iPhone was "nearly axed", reveals Apple design chief Jonathan Ive

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The iPhone has been a runaway success, with over 244 million units sold, propelling Apple into the world's largest company in the process. But did you know that the iconic smartphone almost didn't get out of Apple's lab?

Apple's Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, and the design guru behind iPod, iPhone and other blockbuster Apple products, is currently in UK, where he earlier spoke about Apple's philosophy that, in his words, places building great products over generating revenue. Now he's given a rare behind the scenes look at iPhone's pre-release life.

Sir "Jony" spoke of the iPhone team's frustrations trying to build a product that was unique at the time, and certainly outside Apple's area of expertise, given it was the first time the company was trying to build a mobile phone. "We nearly shelved the phone because we thought there were fundamental problems that we can't solve", Ive is reported to have said.

"With the early prototypes, I held the phone to my ear and my ear [would] dial the number". Just when Apple engineers thought they had one problem solved, another would pop up. "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."

Ive also spoke about the dangers of getting caught up in the excitement of building products, saying Apple designers often feel they are "pursuing something that we think 'that's really incredibly compelling', but we're really struggling to solve the problem that it represents".

"We have been, on a number of occasions, preparing for mass production and in a room and realised we are talking a little too loud about the virtues of something. That to me is always the danger, if I'm trying to talk a little too loud about something and realising I'm trying to convince myself that something's good."

Sir Jonathan Paul "Jony" Ive is one of the most influential designers of modern times and the lead designer and conceptual mind behind many of Apple's products, including the MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, iPod, iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad. In the 2012 New Year Honours, he was elevated to Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) for "services to design and enterprise".


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