Apple nearly shelved the original iPhone because “we thought there were fundamental problems that we can’t solve,” according to lead designer Jony Ive. The Englishman, who was recently knighted, gave an interview to The Wired UK and The Independent, noting that solutions we take for granted today, such as using a small proximity sensor to prevent the ear from accidentally interacting with the screen when on a call, were issues that plagued the initial iPhone prototype.
Apple has been known for not implementing a certain solution until it is elegant and complete; copy-and-paste, for example, wasn’t added until the third version of what is now called iOS, two years after the initial release of the iPhone.
The company prides itself on releasing great products: “You have that horrible, horrible feeling deep down in your tummy and you know that it’s OK but it’s not great. And I think some of the bravest things we’ve ever done are really at that point when you say, ‘that’s good and it’s competent, but it not’s great’.” Those “OK but…not great” products are what Apple considers the competition to release in order to keep up with its own extremely high bar. Considering the company only launches a few products each year, it’s interesting to hear first-hand how many of them are potentially shelved before they’re released to the public.
Ives’ idealism runs to his core: “Our goal is not to make money – that may sound a little flippant but it happens to be true. Our goal, and what makes us exist, is to make great products.”