Jony Ive Says Holding Onto Features When There’s a ‘Better Way’ is ‘Path That Leads to Failure’

After naming the iPhone X as one of the 25 Best Inventions of the Year, TIME sat down for an interview about the smartphone with Apple's design chief Jony Ive and hardware engineering chief Dan Riccio.


Riccio believes the iPhone X paves the way for the next 10 years of smartphones, given its radical redesign with a nearly edge to edge display, no home button, and advanced cameras for facial recognition and augmented reality.

"There were these extraordinarily complex problems that needed to be solved," said Ive. "Paying attention to what's happened historically actually helps give you some faith that you are going to find a solution."

That history includes, in part, Apple removing the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 last year, parting ways with the built-in disc drive on the MacBook Pro after 2012, and ditching the floppy drive on the iMac G3 in 1998.

"I actually think the path of holding onto features that have been effective, the path of holding onto those whatever the cost, is a path that leads to failure," said Ive. "And in the short term, it's the path that feels less risky and it's the path that feels more secure."

Ive acknowledged that it's not always easy for Apple to move past a feature or technology when it believes there's a "better way," and it's easy to see his point given the controversy that each change has generated.

Apple was criticized by a fair number of customers for removing the headphone jack on the iPhone last year, for example, and even competitors like Google and Samsung used it as an opportunity to poke fun at Apple.

After time, however, many customers usually learn to adapt. Google even removed the headphone jack on the Pixel 2 this year.

iPhone X is the most expensive iPhone ever, with a starting price of $999 in the United States, which Ive said is the "financial consequence" of "integrating the sheer amount of processing power into such a small device."

"Our goal is always to provide what we think is the best product possible, not always the lowest cost," added Riccio.

Despite being expensive, the iPhone X appears to be off to a successful start given sales estimates, and Apple's forecast for an all-time revenue record this quarter. Orders placed today are still backlogged by 2-3 weeks.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Dismisses Rumors of Ever Putting Touch ID on Back, Side, or Under Display of iPhone X

For over a year leading up to the iPhone X, rumors ran rampant about Touch ID being placed under the display, or on the back or side of the device, but Apple's hardware engineering chief Dan Riccio says the reports were never true.


In an interview with TechCrunch's editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino, Riccio said Apple "spent no time" looking at implementing fingerprint authentication in these ways because it was already focused on perfecting Face ID.
"I heard some rumor [that] we couldn't get Touch ID to work through the glass so we had to remove that," Riccio says, answering a question about whether there were late design changes. "When we hit early line of sight on getting Face ID to be [as] good as it was, we knew that if we could be successful we could enable the product that we wanted to go off and do and if that's true it could be something that we could burn the bridges and be all in with. This is assuming it was a better solution. And that's what we did. So we spent no time looking at fingerprints on the back or through the glass or on the side because if we did those things, which would be a last-minute change, they would be a distraction relative to enabling the more important thing that we were trying to achieve, which was Face ID done in a high-quality way."
Rumors about Apple embedding Touch ID into the iPhone X's display surfaced as early as May 2016, so it remains possible that the company at least explored the idea, but never proceeded with it after moving forward with Face ID.

Several reports corroborated the rumors as recently as this past summer, which usually means they are true.

Many reports even made it sound like Apple was under pressure. In July, KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Andy Hargreaves said Apple was still struggling to embed Touch ID under the display, to the point the iPhone X could have been delayed.

Sebastian Hou and Brian Chen, analysts at Hong Kong-based equity research firm CLSA, in May said there was a "high chance" that Touch ID would be placed on the back of the iPhone X like Samsung's Galaxy S8.

iPhone mockup with Touch ID on rear via iDrop News

It's worth noting that one Apple analyst, the oft-reliable Ming-Chi Kuo, predicted the iPhone X wouldn't have Touch ID back in July.

Kuo's latest prediction is that Apple will remove Touch ID on all iPhones launched in 2018 in favor of Face ID. He thinks the TrueDepth camera and 3D facial recognition system won't be significantly upgraded next year.

Face ID has proved to be reliable in early iPhone X reviews and first impressions, and it's also considered easy to set up and use.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Dismisses Rumors of Ever Putting Touch ID on Back, Side, or Under Display of iPhone X

For over a year leading up to the iPhone X, rumors ran rampant about Touch ID being placed under the display, or on the back or side of the device, but Apple's hardware engineering chief Dan Riccio says the reports were never true.


In an interview with TechCrunch's editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino, Riccio said Apple "spent no time" looking at implementing fingerprint authentication in these ways because it was already focused on perfecting Face ID.
"I heard some rumor [that] we couldn't get Touch ID to work through the glass so we had to remove that," Riccio says, answering a question about whether there were late design changes. "When we hit early line of sight on getting Face ID to be [as] good as it was, we knew that if we could be successful we could enable the product that we wanted to go off and do and if that's true it could be something that we could burn the bridges and be all in with. This is assuming it was a better solution. And that's what we did. So we spent no time looking at fingerprints on the back or through the glass or on the side because if we did those things, which would be a last-minute change, they would be a distraction relative to enabling the more important thing that we were trying to achieve, which was Face ID done in a high-quality way."
Rumors about Apple embedding Touch ID into the iPhone X's display surfaced as early as May 2016, so it remains possible that the company at least explored the idea, but never proceeded with it after moving forward with Face ID.

Several reports corroborated the rumors as recently as this past summer, which usually means they are true.

Many reports even made it sound like Apple was under pressure. In July, KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Andy Hargreaves said Apple was still struggling to embed Touch ID under the display, to the point the iPhone X could have been delayed.

Sebastian Hou and Brian Chen, analysts at Hong Kong-based equity research firm CLSA, in May said there was a "high chance" that Touch ID would be placed on the back of the iPhone X like Samsung's Galaxy S8.

iPhone mockup with Touch ID on rear via iDrop News

It's worth noting that one Apple analyst, the oft-reliable Ming-Chi Kuo, predicted the iPhone X wouldn't have Touch ID back in July.

Kuo's latest prediction is that Apple will remove Touch ID on all iPhones launched in 2018 in favor of Face ID. He thinks the TrueDepth camera and 3D facial recognition system won't be significantly upgraded next year.

Face ID has proved to be reliable in early iPhone X reviews and first impressions, and it's also considered easy to set up and use.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

Discuss this article in our forums