Apple Designer Reveals How The iPhone’s Slide-to-Unlock Feature Was Created


While testifying at the Apple-Samsung patent trial, Apple’s human-interface head Greg Christie reveals how Apple created the slide-to-unlock feature on the first iPhone.

During the early development of the iPhone, Apple had plans to keep the device’s screen on at all times, which would make it possible for the phone to be constantly ready for user input. The design team at Apple found out the idea would become impractical. Christie said:

“We couldn’t meet our power requirements if we had that active a state. We had to resort to a power button.”

As the company was designing the iPhone, they were also worried about unintended input when the phone was in a pocket or a purse. Christie said:

“We knew we had to have a locked mode, or a locked state, where it wouldn’t let you do most things, except you could unlock it.”

The design team at Apple came up with a solution, which we now know as slide-to-unlock. The feature shipped alongside the first iPhone and is also one of the patents Apple has to deal with in the patent trial against Samsung.

During the keynote at MacWorld in 2007 where Apple announced first iPhone, Steve Jobs also stated that they developed “slide to unlock” to avoid accidental input, which would lead to unintended calls or messages.

Given that the slide-to-unlock feature on the lock screen is the first thing a user sees when they push the sleep/wake button on their iPhone, Christie testified that it was a important feature.

Apple is trying to make the case that the features and patents at issue in the case are valuable ones worth significant damage awards, while Samsung has sought to show that at most they are a few among hundreds of patents and not worthy of a large damage award, if any damages are due.

Although the Apple vs. Samsung patent trials seem like they will never end, they have brought a peek into the design process of both hardware and software aspects of the iPhone.

[via Re/code]

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