The One Device | Brian Merchant

Summary of: The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone
By: Brian Merchant


Embark on a fascinating journey behind the iPhone’s creation and impact, as we explore ‘The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone’ by Brian Merchant. This summary offers insights into the origins of mobile phones, the secret group of Apple employees who experimented with unconventional user interfaces, and the invention of the touchscreen. Discover the powerful battery technology powering iPhones and how early inventors paved the way for Siri. Apart from technological advances, the book also sheds light on the darker sides of iPhone production – the human cost in tin mines and hazardous working conditions in Chinese factories.

Innovation Behind the iPhone

The success of the iPhone has been attributed to Steve Jobs, but the true beginning of this device’s development started with a small team of Apple employees. They believed that traditional keyboards and mice were outdated and worked together to pioneer a touch-based technology that allowed more direct interaction with computers. The team consisted of software designers, input engineers, and industrial designers who experimented with motion sensors and multitouch technology. After months of tinkering, they created the first prototype of the iPhone, which has sold a billion units and is one of the most profitable products globally.

History of the Smartphone

The book details the origins of the mobile phone and its evolution into the modern-day smartphone. The first mobile device was created in 1910, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the first “smartphone” was produced. Frank Canova Jr., an IBM engineer, developed the Simon Personal Communicator, the first mobile phone with a computer, touchscreen, and applications. Canova’s initial goal was to add a stock ticker and GPS, but the hard drive couldn’t support them. Despite its limitations, the Simon was an essential innovation that inspired the inventors of the iPhone two decades later.

The Untold Story of iPhone’s Battery

The lithium battery used in iPhone and other electronics today dates back to the oil crisis in the 1970s. At the time, Exxon hired a chemist, Stan Whittingham, to find alternative energy sources and his work on lithium-based batteries broke new ground. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery, widely used in electronics today, is a result of Whittingham’s experiments and the discoveries of physicist John Goodenough who solved the battery’s overheating issues. Today, the lithium-ion battery market is worth $30 billion and is expected to grow to $77 billion by 2024, with electric cars as the primary driver of growth.

The Evolution of iPhone Camera

The iPhone camera was not always a primary feature, and in fact, Nokia’s “dumb” phones had better cameras in 2007. Today, the iPhone camera is a complex and indispensable part of the device, with over 200 parts and its own dedicated division at Apple. The selfie camera, in particular, played a significant role in popularizing the now-ubiquitous photo style. While selfies have been around since the 1800s, it was not until the iPhone added a front-facing camera in 2010 that the term “selfie” became a cultural phenomenon.

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