Former iOS Chief Scott Forstall Discusses Creating the First iPhone

Former iOS chief Scott Forstall gave a rare interview last night at an event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, where he discussed the birth of the iPhone and his relationship with Steve Jobs.

Speaking to journalist John Markoff after an opening hour with original iPhone engineers Nitin Ganatra, Hugo Fiennes, and Scott Herz, Forstall's appearance was the first time he had spoken publicly since he was ousted from Apple in October 2012, following the botched launch of Apple Maps.

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Scott Forstall (right) speaking to John Markoff

Forstall proved a charismatic storyteller on the night as he discussed his school education and his early career at Steve Jobs' NeXT, before moving on to his work on the first iPhone at Apple. The former iOS chief spoke with genuine warmth about his time with the company, but stopped short of offering any huge revelations, although the audience was treated to a few more details as well as some humorous episodes along the way.

For example, Forstall claimed that before the iPhone was conceived, Jobs had initially wanted a tablet with capacitative touch and multitouch in order to get one over on someone he "hated" who worked at Microsoft.

"It began because Steve hated this guy at Microsoft. That is the actual origin," Forstall said, before adding that it wasn't Bill Gates. After hearing the person boast about Microsoft's tablet and stylus development, said Forstall, "Steve came in on a Monday, there was a set of expletives and then he said, 'Let's show them how it's really done'."

Regarding the iPhone, Forstall said the idea for the device was initially born when he and Jobs were eating lunch and they noticed everyone was using their phones. "We hated them," he said. "No one seemed like it was a pleasurable thing to use a phone, but it's a nice thing for communication." The episode prompted Jobs to ask the tablet design team to redouble their efforts to perfect multitouch but to miniaturize it for a device that you could put in your pocket.

Forstall also touched upon the concept of skeuomorphic design, claiming he had "never heard of skeuomorphism" when he was working on iOS and that it sounded "unnatural".

"When I look at design - when I look at good design - it's approachable, friendly, you can use it without a manual. It's fun. We talked a lot about photo-illustrative design. It was infused into the design sense of Apple by Steve Jobs since the original Mac. We used these design philosophies. It doesn't mean we loved it, or loved every single part of it. We know it worked. How do we know it worked? You just have to watch people use it."

Elsewhere, Forstall chose to highlight the many emails he received from customers explaining how the iPhone and iPad had changed and even saved lives. One email was from a 100-year-old woman who had been an avid reader and writer all her life, before age had made these pastimes impossible. The iPad bought for her by her family had allowed her to take up reading and writing again, long after she had all but given up hope.

Forstall also spoke touchingly about his friendship with Jobs, including the time when Forstall contracted a rare and potentially lethal vomiting virus which left him in hospital for months, before the late Apple CEO arranged for an acupuncturist to treat him. After two sessions, Forstall was discharged from hospital and went on to make a complete recovery.

Forstall shared a particularly funny anecdote about how Jobs insisted on paying for both their lunches at the Apple cafeteria, despite the fact that the $8 meals were charged against staff paychecks with each scan of their badges, and as CEO, Jobs only got paid a dollar a year.

Lastly, Forstall said he is not currently developing technology himself, and will continue his work in an advisory capacity. You can watch all of the interviews on Facebook.

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Top Rated Comments

FSMBP Avatar
93 months ago
I don't miss this guy. Compare iOS 10/11 to iOS 6. I can't switch back.
That makes no sense...How are you comparing software released in 2012 to software in 2017? Obviously the 2017 versions are more feature-rich and refined. You're acting if Scott was still at Apple that iOS wouldn't have evolved at all.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rudychidiac Avatar
93 months ago
I miss the guy.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
errin Avatar
93 months ago
I don't miss this guy. Compare iOS 10/11 to iOS 6. I can't switch back.
That's true. Apple doesn't let you downgrade your iOS.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MrGimper Avatar
93 months ago
Scott got shafted. Apple's loss.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Superhappytree Avatar
93 months ago
How sad it's very outdated looking and awful
As compared to iOS 11? With that good looking control centre that isn't a complete mess, the notification centre that makes perfect design sense, and the rest of the UI filled with blown up fonts and tons of white space everywhere which isn't so blinding to the point where everyone isn't practically begging for a dark mode? Let's shove reduce motion, darken colours, reduce transparency, button shapes etc. in the settings to make the OS more barable, eh?

iOS 6 had none of this and in my opinion still looks premium and not like a cheap toy with no personality, joy, or warmth. It also performs better than a 2017 A10 iPhone (I know because I have an iPhone 5 running iOS 6), and has virtually zero lag or random jitters unlike today. A 4 year old OS running on 2012 hardware that runs smoother and more seamless than todays. Oh, and a music app didn't completely suck balls.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kemal Avatar
93 months ago
Still using iOS 6.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)