Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, Sir Jonathan Ive spoke at the British Embassy’s Creative Summit about how more than once Apple considered trashing the iPhone concept before it eventually made it to market. There were a few design obstacles the company was beginning to think were impossible to get over. “We nearly shelved the phone because we thought there were fundamental problems that we can’t solve,” he said.
One of these “fundamental problems” was inadvertently dialing or pressing a button on the touchscreen with your ear while you were in the middle of a phone call. “With the early prototypes, I held the phone to my ear and my ear [would] dial the number,” Ive explained. “You have to detect all sorts of ear-shapes and chin shapes, skin colour and hairdo…that was one of just many examples where we really thought, perhaps this isn’t going to work.”
Apple obviously solved this problem with what is now a fully (or at least mostly) functional proximity sensor, which has been a part of the iPhone from day one. It turns off the display when it senses your face in close contact with the phone and automatically turns it back on when you move away to prevent accidental dialing.
Speaking of design, Ive added that the company has always kept making great products as its number one goal as opposed to just making lots of cash. “Our goal isn’t to make money. Our goal absolutely at Apple is not to make money. This may sound a little flippant, but it’s the truth. Our goal and what gets us excited is to try to make great products. We trust that if we are successful people will like them, and if we are operationally competent we will make revenue, but we are very clear about our goal.” The same strategy was used in the mid-1990s to save Apple from bankruptcy “[Steve Jobs's] observation was that the products weren’t good enough and his resolve was, we need to make better products,” Ive continued.
Since its debut in 2007, Apple has sold over 250 million iPhones and has played a vital role in making the company as immensely successful as it is today — and to think it almost didn’t make it.