It’s hard to believe that the original iPhone debut was prone to failure considering how well it went. The Internet History Podcast dug deeper into the preparation that was done for the original iPhone demo.
The original iPhone, which was no where near completed, kept failing in certain demos.
Jobs rehearsed his presentation for six solid days, but at the final hour, the team still couldn’t get the phone to behave through an entire run through. Sometimes it lost internet connection. Sometimes the calls wouldn’t go through. Sometimes the phone just shut down.
Engineers came up with a “golden path” which was a combination of three things that gave the prototype iPhone the highest success rate during its demo.
The first key was the order in which the features of the phones were demoed.
The engineers identified a “golden path,” a specific set of demo actions that Jobs could perform in a specific order that afforded them the best chance of the phone making it through the presentation without a glitch. For example, Jobs could send an email and then surf the web, but if he reversed the order, the phone tended to crash.
Engineers also took precautionary measures to make sure that both Wi-Fi and cellular would work reliably.
Engineers masked the wifi that Jobs would be using onstage so that audience members couldn’t jump on the same signal. AT&T brought in a portable cell tower to make sure Jobs would have a strong signal when he made his demo phone call.
The engineers didn’t want to take any chances, either.
Just to be on the safe side, the engineers hard-coded all the demo units to display five bars of cell strength, whether that happened to be true or not.
Even though the original iPhone didn’t offer 3G at the time, mostly because of technical reasons, both AT&T and Apple purposely left it out because cell networks weren’t ready for the sort of data the iPhone would bring.
This was also a purposeful hedge made by AT&T and Apple. They knew they weren’t ready for the amount of bandwidth iPhone users would soon be hoovering up. The decision to stick with EDGE was a decision to play for time. If anything, the iPhone was launched onto AT&T’s network about 18 months too early. The network couldn’t handle the surge in data usage, as early iPhone users could grumblingly attest to, but these early adopters were intended to be sacrificial lambs until the infrastructure could catch up.
Steve Jobs famously hated the idea of putting apps on the phone. Apple exec Eddy Cue remembers Jobs’ reaction when someone asked him about putting apps on the iPhone.
Oh, hell, just go for it and leave me alone!