This is the Apple story that’s ruffled so many feathers today

A long excerpt from the newest book about the iPhone paints an unflattering portrait of a popular Apple executive.

Here are the offending passages from Brian Merchant’s The One Device: The secret history of the iPhone:

The first (like much of the piece) is sourced to Tony Fadell, a figure that looms large in Apple mythology:

The iPod phone was losing support. The executives debated which project to pursue, but Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing, had an answer: Neither. He wanted a keyboard with hard buttons. The BlackBerry was arguably the first hit smartphone. It had an email client and a tiny hard keyboard. After everyone else, including  Fadell, started to agree that multitouch was the way forward, Schiller became the lone holdout.

He “just sat there with his sword out every time, going, ‘No, we’ve got to have a hard keyboard. No. Hard keyboard.’ And he wouldn’t listen to reason as all of us were like, ‘No, this works now, Phil.’ And he’d say, ‘You gotta have a hard keyboard!’” Fadell says.

The second comes from a lower-profile engineer named Brett Bilbrey:

Schiller didn’t have the same technological acumen as many of the other execs. “Phil is not a technology guy,” Brett Bilbrey, the former head of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, says. “There were days when you had to explain things to him like a grade-school kid.” Jobs liked him, Bilbrey thinks, because he “looked at technology like middle America does, like Grandma and Grandpa did.”

Both Schiller and Fadell have disavowed the first passage (Mashable has the tweets). Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, who has enjoyed many years of off-the-record access to Schiller, called “bullshit” on the second.

The Verge has the 10,000-word excerpt. The book is due out next week from Little, Brown.


  1. Fred Stein said:
    The iPhone nailed it, crushed it, killed it. On par with Gutenberg’s movable type, HTML, and the light bulb to name a few. BTW, Edison tried hundreds of materials before he found his “secret” to electrical illumination. Likewise, the secret to the iPhone’s success was likely due to the process of teasing out the best ideas from hundreds. Jobs has written about this process many times.
    Merchant’s book reveals no ‘secrets’, just gossip.

    June 15, 2017
    • John Kirk said:
      Great comment, Fred. I too feel that the Smartphone is a history altering innovation. It changes so very many aspects of our lives.

      It’s well known that their were fights about how to do the iPhone. The two main branches seemed to be those who wanted to extend the iPod — which made sense if you think about where Apple was at that time– and those who wanted to make it a true computer, using a modified version of the Mac OS. The latter group won but it’s clear that it wasn’t an easy decision.

      By the by, as great as the iPhone is, the creation of the app store one year later is what really sent shock waves through the industry. And remember, it wasn’t envisioned when the iPhone was announced. And Steve Jobs initially opposed the idea. Innovation is messy.

      When you think about it, it’s a miracle that the Apple team was able to create the app store and roll it out in less than a year. Amazing.

      June 15, 2017

Leave a Reply