How Apple kept the iPhone top secret for 30 months

“One of the most astonishing things about the new Apple iPhone, introduced yesterday by Steve Jobs at the annual Macworld trade show, is how Apple managed to keep it a secret for nearly two-and-a-half years of development while working with partners like Cingular, Yahoo and Google,” Peter H. Lewis reports for Fortune.

“Apple, legendary for the ferocity with which it safeguards new product announcements, had extraordinary challenges in keeping the iPhone under wraps for 30 months. Besides involving Cingular, Google and Yahoo, not to mention the unnamed Asian manufacturer, the project touched nearly every department within Apple itself, Jobs said, more so than in any previous Apple creation,” Lewis reports.

Lewis reports, “Although their applications will be crucial parts of the iPhone experience, neither Yahoo nor Google saw the actual phone until shortly before the keynote, Jobs said. The software development was done without needing to provide a hardware prototype. In some cases, Apple deliberately disguised software builds, known as ‘stacks,’ to keep programmers from seeing the actual interface.”

Lewis reports, “In the end, Apple decided to reveal the iPhone several months ahead of its official June launch because it could not keep the secret any more. Apple has to file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the permits needed to operate the iPhone, and once those public filings are made, Apple has no control over the release of that information. So, Jobs said, he made the decision to have Apple tell the world about its new phone, rather than the FCC.”

Lewis reports, “Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing and one of the few Apple executives involved with the project from the start, said he had to keep the iPhone development secret even from his wife and children. When he left home for the official unveiling yesterday, Schiller said, his son asked, ‘Dad, can you finally tell us now what you’ve been working on?’ Jobs paused during the keynote to acknowledge the strain and sacrifices that the past months have brought not just for the employees who kept the secrets so well, but also for their families. ‘We couldn’t have done it without you,” he said, with obvious sincerity.'”

More in the full article here.

Related articles:
Hands-on with Apple’s iPhone – January 10, 2007
The only thing really wrong with Apple’s iPhone is its name – January 09, 2007
Is Apple building ‘The Device?’ [revisited] – January 09, 2007
Analyst Bajarin: Apple’s iPhone and Apple TV are industry game changers – January 09, 2007
Time: ‘iPhone could crush cell phone market pitilessly beneath the weight of its own superiority’ – January 09, 2007
Analyst: Apple iPhone should be given its own category – ‘brilliantphone’ – January 09, 2007
Cingular to use Synchronoss Technologies’ platform for Apple iPhone – January 09, 2007
iPhone photos from Apple’s Macworld Expo booth – January 09, 2007
Enderle: Apple’s iPhone is going to do very well – January 09, 2007
Apple debuts iPhone: touchscreen mobile phone + widescreen iPod + Internet communicator – January 09, 2007


  1. OK, yes, they kept the details secret, they kept the facts secret, but there were tens of thousands of uninvolved folk who were certain they knew the whole story – and were mostly right! We knew:
    – large screen
    – touch-sensitive screen
    – no ‘hard’ keyboard
    – iPod integration
    – ‘social’
    – internet access
    Jobs spent over an hour describing the details so you can be sure we missed a few things.
    Some of us thought there’d be a minimalized OSX inside. The rest said ‘no, that would be a disaster’. We were all ‘sort of’ right – Apple claims they got the whole thing in there.
    Most of us knew there would be a way to view the screen in both directions, I don’t recall anyone guessing it would be automatic.

    DLMeyer – the Voice of G.L.Horton’s Stage Page

  2. my gripes with the iPhone:

    – no 3G
    – crippled WiFi (no over the air iTunes downloads)
    – No removable battery
    – same scratch prone back as iPod
    – $499 for 4GB? are you kidding me?!!!
    – Yes it runs OSX but don’t expect to write software for it and be able to install it on there (Apple warez only)

    No thanks, I’ll hold out a little longer for the ZunePhone.

  3. Everything, everything we saw yesterday has been described countless times during the past year or so.

    The only secret – Leopard is the last cat out of the bag. Apple is finished with Maintosh and has left the computer business.

    How sad – brilliant computers, brilliant software (even with all the problems), tossed away because the world is overloaded with kids who can’t resist the siren song of Master Ringmaster Steven Jobs!

  4. Maybe, but every rumour was based upon what everyone expected, not what they knew was coming. I could make a reasonable wishlist for practically any product and guess what it will have. Slick as it is, the iPhone is exactly what we expected from Apple.

  5. Jovial,
    3G is fine but they had to go GSM for worldwide compatibility.
    Over the air iTunes is a potential change but it’s more easily hackable.
    The removable battery is a non issue. Who really cares if the battery lasts five years?
    Scratches? Get a case.
    It’s not $499 for 4GB…the final price will be a bit lower when subsidized but compare it
    realistically to other “smart” phones. It’s right in the same memory/price range, but has so much more.
    I fully expect that other widgets will be available for it and that the API’s for creating them
    will be available.
    ZunePhone? That may be the best laugh I’ve had in a while.
    If the Zune isnt’ the biggest, clunkiest, and yes silliest piece of hardware this decade
    I don’t know what is. It’s a typical Microsoft product. Late, Slow, Over Designed, Under Powered,
    with features no one will really use.

  6. Silly,
    When the quad core Power Macs are announced soon (in keeping with Apple’s decision a few months ago not to use Macworld as the venue for ALL product upgrades… preferring instead to announce them individually just as they did with the ipod Nano, and Hi-Fi) you will understand what MDN’s idea of ’embrace and extinguish’ really means. It will be awhile until Dell and HP can catch up. In that interim CS3 will arrive,
    Office 2007 for the Mac will arrive. iWork07 will arrive, iLife07 will arrive, the new xServe will arrive and the reasons for using and supporting the Microsoft platform will continue to decline.
    Watch. All this will come to pass.

  7. ‘We couldn’t have done it without you,” he said, with obvious sincerity.

    Well then, now that you’ve done it, I sure hope you’re going to make their sacrifice wor$while.

    As for what wasn’t shown, that’s still Top Secret.

  8. @ Silly (and anyone else who is bemoaning the name change)

    If Apple didn’t continue to make computers, then what, pray-tell, would they sell to connect and store all the downloaded songs, movies, etc. that people purchase from the iTS?

    Sure won’t be a Dell or an HP. At least not in my house.

    The Apple tree is growing. And fast. Don’t be left on the ground looking up – climb on!

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