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iPhone's secrecy, development flips wireless industry

updated 09:30 pm EST, Wed January 9, 2008

iPhone flips cell industry

The iPhone is one of the most widely craved devices to grace the consumer market; after millions of dollars invested in its development, and secrecy so intricate that even Apple's own engineers were kept in the dark about the complete product. In 2002, shortly after releasing the iPod, Wired writes that CEO Steve Jobs began to notice the variety of devices that people would carry with them in day-to-day activities - such as a cell phone, BlackBerry, and MP3 player. Jobs realized that the products would inevitably come together and could potentially dethrone the iPod, so he decided that Apple would have to out-innovate the competition with its own device.

When work on the iPhone officially started, secrecy was Jobs' top priority. He recruited engineers to work on Purple 2 - a moniker based off a failed initial iPod phone, whose project was dubbed Purple 1 - and split them across the Apple's Cupertino campus. Software and hardware development teams weren't even able to interface with each other directly; hardware engineers designed the product around dummy software, while software developers designed the operating system to run on a circuit board housed by a wooden box.

Even when dealing with executives at Cingular (now owned by AT&T), the project was strictly on a need-to-know basis. When Apple's engineers would visit Cingular, they would register as employees of Infineon, the company making the iPhone's transmitter. When the iPhone was announced at Macworld Expo in January 2007, approximately 30 senior employees were the only ones who had seen the device, including Jobs.

The iPhone's design was difficult to finalize; a lukewarm reception of Motorola's ROKR - a joint venture with Apple - as well as the previously mentioned iPod phone flop presented a challenge to Apple. Several of Apple's hardware engineers suggested using touchscreen technology that was in development for a year, saying that they could adapt the interface to the size requirements of a handheld device. Jobs was confident in the choice, opting for a glass surface for the device; he noticed scratches on a prototype and instigated the change.

Apple bought many server-sized radio frequency simulators, each costing several million dollars, allowing engineers to test the device on a simulated phone network. Mockups of human heads were used to test the device's radiation output, and were even filled with a substance to simulate brain density. A person familiar with the entire situation estimates that Apple spent around $150 million on research and development of the iPhone.

The expense and secrecy that Apple underwent seemed to pay off in the end, both for the company and the entire wireless industry. Many executives and experts in the field are being made to reconsider the wireless business model. Formerly, wireless companies revolved around snookering users into signing long contracts, while bullying hardware manufacturers into providing cheap throwaway phones and turning a blind eye to innovation and quality. Apple has helped companies to rethink this model by offering a killer app that will drive users to sign up with a particular carrier, and encourage creative competition in the market. Doing so has taken the power and control from the hands of wireless provider executives, and placed it with hardware manufacturers.

by MacNN Staff



  1. deepkid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    iPod out 2001, not 2002

    In the above you state:

    "After releasing the iPod in 2002, Wired writes that CEO Steve Jobs began to notice the variety of devices that people would carry with them in day-to-day activities such as a cell phone, BlackBerry, and MP3 player."

    Since the iPod was released late 2001, did you mean to put the comma after iPod or did you mean 2001?


  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Integration as a goal...

    ...wasn't science in terms of direction, but the execution is of course apple's forte... Challenging assumptions of how people actually use things is of course key - I bought a RAZR & nothing really worked well - it went back within a day... So much of what gets produced seems poorly designed either the victim of somebodies ego or a profit motivated shortsight or some entrepreneurial lawyership - people will pay for good design...

  1. ClevelandAdv

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Focus Groups

    The main reason most product suck is that companies still rely on focus groups. These inevitably come down to one persons opinion, usually some know-it-all bigmouth that convinces the others what he/she likes is best.

  1. Galen Wood

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Thanks for pointing that out.

    What my brain was thinking and my hands were writing turned out to be two different things ;)


  1. libraryguy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    read the article...

    I hope everyone reads the actual article. There is a lot more info in the 4 page Wired article than in this summary.

  1. Saint_Stryfe

    Joined: Dec 1969


    deepkid: About Date

    If the iPod was released in Sept 2001, early 2002 could be "soon after".

  1. RKDinOKC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Still Tethered

    Over-The-Air Calendar, contacts, todos. Free me from the cradle!!!

  1. gambit-7

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "The expense and secrecy that Apple underwent seemed to pay off in the end, both for the company and the entire wireless industry...."

    That's because, as CES has shown us, the entire bloody industry is full of copy-cats and companies with no imagination, never mind the ability to properly execute.

    iPhone is the first device that actually makes me feel as if I'm living in the 21st century. We don't need flying cars: just well thought out devices.

  1. Visnaut

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The model hasn't changed

    "Formerly, wireless companies revolved around snookering users into signing long contracts..."

    This hasn't changed at all. In fact it's even worse now with the iPhone. By placing such a desirable device behind the shackles of a 2-year contract, with no promise of unlocking the handset after any given period (unless it's legislated by law), they're setting a very consumer-unfriendly precedent.

    Apple is no doubt selling boatloads of iPhones (h***, I have one) and carriers and handset manufacturers will think that with a flashy device, they can hoodwink customers into even more draconian contracts.

    The iPhone is definitely a revolutionary and amazing device worthy of praise, but the business strategy around it differs only slightly from what it was before; and it does little to benefit the consumer, and in some respects is even worse.

    I eagerly anticipate the day when we have open wireless networks that are nothing more than what ISPs are today. No exclusivity and no contracts.

  1. Deal

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I had to get a new phone

    There was no way I was going to go back to AT&T. I really wanted an iPhone, I would pay for an iPhone, but not at AT&T's price or service.

    First and foremost, it's a phone. If I can't get a good signal, it doesn't work.

    I went with a semi-cheap phone as all the iPhone copies are bad copies.

    Open this thing up, Apple!

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