, and more.

He and the team made secret bi-monthly presentations to Steve Jobs, and eventually to other Apple executives, as well. Eventually designed Jony Ive was included, as well. Those working on the project had to keep everything locked down, including encrypting images of the project and preventing their families from seeing their computers when working at home.

Apple Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs at MacWorld (mylerdude via Flickr)

Starting in early 2005, the iPhone project took flight in earnest, what Christie called a “two-and-a-half year marathon” to the finished iPhone, which was eventually released in 2007. The rest, of course, is history.