An Inside Look at Google's Reaction to the Original iPhone Introduction

Last month, longtime technology journalist Fred Vogelstein released his new book Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, offering an inside look at the development of both the iPhone and Android ecosystems. An excerpt from the book sharing a behind-the-scenes look at the original iPhone introduction had been published in October, and a newly released excerpt from The Atlantic is now gaining attention for its description of Google's reaction to the iPhone unveiling in January 2007.

Among the most quotable bits comes from former Google engineer Chris DeSalvo, who related his reaction to seeing the iPhone shown for the first time. At the time, Google had been working on its "Sooner" reference device for Android, and it was clear that the iPhone represented a significant departure from that concept.

Chris DeSalvo’s reaction to the iPhone was immediate and visceral. “As a consumer I was blown away. I wanted one immediately. But as a Google engineer, I thought ‘We’re going to have to start over.’” [...]

“What we had suddenly looked just so . . . nineties,” DeSalvo said. “It’s just one of those things that are obvious when you see it.”

google_sooner

Google Sooner (Source: Steven Troughton-Smith)

Android chief Andy Rubin reportedly had a similar reaction:

On the day Jobs announced the iPhone, the director of the Android team, Andy Rubin, was six hundred miles away in Las Vegas, on his way to a meeting with one of the myriad handset makers and carriers that descend on the city for the Consumer Electronics Show. He reacted exactly as DeSalvo predicted. Rubin was so astonished by what Jobs was unveiling that, on his way to a meeting, he had his driver pull over so that he could finish watching the webcast.

“Holy crap,” he said to one of his colleagues in the car. “I guess we’re not going to ship that phone.”

Not all of those close to the Android development process remember the history in that same way, as OS News points back to a 2012 comment from longtime Android engineer Dianne Hackborn claiming that the "Sooner" concept had already been dropped prior to the iPhone introduction. According to Hackborn, Sooner did, however, continue to be used for software development purposes for its stability relative to the "Dream" touchscreen concept that was also under development.

From a software perspective, Sooner and Dream were basically the same -- different form-factors, one without a touch screen -- but they were not so different as this article indicates and the switch between them was not such a huge upheaval. [...]

I don't recall the exact dates, but I believe the decision to drop Sooner was well before the iPhone announcement... though we continued to use it for quite a while internally for development, since it was the only semi-stable hardware platform we had. If nothing else, it helped remove significant risk from the schedule since software development could be done on a relatively stable device while the systems team brought up the new hardware in parallel.

The differences in recollections may hinge to some degree on whether the subjects related more to the hardware or software aspects of the iPhone and Android. As Vogelstein notes, Android itself remained an ambitious attempt to bring multi-tasking access to Google's services and other apps to any device, as opposed to Apple's locked-down iPhone hardware-software combination. So while those comparing the iPhone's hardware to Google's Sooner work immediately saw that Apple was changing the game, those focused more on the platform still saw that Android had the flexibility to adapt to the future of hardware.

Top Rated Comments

Tubamajuba Avatar
96 months ago
Yes, even now as an Android user, I am still wowed by what Apple introduced. It was what even most ultra-geeks wanted in a device. One to rule them all.

At the time it connected and made simple so much technology that it was indeed magical.

Nowadays however . . . . . . . . . . .
Nowadays, it is still an excellent phone.
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)
John.B Avatar
96 months ago


LOL!
Score: 43 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zbarvian Avatar
96 months ago
I've personally never witnessed a technological revolution as massive and momentous as the I first iPhone. Many years would have passed before anyone else came close to the design, engineering, and experience of the hardware and software. I remember playing with it for the first time, and knowing I had never been so delighted and amazed by a piece of technology.

Nobody, not even the most firm Android proponents can deny that the iPhone changed the way we see computers, at least mobile ones. Its influence can be found in every crevice of the marketplace.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
abhishake Avatar
96 months ago
Apple has changed the world.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Tankmaze Avatar
96 months ago
Now we know the truth.
Android did copy the iPhone.
Enough said.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Traverse Avatar
96 months ago
Android is a fine OS, but no one can deny that the original iPhone was truly an innovative device and I mean that in the traditional sense of "innovative".

Today, companies through the word "innovative" around constantly to describe incremental improvements. In truth, innovative should me a major change, something that creates an entire new class or fundamentally changes the way we accomplish things. The original iPhone started that, it was innovative.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...
apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
pixel watch prosser leak

Google Pixel Watch Allegedly Leaks with Circular Design, Rumored to Launch in October

Monday April 12, 2021 2:49 am PDT by
Renders of Google's first smartwatch, codenamed "Rohan," have been shared by Jon Prosser, showing that Google plans to adopt a circular design for its flagship wearable watch. Prosser shared the renders in an episode of his YouTube show "Front Page Tech," in which he claims they were made based on marketing material he had seen from a source within Google. The renders show that the Pixel...
Google maps feaure green

Google Maps App for iOS Finally Updated After Four Months

Monday April 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Following the completed rollout of App Privacy labels for its App Store apps, Google today updated the Google Maps app for the first time in four months. Apple in December began requiring all new app submissions and app updates to include App Privacy labels, detailing the data that is collected by the app so consumers know what they're sharing. Google didn't begin implementing App Privacy ...
AppleTV and HomePod Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on New Apple TV With Integrated HomePod Speaker and FaceTime Camera

Monday April 12, 2021 3:32 am PDT by
Apple is working on a combined Apple TV with HomePod speaker that has a camera for video calls through a connected television set, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. From the report: The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions,...
samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
epic iap feature 3

Tim Cook Says App Store Would Become a 'Flea Market' if Third-Party Payment Systems Were Allowed

Monday April 12, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about a wide variety of topics, ranging from App Tracking Transparency to Apple's ongoing legal battle over App Store policies with Fortnite creator Epic Games. Notably, Cook said that Epic Games' desire for Apple to let developers offer their own payment systems in apps "would make the App Store a flea market":At the...
tim cook toronto star

Tim Cook Says Apple is 'Not Against Digital Advertising' Ahead of iOS 14.5 Launch With App Tracking Transparency

Monday April 12, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
Starting with iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, Apple will be requiring apps to receive a user's permission to track their activity for targeted advertising purposes, as part of a privacy measure known as App Tracking Transparency. Ahead of App Tracking Transparency being enforced, Apple CEO Tim Cook has participated in a privacy-focused interview with the Toronto Star, telling the...
a13 bionic mockup

Apple Made Sudden Security Changes to its Chips in Fall 2020

Monday April 12, 2021 8:15 am PDT by
Apple made unusual mid-production hardware changes to the A12, A13, and S5 processors in its devices in the fall of 2020 to update the Secure Storage Component, according to Apple Support documents. According to an Apple Support page, spotted by Twitter user Andrew Pantyukhin, Apple changed the Secure Enclave in a number of products in the fall of 2020:Note: A12, A13, S4, and S5 products...
HomePod G4 Feature

Bloomberg: Future HomePod May Feature iPad Connected Via Robotic Arm to Track Users Around The Room During FaceTime Calls

Monday April 12, 2021 3:50 am PDT by
In a report outlining a possible Apple TV with a combined HomePod and camera, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that Apple is exploring a future high-end HomePod speaker that could include an iPad connected via a robotic arm that tracks and follows users around a room. From the report: The Cupertino, California-based technology giant, is also mulling the launch of a high-end speaker with a touch ...