That's right, the iPhone you know and love (or hate?) today was so very close to not actually happening. Jony Ive's been talking up the design ethos and processes behind Apple's biggest products in London, and said that the iPhone was nearly shelved several times over "fundamental problems that we [couldn't] solve".
Apparently one issue was one I was personally very familiar with pre-iPhone touchscreen smartphone days, and that's "where I put the phone to my ear and my ear dials the number" of a random contact. That was solved by a proximity sensor, which shut the screen off when you shoved it up to your ear -- sounds pretty simple now, but imagine having to try and come up with that idea, and actually get it right every time.
It's amazing to think that the iPhone, which basically gave the touchscreen smartphone a massive kick in the pants and forced others like Google, and even now Microsoft, to innovate and create the awesome phones we have today, could have easily been canned. Whether we'd have then gotten the iPad, who knows. Apple apparently came up with the iPad idea first, and shrunk it for the iPhone.
Ive is currently making the rounds in London town (probably sneaking off to the Olympics), first talking at the British Business Embassy event, and then giving an interview to The Independent, which is well worth a read in its entirety. [Independent]