Wednesday, Jun 22, 2022, 16:37 Hardware

15 Years Of The iPhone – How Apple Revolutionized Touch Devices & What It Had To Delay To Do So

Although the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone and touch-controlled devices had already been on the market for some time, it still became a massive success. The specifications of top of the line mobile phones were also still more impressive on paper at the time of the iPhone’s release, yet Apple’s first smartphone still succeeded. There was no question that Apple had released the best full package device on the market with the release of the new touch controlled phone. The device turned the branch completely inside out and redesigned many aspects of the device category, leading to an ultimately much more user friendly experience. A former iPhone engineer by the name of Ken Kocienda (also the inventor of the iPhone's autocorrect software) remembers the countless challenges and reveals why compromises had to be made with the smartphone's development. Four years ago, he also released a book titled "Creative Selection" that detailed much of the background of the product's development at Apple. The full title is "Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs".

A New "Touch" Approach
Since its inception, the iPhone has relied exclusively on a software keyboard. At the time, this was made light of – since the standard for any "business mobile phone" capable of surfing the web or replying to emails always included a physical keyboard (i.e. Blackberry, for those who remember). According to Kocienda, Apple had solved many of the problems with previous concepts for touch operation, including the issue of imprecise finger input (the technology at the time was plagued by the necessitation of a stylus). This implies not only the inclusion of multitouch (which allowed for multiple touch inputs to be recognized simultaneously), but also the necessary precision. Touch history was also introduced to process not only current, but also previous touch inputs for system navigation closer to that of the user's intent.

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Touch History Recognizes Desired Input
Since humans are not accurate robots, raising one's finger after having tapped on a display causes neighboring regions other than that of the desired input to also be disturbed slightly. The iPhone countered this input processing nightmare by only recognizing the previous input in a string of continuous inputs such as in the case mentioned. This idea turned out to be golden, especially when operating the virtual keyboard, as well as when the system was meant to recognize touch input as a cursor. This also led to far less disparity between the actual location of the finger on the screen and the device's perceived input, something that previous touch devices had great difficulty accomplishing even with a stylus. The problem with touch screen displays operated without a stylus is that, due in part to the size of the finger, users aim primarily with the tip of the fingernail but "hit" more areas of the display than intended.

Apple Lacked Time To Fully Flesh Out Other Areas
The team was unfortunately forced to spend so much time on the development of multitouch that there wasn't room left for many of the other features that could have been released with the first iPhone and the first version of iOS. For example, the nowadays considered more or less essential function known as copy and paste was completely missing – something which Apple's competition quickly jumped upon to dismiss the new iPhone or to cast it in an inferior light in comparison to that of other mobile "business phones" and handheld devices. It wasn't until after the release of the first iPhone in 2007 that Apple had time to work on implementing Copy and Paste functions.

No Multitasking
Multitasking also wasn't possible with the release of the first iPhone. That meant that only one app could be run at a time, and the system quite literally shut down everything but the app in front of it and the effortless transition from app-to-app that we are spoiled with to day was unheard of at the time. Multitasking wasn't possible until 3 years later in 2010 with the advent of iOS 4.

Kocienda's Book About The iPhone's Development
Kocienda's book "Creative Selection" is currently available on Amazon for 50% (now US$14.97, normally US$28.99) off here:

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