One Device (2017) by Brian Merchant is a history of the IPhone for the tenth anniversary of the device. It looks at how the phone was developed, parts of the global supply chain that produce the device and the impact it’s had. Merchant has managed to write a book that is more than just a hagiography for Apple fans.
One of the big problems for a book like this is actually talking to the people who were really involved in the creation of the device. Most companies like to keep things quiet and get people to sign NDAs and not until long after will people really talk. On top of this Apple is a company with more secrecy than most. In this book Merchant seems to have managed to get quite a few people to talk and be what appears to be honest. There are some frank exchanges where some of the original team talk about the cost to their personal life and marriages of the work involved.
The book goes to Chilean mines, a Foxconn plant and a recycling center for electronics in China. He also gets an IPhone broken down to see exactly what it’s made of. Merchant also goes to ARM and talks to the transsexual engineer who was one of the original ARM designers.
There is also an interesting part on one of the first Smart phones that was tried, an IBM device from the early 1990s. There is not much of a mention of the Nokia Communicators prior to the IPhone. There is some mention of the first phone to get email working well on a phone, the Blackberry, which was common in business circles prior to the arrival of the IPhone. There are also a few mentions of WAP the unsuccessful attempt prior to the IPhone to get the internet working on a portable device.
For anyone interesting in technology ‘One Device’ is well worth a read. It’s well written and quite informative. It’s not the complete history of the emergence of the internet on portable devices but it is a very readable, informative and interesting book about the creation of a significant technological device.