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It may come as a surprise given the handset’s rip-roaring success, but Apple’s iPhone very nearly didn’t make it out of the company’s development labs, according to a man who would know; Apple Senior VP of Design, Jony Ive.

In a new interview given to TheIndependent, Ive admitted that Apple’s own quest for perfection almost left the iPhone in limbo, with the team in Cupertino unhappy with a couple of design flaws that at first appeared to be insurmountable.

original iPhone

The main issue, according to the man in the know, was the lack of a proximity sensor in the prototype iPhones. Ive says the obvious issue cropped up, with the iPhone accidentally pressing buttons when pushed up against a user’s ear, something which would eventually turn out to be a huge deal-breaker to millions of users out there.

Thankfully though, the company clearly discovered the virtues of a good proximity sensor, and the issue was gone.

“There were multiple times where we nearly shelved the phone because we thought there were fundamental problems that we can’t solve. [One problem involved an early prototype] where I put the phone to my ear and my ear dials the number [accidentally]“

Ive also tells of the perfectionism that we all know is alive and well inside Apple, with the iPhone team apparently finding itself with a phone that was good, but just not good enough. Not content with an iPhone being good, Apple’s people wanted it to be perfect. This perfectionism almost led to the iPhone being shelved on multiple occasions according to Jony Ive.

This does raise an interesting question, though. Apple’s team being sticklers for perfection was no great surprise, but with the company’s leading light, Steve Jobs no longer around, many have wondered whether standards have begun to slip in Cupertino, even us. Apple’s latest Mac ads, for example, do not have the air of quality and class that we have come to expect. Whether this is anything to do with the new man at the helm or not, we hope Apple will not be stooping to Samsung’s levels of ads in order to try and pull customers away from Mac-alikes and towards the real thing.

Only time will tell what’s the real reason behind these changes.

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