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How Steve Jobs ‘Faked’ The iPhone At Its First Product Launch
By Mikelle Leow, 16 Aug 2018
Image by Matthew Yohe at en.wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Fake it till you make it, they say. Apparently, that’s what the former Apple CEO did with the first iPhone that revolutionized the smartphone. Though it has become the textbook model of what a smartphone should be, with longtime competitors shamelessly copying its design, the initial model was way ahead of its time.
Being a pioneering device, it was riddled with bugs and problems that Apple probably could not predict. At its unveiling, however, the late Steve Jobs managed to pull off flaunting the single-buttoned gadget without a blunder in sight—but it reportedly didn’t come without some tricks up his sleeve.
In VICE tech editor Brian Merchant’s book, The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, he describes how Jobs mocked up the first-gen iPhone’s flow at its MacWorld Expo demonstration in 2007. It appeared to work intuitively and seamlessly, but the device only reached the masses six months later as it purportedly had more bugs than features.
Merchant quoted ex-Apple engineer Andy Grignon, who recalled that the first iPhone could play videos and music, but it would crash. It could send emails and surf the web, but the phone would freeze after that. On top of it all, it had a memory problem due to the large-sized apps it had to accommodate.
In Jobs’ “hundreds” of rehearsals for the first iPhone unveiling, Grignon said there wasn’t a single one where the gadget didn’t glitch.
Here’s how Jobs faked it at the end. Apple engineers figured out the “golden path” that he followed during the MacWorld Expo 2007 event. He did what was sufficient to launch the mobile browser after sending out an email. To “remedy” the memory problem, all he did was switch demo phones. Each time one was about to go into overload, he quietly swapped it for another.
Apple also had to deal with a problem that commonly plagues tech conventions. At these events, the internet bandwidth would likely be sucked up by those in attendance. Since the low bandwidth would hurt iPhone’s Wi-Fi radio, Jobs enlisted AT&T in advance to supply a cell tower that could only be accessed by phones on stage, allowing the whole process to run smoothly.
The phones’ displays were also pre-programmed to show a five-bar internet connection at all times, even though the Wi-Fi signal probably wasn’t as strong.
As a Redditor from 2018 succinctly puts it, “Jobs was [Silicon] Valley’s Greatest Showman ever.”
[via Curiosity, video via Jonathan Turetta, cover image via Matthew Yohe at en.wikipedia]
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