Just ahead of a new patent trial against Samsung, Apple senior software engineer Greg Christie is sharing a few insider details about the development of the original iPhone, via an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Christie, who was invited to join the secret “purple” project by Scott Forstall, says his team was responsible for many of the iPhone’s key features, such as slide to unlock and calling contacts directly from the address book.
Christie recalls his team spending countless hours on details:
He said his team “banged their head against the wall” over how to change text messages from a chronological list of individual messages to a series of separate ongoing conversations similar to instant messaging on a computer.
He also said the team was “shockingly small.” Apple declined to specify the number of members.
Christie was required to give two progress reports per month to Steve Jobs, meeting in a small, windowless meeting room at Apple’s HQ in Cupertino. Few employees were allowed to enter that room, even the cleaning staff was forbidden to enter it.
Christie also discussed the high level of secrecy around the project. Jobs required employees to encrypt images of the device.
Jobs was initially dissatisfied with progress on the device, giving Christie and his team two weeks to get their act together. “Steve had pretty much had it,” said Christie. “He wanted bigger ideas and bigger concepts.”
Christie’s team was able to come thru before the deadline, showing off the project to Apple design head Jony Ive, and Apple director Bill Campbell. All three approved the 2005 design, setting off a “two and a half year marathon” to bring the device to market.
Christie’s interview comes just ahead of the start of a second patent infringement lawsuit versus Samsung, which is set to kickoff later in March. A 2011 lawsuit trial, covering older devices from the two companies, resulted in an $890 million award to Apple.
The upcoming legal battle will involve patents on products such as the Galaxy S3, and the iPhone 5.