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Meet the kid who built the original iPhone’s keyboard and web browser

iphone

The most recent in a surge of iPhone development stories, the New York Times has an excellent profile on the young programmer responsible for the original iPhone’s keyboard and web browser. Now 29, Francisco Tolmasky was just 20 years old when he started at Apple tasked with the job of replicating Safari’s desktop browsing experience, which was pretty much unheard of in 2006.

“Steve [Jobs] was really adamant, where he said, ‘This needs to be like magic. Go back, this isn’t magical enough!’” Mr. Tolmasky said about his experience developing the mobile Safari app. “I remember being very frustrated. This was, like, an impossible task.”

The profile reveals how the development of the original iPhone functioned like a startup within Apple. For example, while all members of the small software team worked together, each OS component was assigned one lead developer. Mr Tolmasky was eventually reassigned from mobile Safari to the iPhone keyboard after his team won a Jobs-run weeklong hackathon – apparently the Apple CEO had been disappointed in all prototypes up to that point.

The full profile is packed with more gems, like the fact that Jobs decided he wanted a maps app for iPhone only a few weeks before the smartphone was introduced at Macworld, and how one developer contracted the name Margaret at Job’s behest. It can be found at the source link below.

  • Stuntman06

    I just started using the iPhone this month. I don’t like the iPhone keyboard. It’s too inconvenient to use punctuation compared to the various Android keyboards I use on my Android phone.

    • alphs22

      One of the annoyances of the OS, unfortunately. Hopefully they open up to third-party keyboards with iOS 8, or use the rumoured larger screen to introduce punctuation right on the keyboard.

      I got used to the iOS keyboard eventually, but nothing beats SwiftKey when I had an S3. Would love to have that keyboard on iOS.

    • Eluder

      Even the Windows Phone 8 keyboard is far better than the iOS one… Apple has seriously dropped the ball on an important piece of the OS for a long time now.

    • alphs22

      I haven’t tried the WP8 keyboard, but I’ve found that the iOS keyboard is on par, if not slightly better than the AOSP keyboard. Given the slew of third-party keyboards on Google Play however, this isn’t much of an issue on Android.

      But yes, I would agree that it’s time for iOS keyboard some much needed improvement. It may have been acceptable 3-4 years ago, but it’s far behind what’s out on the market today.

    • Bri Bru

      I actually enjoy using the keyboard on iOS.
      Despite the smaller size of the keyboard compared to the ones on Androids, I find myself making less mistakes on it.
      It also feels more responsive.
      Keyboard is one of things that I like iOS over Android.

    • Salinger

      That belies the hallmark of Android; choice. If you don’t like the keyboard (or anything else) on your Android phone, you can swap it out for one of dozens (hundreds?) of others. Personally, I find Swiftkey’s auto correct and predictive text to be miles ahead of iOS. It actually (if you allow it) learns your style, syntax and grammar use from your emails and texts and becomes smarter the longer you use it.

    • Bri Bru

      I’m trying out Swiftkey and it’s actually quite pleasing to use. It’s not as simplistic as the iOS keyboard but the predictive text seems quite smart and the flow works nicely even on a different language.

    • Christopher Robert

      All i have to say is Swype. If you can’t swipe on your keyboard on your phone to type its is taking you far too long to type.

      ***funny how this article is about the 2 things i hated most about my iPhone, the keyboard and the browser.

    • Guest

      There was no android or wp when this kid made this keyboard.

    • Zomby2D

      There was Windows Mobile 6. And people are talking about the current crops of keyboards vs the current iOS keyboard.

    • Guest

      There was no android or wp when this kid made this keyboard.

  • Kevin Ye

    Keyboard is quite responsive on the iOS, but the issue I have is that voice input key beside the space key, which gets super annoying since it tends to be mispressed tons of times, and the fact that you cannot remove it :S

  • Columbo

    … he developed the keyboard in 06, and it was so great that they haven’t worked on it since.

  • awhite2600

    I use both iOS and Android devices. I like the fact that Android has so many alternative keyboards. While I dislike the iOS keyboard layout, I find that I make far fewer typing mistakes on iOS than I do on any Android keyboard.

  • Nathan

    Blackberry has the best keyboard, physical or virtual. When I put my contact info into someone’s Samsung or iPhone, man what a hassle. I just can’t imagine having that bother every single day of my life. I would probably smash the phone in frustration. Maybe I am now a Blackberry fan, but I have always used Macs and was stoked for the iPhone and it is cool, but the BB10 virtual keyboard is just soooo much better.

    • Eluder

      I personally can’t stand that keyboard it’s horrendous IMHO, which is odd since they teamed up with SwiftKey to build it.

    • Nathan

      Care to elaborate how it is “horrendous”?

  • G-man

    iPhone is terrible. Must have been cool in the beginning…

    • Jeremy Filth

      It was cool at a point. Then you notice the cracks months after using it.

  • downhilldude

    Go back and start again. It’s still not magical.

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