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. @ Jovial:

    You need to compare this phone to the existing phones out there. You will find that ounce-for-ounce, feature-for feature, there is no other phone out there like the iPhone.

    It might sound pricey. However, like with any new gadget, it always comes with an initial high price. Over time, this will decrease as demand increases.

    Just take a look at the RIM crackberries. Even though they have been out for sometime, their prices are still around $300-$600 depending on the carrier.

    So, is the iPhone too expensive? It all depends on how you look at it. To me, this is right in line with what is being offered out there plus more.

  2. Hope I got the spacing correct.

    Just went to Palm’s web site and grabbed the Treo 750 specs. Made this chart with the minimal info that Apple has on the iPhone.

    Specs iPhone Treo 750

    Screen size 3.5 inches ?
    Screen resolution 320 by 480 at 160 ppi 240 x 240 color TFT touchscreen
    Input method Multi-touch
    Operating system OS X Windows Mobile® 5.0
    Storage 4GB or 8GB 128MB / 60MB persistent user storage
    GSM Quad-band Quad-band, UMTS bands: 850/1900/2100
    Wireless data Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + EDGE + Bluetooth 2.0 EDGE + Bluetooth 1.2 + Infrared
    Camera 2.0 megapixels 1.3 megapixel
    Battery Up to 5 hoursTalk/Video/Browsing Talk time: up to 4 hours
    Up to 16 hoursAudio playback
    Dimensions 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches / 115 x 61 x 11.6mm 4.44″ x 2.3″ x 0.8″ / 111 x 58 x 22mm
    Weight 4.8 ounces / 135 grams 5.4 ounces / 154 grams

    I appoligize in advance if the columns don’t line up.
    But rather interesting how it compares.
    $400 with a two year agreement and after a $100. rebate. This is the pricing on the 700 since the 750 is not for sale yet.

  3. This shows how important secrecy is to Apple’s success. Sure, iPhone rumors were floating around for at least the last 30 months (along with rumors about a tablet Mac and Disney buying Apple). But the details were secret. Some people were making good guesses, but it wasn’t inside information being leaked, so Apple’s competition had nothing solid to go on. Imagine if the details were known. Apple’s competition could have been working on their own version (not as good but probably less expensive) of the iPhone. That’s two and a half years; the competition could have beat Apple to market. Now, even with the five to six months of lead time, the competition cannot hope to have even a cheap imitation on the market for at least one year after the iPhone release. And by that time, Apple will have the new and improved version 2.0 ready.

  4. Aaaaargg! lets try that this way.


    Screen size: 3.5 inches
    Screen resolution: 320 by 480 at 160 ppi
    Input method: Multi-touch
    Operating system: OS X
    Storage: 4GB or 8GB
    GSM: Quad-band
    Wireless data: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + EDGE + Bluetooth 2.0
    Camera: 2.0 megapixels
    Battery: Up to 5 hoursTalk / Video / Browsing – Up to 16 hoursAudio playback
    Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches / 115 x 61 x 11.6mm
    Weight: 4.8 ounces / 135 grams

    Treo 750

    Screen size: ?
    Screen resolution: 240 x 240 color TFT touchscreen
    Input method
    Operating system: Windows Mobile® 5.0
    Storage: 128MB / 60MB persistent user storage
    GSM: Quad-band, UMTS bands: 850/1900/2100
    Wireless data: EDGE + Bluetooth 1.2 + Infrared
    Camera: 1.3 megapixel
    Battery: Talk time: up to 4 hours
    Dimensions: 4.44″ x 2.3″ x 0.8″ / 111 x 58 x 22mm
    Weight: 5.4 ounces / 154 grams

    $400 with a two year agreement and after a $100. rebate. This is the pricing on the 700 since the 750 is not for sale yet.

  5. Seriously, a Treo 650 this summer cost me nearly $500 when I was done. Including the sentence of a 2 year agreement. I’m wondering how I’m going to get out of that. Hopefully Apple will sell the iPhones that you can just put your SIM card in. These 2 year agreement things suck ass.

  6. for the comparison

    I’ve been one saying 8 GB is too small for my needs and I stand by that. Yes, it is enormously better than the Treo. Yes, it is great for
    a PDA. My point is that it is too small for ME as and iPod, which Jobs repeatedly mentioned it is. While I do love my 4 GB Nano for exercise, I am one of those that feels entitled (thanks, Apple) to carry around all my music on my iPod. I still think it is a fantastic device, but on the iPod side, the capacity is not what I want. When will this screen be added to the pure iPod line if at all? Also, great screen, but still never gonna watch video on a screen that small. iChat, Google Maps, video voicemail – love ’em.

    Since I do carry a PDA, the pricing comparison was very helpful. On this point – most phones are either discounted or partially subsidized by the carrier after time. Is there any less likelihood that this will happen here? Apple seems to be pushing Cingular more than usual to accomodate them.

  7. It has been widely reported that Apple will not allow for price subsidizing with the new phones. $499 & $599 are what you will pay.

    The phone will not operate AT ALL without a subscription from Cingular (see Time article). Add the extra cost of a 2-year subscription.

    This is not a PDA. You can’t compare the costs to a PDA. Enjoy your phone, suckers.

  8. -Cell Phones are for losers
    “This is not a PDA. You can’t compare the costs to a PDA. Enjoy your phone, suckers.”

    What PDA are you using?
    One of those portable tablets? Ohhh, you can carry it in your backpack!

    You just can’t stand that Apple once again designs great products that Microsoft dreams of designing but never does.

    Whaaaa, whaaaa, sniff

  9. How many out there think that the 6th-gen iPod will essentially be this phone, minus the phone function and with a hard drive added? I can’t imagine that’s not on the radar. I love my 5th-gen iPod, but this device makes it look like a stone tool.

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