Who Invented the iPhone? (Was It The First Smartphone?)

who invented the iphone

The iPhone is one of the market’s most loved and coveted smartphones, with many even associating it as a status symbol. However, not many have thought about who was the inventor behind the iPhone.

The late Steve Jobs is commonly mentioned as the inventor of the iPhone, which is not true. Creating the iPhone was instead a team effort involving many individuals, such as Scott Forstall, Johnny Ive, Tony Fadell, Imran Chaudhri, and Ken Kocienda. Each individual was responsible for parts of the iPhone, such as engineering, software, and design.


This article explores who invented the iPhone. It also explores why the iPhone was invented and what smartphones were like before the iPhone was invented. Finally, we look at how the iPhone has evolved over time until it reaches its current form.

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What Is The iPhone?

The iPhone is a line of smartphones from Apple Inc. It spearheaded the smartphone revolution. It is also the first phone with a multi-touch screen and is updated yearly by Apple. The iPhone has sold over 2.2 billion units worldwide and has a 15.6% share of the global smartphone market.

The iPhone is a series of smartphones. It is designed, built, and marketed by Apple Inc. It is the only smartphone that uses Apple’s proprietary iOS mobile operating system. It was the first mobile phone with multi-touch technology, allowing it to stand out against its competition when it first launched.

The iPhone has undergone many changes over the years, with additional functionalities and a reduction of certain features. Some notable changes include larger screens, video recording, waterproofing, and materials used to make the phone. Cameras are also added to the phone to take better pictures and photos.

The iPhone has also witnessed reductions such as the removal of the single home button beginning iPhone X. The bezels or the space between the screen and phone sides have also been reduced significantly.

The first iPhone was announced to the world on January 9, 2007. Apple has since updated the phone’s design and software annually. As of 2022, over 2.2 billion iPhones have been sold worldwide, with 2021 alone witnessing Apple shipping over 240 million phones.

The iPhone, alongside Android, is one of the world’s largest smartphone platforms. The iPhone has generated massive profits for Apple making it one of the world’s most valuable traded companies. As of 2022, the iPhone accounts for over 15.6% of the global smartphone market share. It also owns over 50% of the market share in the US.

Many have credited the iPhone as spearheading the smartphone revolution, pioneering and opening a new market for personal electronic devices and mobile phones. It has also generated an app economy, where developers may develop and sell apps for iPhone users to use on their phones. There are currently over 2.2 million apps downloadable in the Apple App Store.

Why Was The iPhone Invented?

The iPhone was originally invented to help Apple transfer its iPod into a cell phone. It was also invented because Steve Jobs was unhappy with how many mobile phones would drop calls. Steve Jobs also wanted to simplify the phone experience by making it easier to type and call.

Despite the iPhone’s success and the revolution it created, the iPhone was not invented with such a lofty goal in mind. Instead, it was originally imagined as a better, simple mobile phone with an iPod.

Next Step To Improve iPod

iPhones were first developed as Project Purple in 2004. It was when sales of the iPod were off the charts. It did not seem that anyone could dethrone the iPod’s position as the most popular music device.

However, around that time, companies started integrating MP3 music players into their mobile phones, which may threaten iPod sales in the future. Apple experimented by collaborating with Motorola and releasing the Moto ROKR, a mobile phone with a built-in iPod.

However, the phone failed spectacularly, and Apple reasoned it was due to the mobile phone making the music player hard to use. This resulted in Apple deciding that it needed to design its own phone with an iPod in it.

Mobile Phones Like To Drop Calls

Steve Jobs has been known to be a user of Palm Treo phones and the HTC Typhoon. He has constantly complained about how his phones would constantly drop calls, and he eventually grew tired of complaining about it.

Instead, he set on making a mobile phone with software to help prevent calls from disconnecting.

Mobile Phones Have Become Clunky

In the early 2000s, mobile phones were at a bottleneck. People have a basic, clamshell phone or over-complicated Personal Digital Assistant phones such as Palm Treo or a Blackberry.

These devices have a large footprint, which means they are not comfortable to hold with one hand. Half the phone usually hosts the display, and the other the physical keyboards. The keyboards are small and hard to type and navigate, making them clunky. Apple likely sees an opportunity to improve on the design.

