Former Apple engineer who designed iPhone’s keyboard reveals what it was like to work for Steve Jobs

“Today, the iPhone is one of the most successful products in history, and Apple has thousands of engineers working to keep it competitive,” Kif Leswing writes for Business Insider. “But before it launched, it was developed by a relatively small team of engineers working in complete secrecy.”

“One of those engineers was Ken Kocienda, who developed the iPhone’s software keyboard,” Leswing writes. “It was one of the first touchscreen smartphone keyboards, and most likely the one that made them break into mainstream usage.”

“In person, Kocienda comes across as thoughtful and stylish, as you’d expect from a former Apple designer,” Leswing writes. “He spoke about his former bosses at Apple, CEO Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall, the software boss who was pushed out in 2012; what it feels like to make a breakthrough on a product; and how Apple has changed since the pre-iPhone days.”

A snippet:

The way that Apple worked is different, I think, than a lot of people think.

Steve didn’t write code. He didn’t design icons or graphics. He didn’t. Steve was an editor. He sent the assignments. He communicated what he wanted: “I want a software keyboard,” in this case. And then he evaluated the work that came back, right, and so he was looking for people to provide original answers for the questions that he asked. But then he’d be very, very tough as an editor.

His evaluations could be really intimidating if he didn’t like something, but, you know, that was his role. I had a role in there as well, which was to go away and figure out how to make this touchscreen software keyboard work. So it was a long process. — Ken Kocienda

Much more in the full interview – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: We can almost hear Steve yelling, “Damn autocorrect!”

Would that Apple had a singular editor in the vein of Steve Jobs once again.

I Invented the iPhone’s autocorrect. Sorry about that, and you’re welcome – September 4, 2018

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “TJ” for the heads up.]


  1. And who exactly is doing Job’s Editor in Chief work now at Apple?
    Note Jobs rejected Jony ive’s first few iPhone designs. (Please think about this for a second….). Who says ‘No’ to Jony today?

    1. Of course, no one countermans Ive today, which is why no one can moderate Ive’s flights of weird fancy such as the loss of entertaining colors and the implementation of overly-sophisticated, effete flatness.

  2. Quote from the article about working for Forstall:

    “…he had great taste…very decisive, and…helped to keep us on track, to encourage us. But he could be tough, just like Steve was, and be very, very demanding.”

    “Great taste, tough, demanding, decisive,” sounds to me like Ive’s MO, thus the clash of personalities and vision between the two, so the pacifier in chief Cook got rid of Forstall because Jobs locked Ive into the top hierarchy, using Mapgate as the excuse because it seems that Forstall was the “DRI.” Now Forstall produces plays and Kocienda published a book.

    Sometimes it seems like everyone wants to be in the arts where one can be an independent creative instead of working to actualize another person’s ideas.

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