Recollections clash over impact iPhone launch had on early Android development
Over six years have passed since Apple first announced the iPhone, and five years since we saw the arrival of the first commercial Android device, the HTC Dream/G1. We’ve seen hundreds of smartphones come and go over the years since, but recently some attentions been turned back to those early days, attempting to recount just what impact Apple’s iPhone launch had on progress towards that first Android phone. Problem is, not everyone seems to remember it the same way.
This got started thanks to a piece featured by The Atlantic, which tells the tale of an Android team that was a little taken aback by the quality of Apple’s handset, forcing Google to start rethinking its plans. The article is full of great quotes from employees backing up this idea, like Chris De Salvo saying, “as a Google engineer, I thought ‘We’re going to have to start over.’”
That makes for an interesting story, but just how close to the truth is it? Inquiring minds dug up a lengthy comment posted last year by another Googler who was working on the Android project at the time, and she tells a slightly different tale.
Before the Dream, there was a device called called Sooner – this is the QWERTY model we’ve compared to phones like the HTC Status. While that one report claims that the iPhone forced Google to drop Sooner (which lacked a touchscreen) and make both Android and Dream more touch-friendly (like the iPhone), this other report says that Sooner was already on the way out before the iPhone ever launched, and Dream would have been the first commercial Android, anyway.
Ultimately, it’s probably a little more complex than any of these accounts suggest. The claim that Google had to “start over” sounds pretty hyperbolic, but we also have to believe that Google found at least some inspiration from that first iPhone and the software that would one day become iOS.