Who Invented the iPhone?

People commonly credit Steve Jobs as the inventor of the iPhone. However, it could be said that creating the iPhone is likely a team effort.

When Steve Jobs started the project for the iPhone, he named it ‘Project Purple.’ He roped in about 1,000 Apple employees to participate in the project. Among these 1,000 people, several were instrumental in coming out with the concepts for the iPhone, be it in design, engineering, or functionality.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was the founder of Apple Inc and was the CEO of Apple at the time of the invention of the iPhone. Steve Jobs was the visionary behind the creation of the iPhone and the person who commenced with Project Purple.

You could credit Steve as the main visionary of the project, doing the major thinking work and coming up with the idea of building a simpler, easier-to-use mobile phone with an iPod inside.

Steve Jobs has also seen how integrating mobile phones with MP3 players could threaten the iPod. This resulted in him thinking that Apple should also develop its own to stay ahead of its competitors.

Tony Fadell

Tony Fadell is usually credited as the iPod’s founding father, as he was largely influential in its development and eventually succeeded as a music player. However, not many know his role in the creation of the iPhone.

He was the head of engineering, leading the Project Purple team during the initial creation of the iPhone. One of the early challenges was deciding on the iPhone’s controls, with Tony Fadell indicating a design similar to the iPod’s click wheel.

His design was not accepted in the end. Still, Tony remained in the team and oversaw the engineering work for iPhones and their accessories from 2006 to 2008.

Johnny Ive

Johnny Ive was Apple’s Chief Design Officer (CDO) during the time of the iPhone’s creation. He joined Apple in 1992 and soon became Steve Jobs’s go-to man for design work. He was influential in many of Apple’s product designs.

Johnny Ive was the leader of the design team during the creation of Project Purple. The form factor of the first iPhone was largely credited to him and his designers. For example, the curved edges made the phone more inviting and comfortable to use and hold in hand.

Scott Forstall

Scott Forstall originally worked with Jobs at NeXT before joining Apple in 1997 when both companies merged. Scott Forstall worked on the software side and was instrumental in developing the iOS operating system during the creation of the iPhone.

During the early days of Project Purple, the debate was to either minimize the Macintosh computers for use on the phone or to enlarge the iPod. Scott leads the Macintosh team, while Tony Fadell leads the iPod team.

Eventually, Steve Jobs settled on Forstall’s idea of creating a simpler operating system for mobile phones, essentially giving birth to iOS. The iOS would later be used to develop the iPadOS for use on iPads.

Ken Kocienda

Ken Kocienda is a software engineer at Apple during the development of the iPhone. Kocienda’s contribution to the iPhone may not be as great as Steve Jobs or Johnny Ive. Still, his idea made the on-screen keyboard possible.

While testing the on-screen keyboard system for the iPhone, testers mentioned how the keys become hard to type. Those with fatter fingers noticed they tend to mistype keys, usually the ones around their intended key.

Kocienda used AI to predict the likely key a user may press after pressing a key and then enlarge the type areas for these keys. This makes typing easier and reduces typing errors.

Imran Chaudri

Imran Chaudri is a software designer who worked for Apple during the creation of the iPhone. He was tasked to design the user interface of iOS. This means the traditional look of mobile phone operating systems today could be credited to his design.

Some of his creations include the boxed tile on the app home of iOS, which is then used by Android. He also designed the interface to rearrange the app tiles. He also designed the dashboard of iOS, where you see information about messages, weather, and many more.

Were There Smartphones Before the iPhone Was Invented?

The iPhone was not the first smartphone. Models such as the Psion Organizer (1984), Casio Digital Diary (1988), Psion 5MX (1999), Nokia 9210 (2001), Palm Pilot (2002), and the HTC Apache (2005) all experimented with adding creating personal digital assistants or adding extra features into a mobile phone.

Smartphones as a technology have been around for a long time, with many companies and inventors toying around and experimenting when creating a digital device that can perform many daily tasks.

Some failed to be invented too early, while some did not make it due to design or usability flaws. iPhones were invented at the right time, and with the right technology, they became the success it is today.

