Apple design chief Sir Jonathan Ive: iPhone was ‘nearly axed’ before it hit shelves

“Sir Jonathan, said on Monday that there were ‘multiple times’ when the device was almost scrapped because the technology giant could not work out how to get around certain design flaws,” Katherine Rushton reports for The Telegraph. “‘We nearly shelved the phone because we thought there were fundamental problems that we can’t solve. With the early prototypes, I held the phone to my ear and my ear [would] dial the number,’ he said. ‘You have to detect all sorts of ear-shapes and chin shapes, skin colour and hairdo… that was one of just many examples where we really thought, perhaps this isn’t going to work.'”

“Apple eventually overcame the problem and has sold nearly 250m iPhones since its launch in 2007,” Rushton reports. “Speaking at a British Business conference running alongside the Olympic Games, Sir Jonathan said that it was not uncommon for Apple’s designers to feel they are ‘pursuing something that we think ‘that’s really incredibly compelling,’ but we’re really struggling to solve the problem that it represents.'”

Rushton reports, “However, the designer added that the firm does not get enough credit for its decisions to stop working on devices that are ‘competent’ as opposed to ‘great.’ ‘Our goal isn’t to make money. Our goal absolutely at Apple is not to make money. This may sound a little flippant, but it’s the truth. Our goal and what gets us excited is to try to make great products. We trust that if we are successful people will like them, and if we are operationally competent we will make revenue, but we are very clear about our goal.'”

Much more in the full article here.


  1. Johnny should have remembered the experiences of Thomas Edison. If the iPhone had never been developed it would have been wholly and exclusively due to the failure of the design team.

      1. Edison was no Steve Jobs. He always seemed to back the wrong answer, like the cylinder which he kept going till 1928 when it was totally outmoded, then the Diamond Disc which was a thick, vertically cut 78 you couldn’t play on other machines, and finally when his firm copied everyone else with the Edison Needle Cut disc, which was good and a possible threat to Victor and Columbia, he dropped it when the Depression hit a matter of weeks after its launch… No Genius really.

  2. Of course there will be critics who say Sir Jony is drunk with Kool-Aid. To a certain degree I think they’re right, as I believe that some people at Apple (Tom Cook now, and Steve Jobs before) always keep an eye on the profitability. I think they learned the hard way to do that.

    The thing is, the people at the top are wise enough to shield people like Sir Jony from the economic question. Which is really common sense to do. It’s a shame that there are no other companies worth mentioning having developed the same kind of wisdom.

  3. Great products sell because they are great & that is what gets and keeps customers.

    Apple’s secret is giving wide sway to Engineering & designers to try to create great products before someone up higher in another department can squash the bug before it becomes a Volkswagen.

  4. Exactly right culture, my business is exactly the same.

    Our goal is to create the best design suitors we can that make our clIents as successful as possible.

    Making money out of it is a natural benefit.

  5. “With the early prototypes, I held the phone to my ear and my ear [would] dial the number,’ he said. ‘You have to detect all sorts of ear-shapes and chin shapes, skin colour and hairdo… that was one of just many examples where we really thought, perhaps this isn’t going to work.”

    Then after all that effort along comes Google/Samsung to steal the solution. Those who say “No big deal” obviously aren’t aware of the amount of R&D that Apple puts into INVENTING a new product.

  6. “Making money out of it is a natural benefit.”

    Actually its an absolute necessity if you are to continue in business. Unlike government, which literally prints Monopoly money. Which, I suppose, can actually work up until the second that enough people no longer agree on the value of said Monopoly money.

    From a point of view of business survival, as opposed to the alternative of unemployment, profit is the equivalent of oxygen, or water, or food.

    Hmmm: why should we have to point that out? Scary.

    No offense intended.

    1. I read in an article around the time of Jobs’ death by someone who worked for him at Pixar. The man said that Steve Jobs was effectively able to keep the Hollywood finance and production processes away from the creative team there so they could focus on doing their creative magic.

      It was only later after he was gone did they become aware of how much he had done for them and how much crap Hollywood flings into the design and film process.

      I imagine Jobs did the same for the creative people at Apple and luckily Tim Cook is able to keep that going.

  7. “Magic”, it seems, taes a lot more than a wand, a few words, and potions. It takes hard work. A lot more work than required to get you to “good enough”.

  8. Behind every “obvious” innovation, there is sweat, tears and effort before it sees the light of day; then it becomes very easy for others to copy. Samsung, Google and their ilk take the easy way out to chase after easy money.

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