It is unimaginable just how far Jony Ive, Apple's longtime design chief, has influenced modern consumer electronics. If not for him and Apple, people would probably still be using clunky user interfaces, such as tiny physical keyboards.
Before Apple started coming out with products that ooze sleek perfection, design wasn't even part of the thought process engineers went through in creating their products. Usability, utility, and convenience seemed to be the key priorities; design had to take a back seat, because there was simply, at the time, no space for beauty.
But Apple, more often, is all about beauty. The original iPhone looks incredibly worn and ugly now, but when it was unveiled in 2007, there was nothing quite like it. Its introduction was a grand inflection point, both for the company and the smartphone industry. Apple had introduced a phone so massively different from the offerings of that era: a sleek, slender and gorgeous piece of technology that stood out from bulky and unseemly phones by BlackBerry, Palm, Motorola, and others.
To put it simply, Apple changed the game, because it was the only company at the time brave enough to say design was as important as convenience, and that beauty was just as crucial as function.
One could say the iPhone's design was a joint handiwork by Ive and then-CEO Steve Jobs, both of whom cared about presentation as much as specs and performance. In a new interview with Ive by The New Yorker, the Apple design chief spilled the beans on the origins of the iPhone, along with plenty of interesting stuff about Jobs — his mentor, collaborator, and partner. Here are some key takeaways:
Why Apple Created The iPhone
According to Ive, the original iPhone was a product of hate — loathing, to be precise. Back then, everyone involved in designing the iPhone had something in common: they hated the phones they were using.
"They were a little soul destroying ... They were flippant," Ive said. "They were poorly made. To me, they testify to convenience and a lack of ambition."
The rest is history, as they say.
The Worst Part About An iPhone, According To Ive
Ive says he's often so busy with the next thing that he forgets the impact of his current work. Still, to Ive, the most rewarding part of the job is when customers tell Apple how its products have had a positive effect in their lives. However, Ive does think the iPhone, or modern smartphones in general, have negative aspects, one of which is constant use.
This is the driving principle behind the Apple Watch, said Ive — to give people time off from their smartphones.
"It's just nice to have space," Ive said. "I think we fill space because we can, and not because we should."
On Jobs As A Mentor
Ive and Jobs's friendship arguably has been the key fuel behind Apple's diligent attempts to not only make sure products work but also look pretty.
They became close friends who not only had lunch practically every day but spent holidays together. Ive said he "had the most wonderful teacher in Steve" and that he has "never met anyone with his focus."