Psion Organizer (1984)

The Psion Organizer was probably one of the best examples of an early Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). The device looked more like a calculator with letters instead of numbers. There is a single-line mono LCD display.

The Psion Organizer does not come with mobile phone capabilities unless you purchase the optional RS-232 interface, which you can connect to a computer via a cable.  

Casio Digital Diary (1988)

The best way to describe the Casio Digital Diary is that it is a shrunk-up version of a laptop. Once you open the device, the top part has half of it in an LCD screen and the other half a numeric keypad. The bottom part of the device is the keyboard.

You cannot call with this device, which uses 3-button cell batteries for power, and cannot be charged.

Psion 5MX (1999)

The Psion 5MX was another PDA that started to look more modern and close to today’s smartphones. You flip the device to open it. You will then see a large LCD screen at the top half and a keyboard at the bottom half.

You can launch applications and view things like a word file or a spreadsheet. You can also connect this device to a phone via infrared for internet connectivity.

Nokia 9210 (2001)

Nokia 9210 is where PDA and mobile phone start to come together. It has an elongated shape like a TV remote but can be fitted into a jacket. When closed, it can be used like a mobile phone.

While open, it functions like a PDA, with a color-LCD screen and a full QWERTY keyboard. It also has onboard internet connectivity and can be used to call and text as well.

Palm Treo (2001)

Palm is a very successful company that designed great PDA devices and integrated mobile phones into them. Palm Treo was such a design, with an additional stylus to allow users to use it to write or tap on the interface.

Steve Jobs is said to have been a user of a Palm Treo and complained about its clunky keyboard and tendency to drop calls. It was said that the Palm Treo was the phone that created the iPhone.

BlackBerry Quark (2003)

A major player in the PDA market in the 2000s is Blackberry, and Quark is one of its most popular models. It is a larger mobile phone, with the top half of the device hosting an LCD screen. The bottom contains a QWERTY keyboard.

Blackberry phones were popular with many executives, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This resulted in Blackberry phones retaining a small market despite the overall success of iPhones and Android devices.

HTC Apache (2005)

HTC Apache was sold under several brands and models, most notably the Windows Pocket PC. It can be said that the HTV Apache is the smaller, more advanced version of the Nokia 9210.

How Have iPhones Evolved Over Time?

Since 2007, iPhones have evolved to reflect the growth of new technology and the consumer preferences of the day. Apple has been accused of being slow to introduce new technology but lauded Apple’s attempt to preserve its user’s privacy.

If you look at the original iPhone from 2007, it is miles away from the current iPhones you see today. The phone has changed to reflect maturing technologies and consumer preferences.

Screen Size

Screen size has generally grown larger and larger, with later iPhone models sporting screen sizes as large as 160.7 x 77.6 x 7.85mm. This is much larger when you compare that to the first iPhone, whose size is only 115 x 61 x 11.6 mm.


The first iPhone was launched in 2007 with only mobile and wifi connectivity. It was not even equipped with 3G, so its ability to use mobile data is non-existent. 3G connectivity only arrived with the next model, the iPhone 3G, released in 2008.

iPhones today are equipped with 5G connectivity, allowing them to download and upload data much faster than 3G.


The first iPhone comes with only one camera at the rear of the phone. It was a 2.0-megapixel camera with geotagging. The camera can only take photos and not videos. Selfies weren’t even a cultural practice yet at the time.

The newest iPhones ship with up to 5 cameras, 4 at the rear and 1 at the front. Each camera focuses on different imaging and video-taking tasks and has many special technologies, such as stabilizers and lighting improvers.


The first iPhone was intended to be part of the Apple universe, but with the Mac as the center. This means the iPhone integrates with a Mac computer via a cable, similar to iPods. The iPod is also part of the iPhone.

These days, iPhones are designed to integrate similarly to the Apple university but with the cloud as the center. iPhones today also sync with many more Apple devices, such as iPad, Apple Watches and AirPods.


The first iPhone is charged using a 30-pin charger, similar to the ones on the iPod classic. Later iPhone models switched to the 8-pin lightning charger cables, and models from iPhone 8 and above were given wireless charging capabilities.